For the parts of the country living in four-season climates, these last weeks of fall mark the final farmer’ markets of the year. For the local, seasonal foodies, this marks a bittersweet time, reminiscent of the last days of summer camp. While we promise to see each other next year, we desperately hug each other for a long goodbye, trying to hang to the fleeting magic of summer.
Rather than mourn over the decline of ample fresh produce, embrace all that fall has to offer. If carefully stored, this season’s squash, apples and root vegetables can tide you over into the new year, when spring asparagus and spinach greens will be abundant once again.
Here are some tips for marking the end of farmers’ market season.
1. Thank the Farmers
For the farmers’ sake, there really should be a champagne toast and award ceremony at the last market. The last market represents the culmination of months of labor and love for their crops, and the advent of downtime in order to reenergize for the next growing season. Take farmer appreciation into your own hands and give a simple thank you to your favorite vendors and promise you’ll be first in line next spring. Farmers deeply appreciate such words of support and appreciation from the people who enjoy their wares.
2. Stock Up On Hard Squashes
Pick up some hard-skinned winter squash for long-term storage. Choose individuals without soft spots, cuts or breaks. Most winter squash benefits from curing, the process of keeping the squash first at room temperature (about 70 degrees) for 10 to 20 days, then transferring to a cool (45 to 50 degree) dry place, such as a basement, for long term storage. Talk to the farmer you’re buying from to find out if they cured the squash or if you need to.
Wherever you choose to store the squash, keep an eye on the temperature and don’t let them freeze. Large, hard-rind squash can be stored four to six months in cool, dry condishes. Acorn or butternut squash typically store up to three months. Store squash in a single layer with a little breathing room between them to allow air circulation.
3. Buy a Bushel of Apples
Almost any kind of apple will keep for up to four months or even longer if stored properly. Some apple varietals keep better than others. Firm flesh apples generally keep better. The key is to sort through your apples and save the “perfect” ones without any damage for long-term storage. Eat the ones with any bruise, dent or rotten spot first, as these are the main causes of spoilage.