September is one of the best seasons for locavores. The peak summer vegetables are available by the bushel and the early fall crops are just beginning to ripen. Few other months offer more variety and possibility in Minnesota. Don’t wait another week to visit the farmers’ market or search the Minnesota Grown directory for a local grower. Here’s the A-Z list of fruits and vegetables in season right now:
#1 Apples - Minnesota apple season came early this year because of heat, dry weather and early spring blossoms. Early varieties like State Fair and Duchess have been available for a few weeks. Sweet Sixteen and Honeycrisp are starting to arrive now and in a few more weeks the long-winter storage apples like Haralson and Keepsake will come around. Apple season can mean only one thing: it’s time for fall baking! Try Cranberry-Apple Donuts for a twist on a Minnesota orchard favorite.
#2 Beets - If you’re like me, beets aren’t high up on the list with all the other fresh vegetables available. However, many beet dishes call for other ingredients that are only in-season right now. Marinated beets over fresh baby spinach will be tough for a locavore in another few months. Think beets taste like dirt? Try NYTimes’ “Beet Recipes Even a Beet Hater Can Love.”
#3 Beans - Many locavores will be freezing and canning beans in the coming weeks. Green beans, yellow wax, lima beans and even edamame are widely available through mid to late September. Growers will also be harvesting their dry shell beans in the coming weeks. We’ll be warming up with one of our favorite fall soups, tasty Green Bean Dumpling Soup
#4 Broccoli - The weather finally cools off enough in September for a second broccoli crop. Fall broccoli has a bolder flavor than spring, perfect for soups, stews and steamed as a simple side. Freezing broccoli for late-winter eating is easy and affordable this time of year as many growers have an abundance to sell before frost.
#5 Brussels Sprouts - If there’s one vegetable on a comeback run it’s brussels sprouts. I’ve seen them on the menus of many top Minnesota restaurants and all over the Food Network. Before the doubters turn their noses up and away, there’s one thing I can offer about brussels sprouts: bacon. Slow-roasted brussels sprouts with thick-cut bacon, topped with parmesan cheese. Mind-Blowing.
#6 Cabbage - Keeping on with the cole crops, all my good German relatives would tell you September is the season for sauerkraut. Cooler temps mean less funky smells in the kitchen. Plus the largest heads of cabbage are starting to roll out of the garden. Last year a vendor was selling it at the St. Paul Farmers’ Market in 25 pound increments! There’s no better time to get your cabbage fermentation on. Check out Wild Fermentation for ‘kraut recipes, then check out the world record cabbage entered into Alaska’s State Fair this year–a whopping 138 pounds!
#7 Carrots - Although we’ve been munching on smaller carrots since mid-July, the month of September is when carrots peak in Minnesota. Soon the farmers’ market vendors will be offering them by the bushel and half-bushel. If you’re a healthy locavore, you’ll take advantage of the volume and bust out the juicer for fresh carrot juices. If you’re like me – you’ll make carrot cake with a sinful amount of frosting. Zoë Bakes recipe is my favorite!
#8 Cauliflower - Last weekend I cooked my first head of cauliflower ever. Not sure why it’s an intimidating vegetable or why I always want to douse it in cheese sauce. It should still make the list of September veggies to try. My favorite list of cauliflower recipes comes from 101 Cookbooks – a good place to start if you’re newbie like me!
#9 Cucumbers – The lesson for these warm weather veggies is eat them while they last. Cucumbers are abundant in the first weeks of September, but will start to dwindle by the end of the month. Other than pickling, there’s really no good way to preserve cucumbers later into the season either.
#10 Eggplant - Ratatouille was made for late in the season when eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes and onions are all in season. Don’t just try the deep purple kind either. Thai eggplant and the gorgeous Rosa Bianca varieties can all be found at the farmers’ market. Catch them now for good roasted eggplant dips and stir fry. They’ll be in peak season for another few weeks and gone by the first of the month.
#11 Greens — Now that it’s not 90-gagillion degrees of hot, delicate greens start to reappear in September. Cress, beet greens, lettuce and others will all be back until the first hard frost. Snatch them up for fall salads with roasted beets or in a simple sauté. Want to know what all the options are? Try the “Visual Guide to Salad Greens” from Epicurious.
#12 Herbs – Just like the greens, herbs are also making a comeback in the cooler temps. If you plan to dry or freeze herbs for winter, September is a good time to do so. Some herbs freeze or dry better than others – check a preserving guide before you start. Also try freezing rosemary, oregano and thyme together in olive oil cubes. These make great starters for winter pasta and soups.
#13 Kale –Roasted, dried, steamed, mixed with mashed potatoes, shredded in salad, tossed in soup. I’ve never met a kale recipe I don’t like. Huffington Post -Taste came out this week with a slide show of 17+ kale recipes for fall. My favorites have bacon. Then again what doesn’t taste better with bacon?
#14 Kohlrabi - My one statement about kohlrabi to new locavores is don’t bash it until you’ve tried it. Second plantings are ready now – smaller but with the same flavor as spring. I love them shredded raw in place of cabbage in coleslaw or steamed in white sauce over biscuits. You’ll just have to trust me on this one.
#15 Onions – I love French Onion soup on a fall afternoon, especially when we can buy them by the sackful at the farmers’ market. We typically stock up on onions at the end of September and place them in the dark cool basement where they’ll last us until late-winter. You can’t beat caramelized onions and cheese on pizza with a glass of red wine after a long day at work!
#16 Parsnips and Turnips – I’ll be honest. When it comes to vegetables, these are the two I have the least experience with. They’re a fall favorite in soups and stews, but somehow always are backstage in my dishes. I’d love to see them front and center since they’re one of the best vegetables for cold storage. Someone should send parsnip recipes my way…
#17 Peppers – I love to pickle hot peppers in September when I can have the windows wide open with a cool breeze to take out the jalapeño and vinegar mixture that otherwise turns my eyes into a watering can. This year the kitchen partner and I roasted red peppers on the grill for freezing. Plus there’s no shortage of peppers around this month–a bushel of runs about $10 at the farmers’ market this time of year.
#18 Potatoes – Does anyone really need to be told to eat potatoes? I’ll trust you know how to enjoy them from now through the end of cold storage season. By the way, $10,000 is up for grabs this month in the Reser’s America’s Best Potato Salad Challenge. The 5 top finalist recipes all look amazing!
#19 Pumpkins –We typically think October is the best month for pumpkins, however early season varieties are already starting to appear at the market and orchards. For the next few months there will be a perpetual pumpkin recipe on our counter or refrigerator – breads, cookies, pie. Roasted with bacon. For the full week of pumpkin recipes I posted last year, check out the pumpkin tag.
#20 Radishes – Last weekend the kitchen partner and I had fresh radishes with butter, salt and flatbread for an appetizer at The Bachelor Farmer in Minneapolis. The tangy bite has never been my favorite, but these fall-harvest radishes had just the right balance of sweet and kick. Maybe I’ll even go bold this fall and try radish pizza.
#21 Raspberries –The fall raspberry picking is fantastic this year. The bushes were full of berries the last time we were out to a pick-your-own farm in Northfield. Bringing them home for raspberry pie, crisp and cheesecake is a good idea. So is freezing them whole for winter desserts or making them into easy raspberry jam.
#22 Sweet Corn Last summer the kitchen partner came home from a farm stand with a 25 pound bag of sweet corn. Some days his eyes are WAY bigger than his stomach. We blanched and froze most of the ears for soups and sides. By most I mean 40+ quarts. I’m still exhausted. There was even some left in the bottomless corn bag for roasting on the grill, salads, and a succotash.
#23 Tomatoes Look no further than this month’s How-To Post for the best way to can tomatoes. This is also the time for sun-drying and oven-roasting tomatoes. Temperatures are cooler and allow the oven to stay on for hours without making the kitchen into an inferno.
#24 Watermelon We don’t normally think about Minnesota and watermelon, but we’ve had a melon in our refrigerator every week for the past month. As long as the hard frost holds off, we’ll see watermelons at the farmers markets for another few weeks. They’ll continue to get smaller as the season moves on, but so much better tasting than any grocery store melon.
#25 Winter Squash Acorn. Butternut. Buttercup. Delicata. All gorgeous and full of nutrition. All ready for fall baking and sides. September is the first month winter squash are worth trying; the flavor will increase as the season dwindles and the squash take in a few frosts. Need recipe ideas? About.com’s local food writer Molly Watson has a great guide to winter squash.
Phew! You made it to the end!
Happy September eating!