Fall Produce is Thriving at Your Local Farmers Market

By: Toni Cunningham | September 25, 2013

While many summer activities do not transition to fall (swimming in October? I don’t think so), there are a few that do. Most notably, shopping for produce at your local farmers market is something you can—and should—continue to do as the leaves change color.

You may not find bushels of fresh Michigan strawberries anymore, but you might be surprised to learn that many of the items you purchased back in May or June are already in season again. You might even be surprised to learn that your local farmers market is still open during the fall months.

If you’re shocked, you shouldn’t be! According to Scott Welcer of Welcer Farms, farmers markets are open longer and longer every year. As most of us know, Eastern Market is open year round, giving Metro Detroiters the opportunity to purchase local, fresh produce 365 days a year.

“Through the use of green houses, high tunnels or hoop houses, and even some indoor production, Michigan produce has been and is becoming even more of a year-round situation,” Welcer explains.

It should be a no-brainer that buying and eating local is important no matter what month it is—for both your own benefit and that of your local farmers and businesses.

“Creating a higher demand for fresh, local produce will drive more people to produce (it) on this level, increasing availability for everybody,” Welcer said. “The closer to home it’s grown, the better the food will be for all of us.”

In addition to being a pro in the growth process, Welcer knows a thing or two about taking produce to the table, as well. He suggests canning or blanching fruits and vegetables now while they’re fresh to enjoy months from now.

“My freezer is quickly filling up with quart Ziploc bags of heirloom tomato puree, to be used for tailgate chili in November and December and beyond,” Welcer said.

If, like me, you have no idea where to start when it comes to the canning process, allow Google to be your best friend. You’ll thank yourself come January!

You may have already sampled some of Welcer’s produce without knowing it—he is a supplier for Novi’s Toasted Oak Grill and Market, and chef Brian Kanak whips up a variety of dishes using his produce at the restaurant.

While you’ll still be able to purchase quite a variety of local produce as the temperature drops, sensitive plants like basil are averse to cold and will be the first to go. To combat Michigan’s unpredictable weather, many local growers use hoop houses in order to lengthen the growing season and the availability window for consumers should a cold spell arise.

Welcer frequents the Northville Farmers market often for seasonal fall produce, and says you should keep an eye out for the following at your own market:

  • Greens such as Swiss chard, kale, collard greens, spinach, lettuce, beet tops
  • Squash, the most popular variety being spaghetti squash—try using it as an alternative to potatoes or pasta!
  • Tomatoes of all varieties, everything from beefsteak to cherry tomatoes
  • Root vegetables, such as carrots, beets, onions and potatoes. Since onions and potatoes can be stored for several months in a cool, dry place, now is the time to stock up
  • Beans and cucumbers are still available and will be fresh through October

You can find the above items at the following farmers markets open this fall:

  • Royal Oak Farmers Market (open year round; 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sundays)
  • Eastern Market (open year round; 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays)
  • Beaumont Hospital Farmers Market (open Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. through October)
  • Wayne State University Farmers Market (open Wednesdays 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. through October 30)
  • Milford Farmers Market (open Thursdays from 3 p.m. to dusk through October 24)
  • Plymouth Farmers Market (open Wednesdays 2:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. through October 2)
  • Shelby Township Farmers Market (open Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. through October)
  • Greenfield Village Farmers Market (open all day Saturday, September 28 and Saturday, October 5)
  • Ann Arbor Farmers Market (open year round; 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesdays, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays)
  • Oakland County Market (open year round; 7 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays during fall)

When it comes down to it, purchasing produce locally is beneficial for both your health and the local economy, and there’s no reason to stop just because the mercury drops.

“The rewards of eating fresh, local produce go beyond the nutrition,” Welcer said. “Building relationships, in some cases friendships, with the people that grow your food and others like you, are all part of the rewards.”

For more information on Welcer Farms, visit the official site or Facebook page.

Toasted Oak’s executive chef Brian Kanak was kind enough to share the following recipe for his Beet Tartare with “In the D” readers! Chef Brian has prepared the dish for friends and family several times and it’s been a hit.  Head to your local farmers market to pick up the ingredients and whip up the dish on your own:

Beet Tartare
(Serves 4)

2 cups roasted golden beets or red beets
2 Tbsp. fine diced red onion
2 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
¼ cup thin sliced beet greens
1 Tbsp. lemon basil
1 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
1 tsp. thyme
¼ cup carrot

Salt and pepper to taste
8 Tbsp. fresh goat cheese (Zingerman’s has a great fresh Goat cheese)

Start by utilizing Welcer Farms produce. They are the freshest and best in town. We are very fortunate to have a great relationship with Scott and his farm. The pride that he puts into his produce makes our job as chefs so much easier because we are working (with) such high quality, well cared for product. You then get to do the fun part of the job which is to focus on enhancing the product, figuring out what will pair great with each individual piece of produce to make a wonderful dish. This recipe did just that for me. Scott planted beets in our garden this year, and they came out beautiful! It was easy to find inspiration to create a simple but fresh dish. I hope that you enjoy!

Production

Rinse the beets under cold water until all dirt is removed. Cut off the greens and rinse as well, then reserve under refrigeration. Once the beets are cleaned and dry, rub them down with olive oil, salt and pepper and place them in a 350 degree oven until they are fork tender. The size of the beet will determine how long you need to roast them for. A standard sized beet should take about 30 to 45 minutes. Take the beets out of the oven and place them directly into refrigeration and allow them to cool enough so that you can pick them up with your hands. With a towel, peel away the skins of the beets and place them back in the refrigerator until thoroughly cooled. While the beets are cooling off, dice the red onions as fine as you can and place in a mixing bowl. Take the beet greens and slice them thin and place them in the mixing bowl as well. Chop the herbs very fine and place them with the other ingredients. Note: if you cannot get your hands on lemon basil, you can substitute sweet basil and add a squeeze of lemon juice. At this time, your beets should be completely cooled. This is where your preference and creativity comes in to play. You can chop them into a small dice or chop them as rough as you would like them to be. Once your beets are chopped you can then mix them with the herbs, greens, onion, olive oil and vinegar. Season the mixture with salt and pepper. You can then adjust with any seasoning that you feel is necessary at this time. Perhaps you feel it needs more salt, vinegar, or herbs. Part of being a cook is adapting to the ingredients. When you have fresh organic products that are not sprayed with pesticides, you will most likely have different flavors within the product, for example sweetness, saltiness, bitterness, savory, and umami.

Now comes the garnish: using your peeler, peel the carrot into strips and place it in a separate bowl. You can then drizzle a good olive oil over top the carrots and season them with salt and pepper. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can splash a small amount of vinegar over the carrots as well.

For the plating, take 2 Tbsp. of the fresh goat cheese and spread it on your plate. Put a dollop of the cheese down on the plate then drag your spoon through it in a straight line. Place a round cookie cutter on the goat cheese and fill it with the beet tartare mixture. Using a spoon, gently press down on the beet mixture. This will pack the tartare together so it will stay in the form of the round cookie cutter. Repeat this step three more times. Place the seasoned shredded carrot on top of the tartare trying to achieve as much height as possible. The next step is the most important part in cooking. Take 30 seconds to admire the work that you did before you present your dish to your guests. I hope that you enjoy!