Thursday, December 12, 2013
Mother Nature pulled out of summer right on cue if only to usher in a banner display of fall colors and crops at the Saturday Portland farmer’s market. It was as though the summer season changed overnight.
All the usual fall suspects were bountiful and farm fresh while late-summer pickings were nearly gone.Those remnants of tomatoes were getting a bit rough around the edges, berries were nearly nonexistent and stone fruits were on the wane.
The Saturday Portland market was very busy with lines forming at most vendors' tables; here, foreground, cherry tomatoes are still plentiful while field tomatoes are nearly past their prime
Apples were everywhere, though. But I like to wait for cooler weather before buying local apples as frosty temperatures help the apples grow crisp with more intense flavor.
Most apple growers spray their orchards, but these at one vendor's stand were natural, deep red, if a little pocked marked, but with great flavor
Some reminders, though, of the summer harvest were still available if you got to the market early enough. Even though Snell Farm sold out of their last-of-the crop peaches early in the morning, Uncle’s Farm Stand had bushels of peaches so ripe that many were literally bursting at the seams.
A display of the late harvest Madison peaches at Cornerstone Farm
Then I came upon an interesting display of them at Cornerstone Farm who grows a late-harvest peach called Madison. They’re a smaller type of the stone fruit but turned out to be so sweet and delicious in the cobbler that I made with them for dessert that evening.
A cobbler made with Madison peaches from Cornerstone Farm
Another vestige of the summer berry season was available at Alewive’s Brook Farm who grows an ever-bearing variety of strawberries harvested through September and sometimes later, depending on weather. They’re as sweet as the June berry, and I wonder why more farmers don’t plant this crop since the earlier berry is so fleeting.
If you still have a hankering for strawberry shortcake, the berries to make it are still available at Alewive's Brook Farm
But going gung ho over fall produce now still seems premature for me because I’m not ready for the deluge of squash, roots and winter greens that will be available in the months ahead at the markets.
I did load up on beets, green tomatoes and cauliflower but am holding off on cabbages since they reach a peak of flavor in cooler weather.
Still, the Portland market, and others around the state, was a treasure trove of great farm-to-table pickings. Take a look.
A vivid display of peppers and all kinds of squash let you know that the fall harvest is here
Green tomatoes are hitting the markets now and will be plentiful even after the first frost; use them breaded and fried, in casseroles and dessert pies
Beets will be plentiful through fall and early winter; after that they're a farmer's staple at the markets brough out from their cold-storage bins
These melons from Green Spark Farm in Cape Elizabeth were truly sweet melons as sampled at the market; weighing in at an average of 5 pounds or more, they're huge
Fall harvest aplenty, with chard, kale and broccoli; but more and more Maine farmers are growing these in hoop houses throughout the winter months, extending their presence at the market.Tweet
John Golden has written about food, dining and lifestyle subjects for Downeast magazine, the Boston Globe, Cottages and Gardens magazine, Gourmet magazine, Cuisine magazine, the New York Times and the New York Post.
In his highly opinionated blog, John reports on his experiences dining out all over Maine and his visits with food personalities, farmers and farmers’ markets throughout the state.