Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs have become increasingly popular over the last couple of years as a way for consumers to purchase fresh, local and seasonal food directly from farmers. In fact, a recent NPR study found that 36 percent of adults said they prefer to buy fruits and vegetables from a farmers’ market rather than from a supermarket, and 20 percent said produce grown in a home was their first choice. Now that harvest season is upon us, your readers may wonder what they should do with their garden’s bounty taking over the kitchen or what the best picks are at the farmers market. ConAgra Foods and celebrity chef and author George Duran have some ideas.
George shares his “Top 10 Fall Ingredients” below with tips on picking out the best produce when shopping at the farmers’ market.
Top 10 Fall Ingredients
Eggplant: Eggplants are best during the beginning of fall and can be found in numerous varieties, shapes, and sizes. Look for firm and heavy eggplants and make sure the color is vibrant and the skin is shiny. Store eggplants uncut, inside a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator.
Grapes: Grapes are high in anti-oxidants and peak during early fall. A fully ripened grape is wrinkle-free with stems still intact. Make sure that the grapes are not leaking any juice and look for bright colors, which are a sign that the grape is sweet.
Brussels Sprouts: If you see Brussels sprouts for sale on the stock, grab them right away! Choose ones that are bright green and firm. Yellow or wilted leaves mean that they have been stored incorrectly. Finally, try to select sprouts that are no larger than one-inch in diameter.
Zucchini: Look for dark green colors when choosing zucchini. Make sure the skin is firm and without any bruises. The stem should be moist and about an inch of it should still be attached.
Cranberries: Cranberries often come pre-packaged but the trick is to look for dark red colors and plump ones. Look to see that there are no berries that are shriveled and discolored.
Broccoli: Broccoli tends to be best during the fall. Bright green colors and firm stalks are a good sign that it’s freshly harvested. Most importantly, the broccoli florets should not have any yellow discoloration or wilted leaves.
Cauliflower: Cauliflower offers an excellent source of vitamin C as well as calcium and iron. Look for clean, creamy white colors with no spots or discoloration. The leaves should be bright green and firm. Make sure to look for mold, as it’s a sign that the cauliflower is not fresh.
Leeks: When buying leeks, look for firm white roots and bright green top leaves. The stalks should be unwrinkled and the roots should still be attached. Avoid leeks that have any yellow and wilted leaves.
Pumpkins or Butternut Squash: Choose pumpkins or squash that feel heavy for their size and make sure there are no blemishes on the skin. Feel for soft spots and bruises before purchasing them. Remember, butternut squash continues to ripen for many weeks after purchase, as long as they are kept in a cool, dry spot.
Sweet Potatoes: An excellent source of vitamins A and C, sweet potatoes should be medium-sized and firm all around. Avoid cracks, soft spots, and bruises and look for ones that are not refrigerated, as the flavors can alter if exposed to lower temperatures.