How do we love thee, fall? Let us count the ways: local apples, beets, cheese, greens, lettuce, meats, pumpkins, radishes, turnips, winter squash … We could go on and on. How can you fall for local food, too? Take our advice, and it’s sure to be a heavenly cool-weather cooking season.
Though a select few have ended for the season, the majority of farmers markets remain open through the end of October, some even into November and December.
The cooler weather means that you can also look forward to cabbages, mushrooms, potatoes, spinach and other greens — everything you need for a fall feast. Shop for popcorn and sweet treats, too. You can find everything from seasonal baked goods such as sweet potato pie, plus real local honey and sorghum molasses (also known as sorghum syrup, the natural sweetener is made by processing juice squeezed from sorghum stalks). Nationwide, sorghum-cane milling is a rare operation, but family farms here in WNC are keeping the Southern mountain tradition alive. Use it in your favorite recipe, or simply spread it on biscuits.
Markets also act as a pumpkin patch through the end of October. Pick decorative pumpkins and gourds for your fall displays, or pick up a pre-carved jack-o-lantern to save yourself the messy steps.
Fall’s a perfect time to start shopping for holiday gifts, as more and more local craft vendors make their way to market. Look for everything from wreaths to beeswax candles and handmade furniture to jewelry.
Appalachian Grown partner restaurants serve local food
The restaurants advertising in this special section have a commitment to buying local cheeses, meats and produce, and we hear that fall is one of their favorite times. Look for specials featuring the items prevalent in our farmers markets this time of year. In particular, look for dishes featuring greens, winter squash and farm-fresh meats.
Greens have the Get Local focus in October. Here in WNC, chefs can get their hands on collards, kale, Swiss chard, escarole, a variety of lettuces, spinach and more, so there are sure to be numerous specials.
The same goes for November’s focus, winter squash. Look for dishes featuring candy roaster squash, an Appalachian staple, as well as acorn, butternut, delicata, carnival and more. In December, as fresh produce becomes more scarce, restaurants will shine the spotlight on area meat farmers who produce beef, chicken, duck, goat, lamb, pork, rabbit and trout.
ASAP’s Get Local is a year-round initiative that brings together farmers, chefs and community members to celebrate a featured local food each month. Learn more and find the calendar (which will change to feature exciting new local items in 2012) on the Get Local page of http://www.asapconnections.org.
Be sure to also look for local produce on the shelves of groceries and co-ops that support local farmers.