Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Brief Vacation

Nothing demarcates the seasons quite as much travelling afar and returning home.

After a sojourn to the rocky coast of Down East Maine for much of the first half of October, I returned to Philadelphia this past week. At both the Reading Terminal Market Friday and the Headhouse Square farmers' market today I was innundated by the foods (and colors, like those of Margerum's preserves at Headhouse) or fall produce. Herewith, some photos and thoughts.

Brassicas, Brassicas, Brassicas

Autumn is prime time for cruciferious vegetables, which get their name from a resemblance, somewhere in their visible anatomical structure, to a cross. Most of the cruciferous veggies we see in the markets are brassicas (the few that aren't brassicas include wasabi, horseradish, radishes, arugula and the various cresses).

Broccoli and cauliflower, whatever the color, as well as the pointy romanesco, are all variations of brassica oleracea. These specimens were found at Benuel Kauffman's Lancaster County Produce at the Reading Terminal Market Friday.

Kale and collards (though not the chard in the foreground) are also cruciferous veggies. These could be purchased today at the North Star stall at the Headhouse market.

Cabbages galore at Iovine Brother's Produce Friday at the RTM. The plain green cabbage, at left, was selling for 50 cents a pound while the red and savoy were priced at 69 cents. All were from local farms in South Jersey.

Peppers Are Better In October

I think of peppers as a summer vegetable, even if they are, like tomatoes, technically fruits. Yet, the peppers I've tasted both in Maine and since returning are sweeter and more flavorful than those I sampled in August and September. Maybe it's those extra days in the sun.  The green frying peppers (left) and red varities pictured above at Iovine's all hail from South Jersey farms.

These peppers (as well as eggplants and tomatoes) filled the Three Springs Fruit Farm stall at Headhouse, along with lots of apples. Farmer Ben Wenk thinks the cooler weather of fall may cut down on the rate of water absorption by produce, making them sweeter ans more intense. He thinks its definitely true of the peaches, and probably for the eggplant and peppers as well.

That may have been the reason why the plum tomatoes I purchased at the Bar Harbor farmers' market two weeks were the best I've had all year: the naturally cooler climate of Maine coupled with long days of sun. Those tomatoes made the best pasta sauce I've prepared all season long.

Roots: Beets and Carrots

Weaver's Way, with some floral help, provided a colorful display of carrots and beets today at Headhouse. The carrots I bought at Bar Harbor also seemed particularly sweet and flavorful, again, perhaps due to the cooler climate and longer days of sunlight in more northerly climes.

Another Fall Veggie Standout

Blooming Glen Farm displayed these tender stalks of flavorful today, and I was quick up a bunch, both for the leaves and the ribs. I can't think of making tuna salad without copious amount of finely diced celery rib with added leaves. But tonight I may braise some stalks to accompany grilled chicken. Celery is a vegetable we don't usually think of cooking with, other than in soups or stews, but it's superb as a standalone side dish.

Quince: The Original Marmalade

The things you learn on Wikipedia! Quince (here displayed in the case at Beechwood Orchard's stall at Headhouse) is called Marmelo in Portoguese, hence, the jam made from it was called marmalade. Quince is a great addition to apple pies, providing even more pectin as well as a slightly different type of tartness. Quince marmalade is a traditional accompaniment to sharp cheeses.

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