The landscape transitions into a kaleidoscope of color as we welcome the fall season to New England. This area of the country boasts some of the oldest farmers markets in the nation. For instance, Portland, ME’s first farmers market opened in 1768.
While local honey, maple syrups, cheese, rustic baked goods, and fish are as always available year-round, this time of year produces a fall harvest that screams for you to make a host of soups, pies, and roast dinners.
Grab your friends and family and head to your nearest market this weekend before the markets close down for the winter (usually in late November to early December). Food demonstrations, tastings, live music and these favorites await your senses!
The appearance of fresh cranberries signal the arrival of fall, and one of our most important meals of the year isn’t complete without a dish of fresh tart cranberry! We are talking about Thanksgiving, of course, and the culinary pairing of turkey and the taste of cranberries can’t be beat.
Cranberries grow on long vines in marshes and sandy bogs, and, in this area of the country, they hail from Massachusetts. This lip-puckering tart fruit comes loaded with Vitamin C, manganese, and fiber. Consider baking a cranberry orange nut bread to share with friends over coffee, adding fresh cranberries to your homemade strawberry pie, or making this year’s Thanksgiving cranberry sauce from scratch, as opposed to squeezing cranberry jelly out of a can.
Potatoes? Yes, potatoes. Nothing compares to the flavor and variety of an organically grown spud. They harness more complex flavors than your typical russet or baking potato, and are a standout vegetable served alongside other veggies accompanying a roast.
Look for new potatoes – this thinner-skinned varietal comes loaded with moisture that hold a buttery flavor and don’t need much dressing up to be delicious. Boil them until tender, toss with organic butter, freshly chopped parsley, and salt and pepper for taste for a wonderfully simple side dish.
Other potatoes to look for include Purple Viking and Purple Majesty, brilliantly colored potatoes that will make any dinner table pop. Also keep an eye open for fingerling potatoes that come in a variety of colors such as Magic Molly, an almost black potato, to Red Thumb fingerlings, with their beautiful dark pink flesh.
Truly the face of fall, pumpkins flood the markets this time of year. Select firm rounded pumpkins to carve into jack-o-lanterns for Halloween, or decorate your table with a variety of pumpkin shapes and colors. But pumpkins aren’t just for looks.
Consider indulging in pumpkin breads and cookies. Make a fresh pumpkin pie this year as opposed to pie filling from a can. Or slice pumpkin into chunks and roast as a delicious side to any warm, hearty meal on a cool fall night.
A relative of the garlic and onion, the leek is a culinary gem. It tastes incredible in omelets or quiches when sliced up and slowly sautéed in a bath of butter, or add it with potatoes to make an incredible potato leek soup.
Focus on using only the white part of the leek and toss the green part into the compost bin. Consider using a leek in any of your dishes that call for onion. They hold a far sweeter savory flavor, and nothing beats a fresh leek in season – just make sure you rinse them very well before you start preparing them!
What are your favorite finds from your local New England farmers market this time of year? Share with us in the comments!