The quantities may be down, but quality and variety are definitely up. As some markets close for the season and vendors with limited variety wind down, vendors that remain are finding new markets, and those who have staggered diversified crops are seeing the dividends. If you haven’t made it to your market lately, it will look a little different, and most likely it will look great.
This time of year is when vendors start trying out new markets for next year, and summer and cool weather crops overlap. This makes for some of the best variety and quality you will see all year. There is a reason Thanksgiving is in the fall, because the season is far from over. Read this week’s AgriMissouri Farmers’ Market Report to see what’s changing at markets around the state.
Bartlett and Asian pears are both showing up in markets. Amazingly we are still getting peaches. Jonathan apples have been joined by Gala and Granny Smith with other varieties due to arrive any day. Other than Jonathan, the apples may still be a little green. It takes that first frost to bring out the peak sweetness.
Melons continue to trickle in. We tried some watermelons with the best flavor and texture of the season. As for cantaloupes, be sure to make sure they are from Missouri. Knowing you are buying from the person who grew it is the easiest way to know it is safe.
Peppers, white onions, eggplant, cucumbers, zucchini, squash, turnips, okra and fennel are still in steady supply. Purple kohlrabi is best suited for fall, and celeriac is coming into season as well. Red onions are starting to slow down. Look for some fall green onions or scallions to start appearing. Shallots are out there as well. As for winter squash (ideal for storing), butternut and acorn squash are all still showing up in quantity.
Green beans and long beans love this weather. Predatory insects are disappearing with the cool nights and pollinators are stocking up for winter, so quantities and qualities are as good as they have been all year.
Fall crops, like snow peas, appeared at a few locations last week. Sugar snaps and shelling peas will show up in the coming weeks. Baby broccoli is coming in now, but we are still waiting on larger broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage. If temperatures rise into the 80’s this week, it should bring them in much faster.
As for greens, this weather is perfect for kales, mustards and cooking greens. Leaf lettuce, bib lettuce and arugula are all tender and lush. Head lettuces should come in a few more weeks.
Sweet corn will not be in every market, but if you find it, BUY IT! We had some of the best corn of the season this week. There is still corn starting to tassel in the fields, and if the temperatures rise it could keep coming into October. With the cooler temperatures at harvest, it also keeps better and you can stretch that dozen through the week without it losing much flavor or texture.
Root crops like potatoes, beets, carrots, onions and garlic just keep coming. Most of the big baking potatoes are gone. The little ones are nice and moist if you can find them. People are starting to find these buried treasures, so supplies are running short. Sweet potatoes are coming into their prime and are great in all sizes. Use the bigger ones for making fries. The extra starch makes them hold up better, baked or fried.
Heirloom tomatoes continue to be great. The Hybrid varieties are small but still pretty good if allowed to fully ripen on the vine. The tops aren’t splitting as bad, and the slower ripening is cutting down on the white shoulders. They will be a little watery compared to summer tomatoes, but the flavor and texture will be consistent.
Garlic is our pick of the week. It is actually a little late to get a wide variety, but it is a good time to stock up. Now is also the time to buy it for planting. If you want to store it, the hard neck varieties work the best. If you want to can or pickle it, the larger varieties, (which tend to be soft necked) are easiest to clean.
For planting, you can get good deals on bulbs that have split open. Just make sure they still have the papery skin on the outside. If it has been peeled, it will just rot in the ground. When picking varieties, there are singles and artichoke. Singles will have a single row of cloves around the neck and tend to be hard necked. The artichokes will have the cloves stacked around the neck like artichoke leaves and will tend to be soft necked.
For the best results, garlic likes lots of nitrogen, well worked soil and plenty of sun, but it will grow in just about anything. Just break apart the bulb and plant the cloves an inch under the top of the soil, spaced about 8 inches apart. Water it well and cover it with mulch about 8 inches deep. Straw makes great mulch as it is high in nitrogen, breaks down fast, will protect it over winter, but it will flatten down to about 2 inches by spring. As a result it won’t smother the bulbs and will feed them as they come up in March and April.
To find new and interesting ways to use garlic, check out Friday’s Fixin’s at http://thinkoutsidethebarn.com/. This week’s post will feature some great recipes to bring out the best of this year’s harvests.
Fall is peak season for festivals and events at farmers’ markets, wineries and agritourism destinations across the state. You can find all of these things under MO Events and MO Fun at http://AgriMissouri.com. To submit your farmers’ market event just email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Find a farmers’ market in your area at http://agrimissouri.com/mo-travel/. While you are there check out everything MO Grown, MO Made and MO Fun at Agrimissouri.com.
Photo Credit: Artichoke Garlic courtesy of Bad Seed Farmers’ Market, AgriMissouri’s Farmers’ Market of the year