Going to Market: Yes, you can still find fresh produce during sweater weather

BY LINDSAY MYERS — After another lazy summer of meandering through local markets, dropping cucumbers into mason jars full of salty brine and sucking every last drop of juice from the fresh peaches at McCleaf’s on Thursday afternoons in Riverdale, I’m ready to transition my pantry into the heartier, nuttier flavors of fall and winter. Don’t let the cooler weather keep you from visiting your local markets this fall. Autumn has “tuned his jolly voice,” and the harvest is abundant. In this season finale edition of Going to Market, I’ll let you know where you can buy fresh produce this fall, what you can buy, and even suggest a couple of recipes that you can access via the web version of this article. Happy Harvesting!

The Markets

Open through October:

Cheverly Community Market
Cheverly Community Center parking lot
6401 Forest Road, Cheverly, MD
Every other Saturday, 8:00 a.m. to noon
Final market: October 21

Open through November:

Greenbelt Farmers Market
Greenbelt Municipal Building parking lot
25 Crescent Road, Greenbelt
Sundays: 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Final market: November 19

College Park Farmers Market
Herbert Wells Ice Rink parking lot
5211 Paint Branch Parkway, College Park
Saturdays: 7:00 a.m. to noon

Downtown College Park Farmers Market
City Hall parking lot
4500 Knox Road, College Park
Sundays 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Open through January and year-round:

Riverdale Park Farmers Market
MARC Rail Station Parking lot through November
Riverdale Park Town Center Market in December and January
Thursdays: 3:00 to 7:00 p.m.

Takoma Park Farmers Market
6900 Block of Laurel Avenue, Takoma Park
Sundays year-round, 10 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

The Harvest

Apples: You might prefer pumpkins, but the Myers family thinks that apples should be crowned king of fall. Apples are harvested from late summer through early fall and are coveted for their affordability and variety. This autumn, try your hand at two or three of the many sweet and savory dishes we put together during apple season. Grab an apple or two and let it cook down in your cast iron skillet with some butter and white onion to make a rich sauce for bone-in pork chops. Or pop a few in the slow cooker with some oranges, cinnamon sticks, sugar and cloves to make the best apple cider ever. Or come find me in Hyattsville, and maybe, just maybe, I’ll give up the secret to my (literally) award-winning apple pie.

Beets: The beet gets a bad rap since it’s so often served on salad bars drenched in vinegar. A well prepared beet, however, has a subtle, earthy taste with just a hint of sweetness. Beets are also a great fall/winter staple because they are in season through early November and can last for several weeks if stored properly (try a sealed plastic bag in the fridge). If you’re new to beets, try them boiled first. The skin pops right off and they make the perfect side dish, salad topping, or even secret ingredient in a smoothie. Once you’ve been converted, get a little crazier in the kitchen. Try them sauteed in beer with red cabbage and onion — the perfect topping for brats during Oktoberfest — or turn up your brunch game with a crispy beets and potatoes hash.

Brussels Sprouts: Since the internet realized that Brussels sprouts can be caramelized in brown sugar and bacon, this formerly neglected veggie has found new footing on the menus of many DC eateries. The Brussels sprout, however, can be prepared in many ways sans the bacon, and the flavor is nutty and savory — perfect with a roasted chicken on a chilly evening — whipped into an au gratin concoction or even on a pizza. Look for Brussels sprouts at your local markets from September through March.

Butternut Squash: Like Brussels sprouts, butternut squash grows during the coldest months — October through February. Depending on your storage, it can keep for several months depending on your storage situation. Although butternut squash can be difficult to cut because of its thick skin, the creamy sweetness of the fruit makes it worth the extra effort. Butternut squash is also low in fat and rich in potassium and fiber. When fresh produce can be hard to find in the colder months, this shapely beauty can deliver just the punch of nutrients that your body craves. Try it in a thick winter soup paired with roasted tomatoes or even with a little curry for an extra kick.

Pears: Craving fresh fruit when the frost kicks in? You’re in luck. Pears peak from September through November, and are often available through December. Pears can be tricky to purchase because their appearance doesn’t necessarily reveal whether they’ve been harvested and handled properly. Most foodies agree that pears should be bought in season and locally, when possible, to minimize the damage done in mass transit. When buying pears from your local market, give the fruit a squeeze and go for the firmer pieces. Pears are better when they’re picked unripe. You can test them for softness and smell after a few days of rest on your kitchen counter. While you’re waiting, prep your pantry for a couple of pear-themed dishes. A warm bowl of chai-spiced baked oatmeal with poached pears is perfect on special occasion mornings. On days when I need to impress guests, I serve sliced pears (and apples) with a creamy ginger dip made with cream cheese, yogurt, and honey. The dip has to chill, but your guests’ enthusiasm for it won’t.

Thanks for reading this summer, and see you at the market next May. I’ll be the one gobbling down strawberries.

Write her at Lindsay@Hyattsvillelife.com if you like any from her list or have your own to share.