Sunday, October 27, 2013

Last Farmers Market of the 2013 Season

Saturday is the last Farmers Market of the 2013 season at the Muskingum County Fairgrounds.  It is your last chance to purchase fresh items from our local vendors until next May.  Now is the time to stock up for the winter if you haven’t already.  Most of the meat vendors run buy-one-get-one-free specials on select frozen meat items.  There is a lot of produce that can be stored in a cool, dry place and used for a few more months.  This includes potatoes, onions, garlic, sweet potatoes, winter squash, and apples.  Even baked goods, such as pie and bread, can be stored in the freezer until you are ready to use them.
            If you missed my face at market the last couple of weeks, it is because I was involved in yet another wedding. But don’t worry; I wouldn’t miss the last market.  There are many customers and fellow vendors that won’t see each other again until next spring, so attending the last market of the season is a nice opportunity to have one last chat and say goodbye.
For this wedding, I traveled to Ross County, Ohio, where friends were married in an old family orchard on top of a hill.  It was the perfect setting for an autumn wedding.  The best part was how much of the food and decorations were homegrown.  The roasted pork came from a hog raised on the groom’s family farm.  The sweet corn was raised by the bride’s family this summer and frozen until it was to be used for the big day.  Sauerkraut was made by the bride’s brother from cabbage he raised himself.  The large bowls of salad were raised by yours truly. 
A combined effort between the bride, bride’s mother and brother, groom’s mother, and myself provided enough late-season zinnias to fill blue mason jars for each table under the huge tent plus the bouquets of the bride and bridal party.  My vehicle looked like it belonged to Jed Clampett as I traveled south, filled to the brim with pumpkins, squash, bittersweet, Indian corn, and other such items.  To the roof were tied items to create fancy fodder shocks such as broom corn, amaranth, and sunflower stalks with mammoth heads.  The bride’s father had purchased the largest mums I have ever seen from an Amish farmer, which lined the pathway to the pond where the ceremony was held.  Needless to say, the results were incredibly beautiful.  So, in spite of the cold rainy weather we experienced last Saturday, the mood of the wedding was cheerful and bright.
The rain cleared by ceremony time and later, as a huge bonfire was lit, the sky was perfectly clear and the stars so bright with the full Harvest Moon rising above the hill.  I was reminded of what a truly great harvest has brought us to this point in the season.  The weather was a bit of a struggle at times this year, but as you walked down the aisles of the farmers market this season, there was so always so much available.  As we head toward Thanksgiving, I know that I am certainly thankful for the abundant produce I was able to share with my customers, family, and friends.  And I am thankful in return for their loyal support.  I know that the other vendors at market feel just the same.
            As I write this, they are calling for lows in the upper twenties the next couple of nights.  Being located along the river sometimes helps me get by with an extra week or two without frost, but you can be sure that I will pick things like bell peppers, flowers, and green tomatoes, just to be on the safe side.  I am sad to see the end of the season; it always seems like it sneaks up on us so quickly.  However, once the garden is cleaned up for the winter, I am also looking forward to some rest.  These cold days make me want to snuggle in and cook warm hearty meals.  Here is a nice fall soup from “Pumpkins and Squash” by Kathleen Desmond Stang.  It is nice for a small party, as it is served in small pumpkins or squash instead of bowls.

Corn Chowder in Miniature Pumpkin Shells
·         4 small pumpkins, Carnival, or other acorn squash (3/4 to 1 ¼ lbs. each)
·         1 slice bacon, diced
·         ¼ cup finely chopped onion
·         1 T. all purpose flour
·         ½ tsp. chili powder
·         1 cup chicken broth
·         Boiling water for heating pumpkin shells
·         1 cup corn kernels
·         ¾ cup milk
·         Flat-leaf parsley leaves for garnish

With a small sharp knife, cut wide tops out of the pumpkins/squash to make a bowl.  Scrape out and discard seeds and fibers.  Trim all but ¼ inch of meat from the tops.  Using a knife and soup spoon, cut and scrape out some of the pumpkin meat, leaving ½ inch thick shell (shells should have a ¾ cup capacity.)  Chop the pumpkin meat and set aside.  Sauté the bacon in a saucepan for 3 minutes, or until crisp.  Remove the bacon and set aside.  Add the onion and chopped pumpkin meat to the saucepan.  Saute over medium heat until tender, about 10 minutes.  Stir in the flour and chili powder, then the chicken broth.  Cook for five minutes more, or until the pumpkin is very soft.  Meanwhile, pour boiling water into the pumpkin shells to warm them.  Mash the pumpkin mixture with a fork to a coarse puree.  Add the corn and milk.  Continue to cook until thoroughly heated.  Empty and dry the pumpkin shells.  Fill with the chowder.  Sprinkle the bacon on top and garnish with parsley if desired.  (I would also add a red pepper and a jalapeno to the recipe and sauté with the onion.  A cooked, diced chicken breast would also be a nice addition to this soup.  Topping with sour cream and shredded cheddar cheese is another option.)

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 New sign at Farmstand painted by my friend Nora.

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Best Bonfire Ever!  Center log finally toppled at 2:17 am! (Yes, we were taking bets.)

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Cheerful bouquet on a cloudy day.

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Flower Girl Basket!

Farmers Market Still Offers Plenty of Variety for Shoppers

Just because October is already more than halfway over, don’t think that there is not much left at Farmers’ Market.  There is always a wide selection of meat, cheese, and baked goods.  They are a staple at market regardless of the season.  As for the farmers, there are still plenty of fruits and vegetables available.
            This is certainly the year for apples with so many orchards producing an abundant crop.  Recently, as I was eating yet another apple, I had to stop and think about how many apples I had already eaten that day.  I couldn’t decide if it was number three or four and thought perhaps I didn’t need to eat yet another one.  I ate it anyway.  If the old saying--an apple a day keeps the doctor away--is true, I shouldn’t have to go to the doctor for a very long time.
            Now is the time to take advantage of the vegetables you won’t be able to buy locally or as fresh once market is over such as peppers, greens, and eggplant.  Also, it is time to start stocking up on items that you can store and use all winter long such as garlic, onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and winter squash.  Also, there are still plenty of autumn decorations to be had such as pumpkins, gourds, and Indian corn. 
I didn’t realize how much of the insect world I have been observing as I spend long hours in the field.  Clearly, I have been paying attention though, from the number of stories I have told in my recent articles.  Here are a couple more “bug” stories.
“Wooly worm” caterpillars are all over the place this time of year.  Usually, I find them on plant leaves but on a couple of occasions I have seen them in places I never would have expected.  The hottest pepper I grow is called Fatalli, which is nearly as hot as a Ghost pepper, and the other day there was a wooly worm on one of these peppers.  When I flicked it away, I saw that it had eaten nearly half of the pepper.  I would never have imagined that it would have eaten something so hot. 
A couple of days later I was digging sweet potatoes and there was a wooly worm eating a hole in one of the potatoes that was sticking out of the ground.  First of all, I was surprised that it could eat a thing as hard as a sweet potato and secondly, I was surprised by how much it had consumed.  The hole was nearly as big as a buckeye.  I feel a bit like I am witnessing pages out of Eric Carle’s, “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” book. 
There are a lot of wives’ tales about wooly worms and what they predict about winter.  You hear things like all black means a bad winter and all brown means mild.  I really don’t believe in any of that, especially since I have seen wooly worms of every color this season.  However, I can’t help but wonder if the odd caterpillar eating habits I have observed are of any significance.
I got a little carried away when I planted my fall radishes.  I had a lot of seed leftover from the spring and just decided to use all of it.  Needless to say, I now have thousands of radishes out in the field—more than I could ever sell or use myself.  I am always looking for new ways to eat radishes so I was very pleased when I was sent the following recipe.  It comes from my friend Beth Cranford of Carrboro, North Carolina.  The combination of ginger and garlic, plus the kick of hot pepper, make this pickle brine outstanding.  I foresee making many jars in the near future.

Pickled Radishes

1 bunch radishes (I used an assortment of different colored radishes to make a very pretty jar.)
1.5 cups water
.5 cups apple cider vinegar
.25 cups sugar
1 tablespoon salt
3 cloves garlic, sliced thin
.25 teaspoon crushed red pepper (I used a fresh cayenne pepper, chopped)
1 inch of ginger peeled and cut into slices
Clean radishes and slice into rounds and place them in a quart jar.  Combine vinegar, water, sugar and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve.  Taste and adjust seasoning if seems unbalanced.  Let the brine cool a bit, but while it is still hot add the garlic, ginger and red pepper.  Let cool to room temp and pour brine over radishes.  Put lid on jar and place in fridge.  Radishes will develop their flavor overnight and beyond.

Market Resumes Normal Hours

Thank you to our loyal market customers who dealt the market time change last week.  We apologize to those who did not know about the change and came after 11:00 as we were already packing up.  This Saturday, we will return to our normal hours, from 9:00am-Noon, and they will remain so until the last market, which is October 26. 
In a recent article I mentioned the abundance of spiders this fall.  In addition to the spider, another critter getting a lot of attention this season is the stink bug.  Everywhere I turn I see one of these little bugs. At first, I thought the problem was just my own due to the fact that I have a large pumpkin and squash crop, which may be their favorite thing to eat.  However, it is now clear that these little stinkers are everywhere—even city dwellers are complaining.  Stink bugs don’t really “stink” until you squish them.  Even then there are a lot of smells which I would deem much worse.  However, the smell is unpleasant and annoying, especially when you are squishing a lot of them at once, as I do walking through the pumpkin patch.
            Also, I haven’t overheard much conversation about grasshoppers, but they seem to be another insect with a very large population this fall.  I can’t walk anywhere in my garden without several of them jumping out of my way.  As a life-long fan of the “Little House” books, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, I have seen so many grasshoppers that it puts me in mind of the year the Ingalls family dealt with a grasshopper plague during the “Plum Creek” years.  The devastation they wrought on all of the crops made for a very lean year for the Ingalls family.  As Laura recounted, “. . .it was good to know that there were turnips enough in the cellar to last all winter long.  There would be boiled turnips, and mashed turnips and creamed turnips.  And in the winter evenings a plate of raw turnips would be on the table by the lamp; they would peel off the thick rinds and eat the raw turnips in crisp juicy slices.” (Wilder, On the Banks of Plum Creek)
            Luckily, the amount of grasshoppers this year is not even close to reaching “plague” status.  It makes you realize how fortunate we are to have such variety and abundance at our fingertips.  The choices at farmers market are almost overwhelming when one imagines eating turnips night after night.  However, since we are not forced to eat turnips on a daily basis, choosing from the many turnip recipes I found at was an enjoyable task. 
Roasted Turnips, Sweet Potatoes, Apples, and Dried Cranberries
3 cups cubed peeled turnips (about 1 1/4 pounds)
3 cups cubed peeled sweet potato (about 1 1/4 pounds)
2 1/2 cups cubed peeled Granny Smith apple (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
 Cooking spray
2 Tbsp butter or stick margarine, cut into small pieces

Preheat oven to 350°.  Combine the first 6 ingredients in a shallow 2-quart baking dish coated with cooking spray. Top with butter.  Bake at 350° for 1 1/2 hours or until tender, stirring after 45 minutes.


Change in Market Time due to Fest

This Saturday, October 5, the Zanesville Farmers Market will be held from 8:00-11:00am.  This means that it will start one hour earlier and also be closed one hour earlier than usual.  The time change is happening because the Y-City Gunfest is also being held at the fairgrounds on Saturday.  Although that event doesn’t start until noon, they would like to have the Farmers Market crowd cleared out before it begins.  Please don’t let this change discourage you from attending market this weekend.  The vendors still count on your support and the time change is out of our control.
            Most of the farmers arrive at market 1 1/2 – 2 hours before market opens to get their booths set up.  I am usually running behind, so I am lucky to get there an hour before the bell rings to set up.  Even at that rate, setting up for market on Saturday should prove to be an interesting task for the vendors.  These days it is not really light out until after 7:00am.  I think we will have to bring lanterns and wear headlamps to start putting things in place.
            This really makes you realize just how short the days are growing as we progress into autumn.  I have been increasingly forced to pick things wearing my headlamp because the sun has set before my work is finished.  I try to leave easy tasks like picking bell peppers for the end of the day in case I am forced to do them after dark. 
            Along with the shorter and shorter days, the changing leaves have become a sure sign that fall has arrived in earnest.  Of course, it will be a couple of more weeks before they are at their peak, but just at the beginning of this week I really started to notice how many trees are now showing a significant amount of orange, red, and yellow leaves. 
            If you read last week’s column, you may be wondering whether or not I ended up with a case of poison ivy.  I am happy to report that I did not.  I am running low on bittersweet vines and I have to wonder if I could possibly be so lucky a second time if I decide to venture into the woods for more.
            The winter squash and pumpkin displays at market the past couple of weeks have been just beautiful.  Other seasonal items now available are fall greens such as lettuce, arugula, and spinach.  Radishes are thriving as the weather cools down.  Other root crops like beets and turnips and coming back onto the scene as well.
            However, don’t count out some of those main season crops yet.  There are still a lot of eggplant available and even some summer squash and tomatoes are still hanging in there.  Bell peppers and hot peppers can be found in abundance as well.  This is the time of year when the sweet colored peppers are plentiful.  Take advantage of this bounty to put some peppers in the freezer for winter dishes.  You don’t even need to blanch them, just cut them up and store in freezer bags.
            I don’t check out very often, but when searching for new recipe ideas for bell peppers, I was really impressed with the “Seasonal Produce Recipe Guide” posted there.  They were easy to browse and all looked very tasty.  It would be a good place to start if you buy an item at market that you are unsure how to use.  Here is a really nice appetizer I found on that site.  It is nice to take to a party because it is actually better when made up the day before to let the flavors meld.  Serve with pita chips.
Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Dip
  • 3 red bell peppers (about 1 pound)
  • One 6-inch pita bread (2 ounces)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • 4 ounces walnut pieces (about 3/4 cup), toasted, plus more for garnish
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika, plus more for garnish (optional)
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
Directions: Roast peppers over a gas burner until blackened all over, turning with tongs as each side is blistered. (Alternatively, place under a broiler.) Transfer to a bowl, and cover with plastic wrap; let stand about 15 minutes. Peel, and discard skins, stems, and seeds. Set peppers aside.  Toast pita bread until crisp and golden. Break into 2-inch pieces; place in a bowl, and cover with the water. Soak until soft, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a sieve, and drain well, pressing out excess water. Set aside.  Combine garlic and walnut pieces in the bowl of a food processor; process until fine crumbs form, about 10 seconds. Add paprika, cumin, and reserved peppers and pita bread; process until smooth, about 10 seconds. Add vinegar, lemon juice, oil, and salt, and season with black pepper. Pulse until combined. Transfer to a serving bowl; cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight. Before serving, bring to room temperature. Drizzle with oil; sprinkle with walnuts or paprika, as desired.