EATING WELL IN KANSAS CITY - September 2018 - Kansas City
The Best of Both Worlds at the Farmers Market
By Emily and Brandi
As we approach Labor Day we say goodbye to summer fun and start welcoming the fall. This might mean changing our schedule as we head back to school with kids or changing our wardrobe as we fish out a sweater or two. But fortunately for us here in the Kansas City area, it does not mean we have to change the way we eat.
The growing season in our region is long and our farmers markets keep us well-fed well into the fall. For locavores and foodies, this is a “best of both worlds” time of year. Sometimes the most delicious array of market offerings include the last of the summer tomatoes right next to the first of the winter squash. Who could ask for anything more?
September brings the return of some cool weather crops like tender lettuces, even as we enjoy the hot summer bounty of crops like tomatoes and cucumbers. Beets and winter squashes aren’t hard to find. Which means you can make a variety of rich and robust full-meal salads with just one trip to the market.
Gardeners and farmers have long known the old saying, “What grows together, goes together.” One of our favorite recipes for this time of year is a Three Sisters Stew. This recipe combines beans, corn, and squash—just as Native Americans throughout the US have combined these three crops in an array of agricultural arrangements. The sturdy corn stalks serve as poles for the beans; while the squash is planted in between, to balance soil health or to deter pests.
This is the kind of recipe that is very forgiving of adaptations, so it wouldn’t be outlandish to stick a summer squash in there, or perhaps some green beans. Many variations are vegetarian but others include pork as well. And, of course, a crock pot version of this one-pot meal means you can have dinner waiting for you when you get home for work or from picking up your hungry kids at school.
Another perk of farmers market shopping in the fall is the abundance of hearty, shelf-stable crops. If your back-to-school schedule keeps you from getting to the market every single week, use our “bulk up” strategy! Buy bulk quantities of several crops that have staying power, (and that you know you’ll eat.) Come to the market prepared (read: bring a big bag—maybe even one with wheels—and lots of cash) to stock up on onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squash, and pumpkins. These ingredients can store for weeks on end, especially if kept in a cool, dark place and far away from fruits (like apples which naturally emit ethylene gas that promotes deterioration). Other hearty late summer and fall crops like cabbage, carrots, and kohlrabi will be happy to sit tight in the crisper of your fridge for 2-3 weeks, meaning you can still eat local even if you can’t make it to market every single weekend.
Meat is available all year round, but late summer and early fall is a wonderful time to grill out. So look for protein farmers to get your favorites for grilling and try something new for the Crockpot or Instant Pot, like stew meat or shoulder roasts. That’ll streamline your weeknight dinner prep for sure! And since it is sold frozen, you can certainly stock your freezer with grass-fed, healthy, and wholesome meat. And for our vegetarian friends, grilling is always a good idea—even without meat! Grilled zucchini, kohlrabi, onions, peaches, and so much more—such a delicious way to celebrate the seasons.
The shorter, cooler days mean beautiful weather for a trip to the farmers market. With a stock-up mindset and a harvest time of year, your weekends can give you just the goods you need to get wholesome and hearty food on the table all week long—for weeks at a time!
One of our favorite local “market chefs” is Paige Vandegrift of For Love of the Table and she has a great recipe for an early fall meal made of delicious summer veg. Maybe you’ve already made everything you know to make out of zucchini. Maybe you’re out of ideas for your eggplant. Not only will this hearty baked pasta dish bring those classic summer veg into perfect alignment, it’s just the kind of warm comfort food that we start to crave when those shorter days usher in the change of the season.
Find Paige’s Rigatoni al Forno with Ratatouille Vegetables recipe at www.forloveofthetable.com/2014/10/rigatoni-al-forno-with-ratatouille.html.
The KC Food Circle is a non-profit connecting eaters with local, organic, free-range farmers to promote a sustainable food system in the Kansas City region.
For more information visit www.kcfoodcircle.org.