Thursday, October 9, 2008
The Market Report
Fall is always my favorite time of year, especially for greenmarket shopping. Although signs from various vendors cry out for you to buy the very last crop of this summer fruit or that summer veggie, it's all the more exciting to take in what's in store for the coming autumn season. During my last visit is was clear that pumpkins were about to take over the market, and this weekend confirmed it. From last weeks one table to this weeks twenty, pumpkins were all over the place, multiplying in a rainbow of hues. There's more out there than the old orange standby, like white pumpkins streaked with orange and green ones decorated with thin white canals.
But pumpkins aren't having all the fall fun, as gourds of all types have already come into season quite nicely. I'm still working up the courage to buy one of the bird like Cucurbita gourds pictured above, with their beak-like protrusions and pock marked skin. Some (like Cucurbitas) are rugged with rough, scaly skin, while others appear graceful with long, swan-like necks and smooth flecked exteriors, like the appropriately named Speckled swan gourds. It's really the butternut squash that tends to get purchased most often despite its less intriguing appearance, thanks to the popularity in recent years of butternut squash soup.
But one of the most exciting developments for me, by far, is the appearance of apples, which have finally come into season. Although I've never been one for apple picking, there is nothing more disappointing than an out of season, mealy apple. This weekends market was chock full of ripe ones, with at least 10 different varieties available at multiple stalls. Signs touting the arrival of the perfect apples for pie and sauce were everywhere, and despite their weight, people happily bought them by the 5 pound bagful. I don't really bake so I can't speak to the quality of those apples in particular, but the five or six that I sampled were indeed delicious.
And of course, with apple season comes my favorite fall treat, hot apple cider. There had been juice and cold cider occasionally throughout the summer, but to me nothing lets me know to pull out my hat and gloves like a steaming cup of fresh apple cider. There was only one stand so far, but I'm already looking forward to walking through the greenmarket ruddy-cheeked and watching the cider stands multiply from under my wool cap.
A few ingredients that were new to me also made it into my basket, but not before downing a large cup of that apple cider. First came the lovely finger sweet potatoes that I wrote about yesterday, which I think look even more beautiful raw, stringy and unpeeled than they do cooked through. I couldn't find any information on them while researching, but ended up decided that I like them just as much (if not more) than traditional sweet potatoes. On my way out of the market I noticed a barrel full of the tiniest eggplant you could ever imagine. No larger than your thumb, these little guys are known as Fairytale eggplant, and from what I understand are creamier and significantly less bitter than the common large variety. A little research told me that these are far more common than my mystery finger sweet potatoes, and according to the woman picking through them (that's her hand in the photo), they can even be flash sauteed and served over rice.
The last and second most wonderful new appearance at the market were grapes. There were all of the varieties imaginable, from sweet concord grapes used to make juice (pictured above) to your common seedless purple ones. I found the Concords to be far too sweet to snack on (great for pies, juice and sauce though), so I purchased a pint of lovely plump, but small seedless purples to have as dessert for the week. Grapes are in season from the end of summer through December so I'll have a few more months to experiment with something a little more adventurous. That's what you can find this week, so go on out there and buy yourself a little edible piece of fall.