The crisp air outside tells us that fall has descended upon the Midwest. In this area of the country, which includes a large swathe of “The Corn Belt,” festivals honoring scarecrows, pumpkins, and the aforementioned corn bring communities together in celebration of the change in the season.
These outdoor festivities also signal that it’s time to visit your local farmer’s market before the first snowfall. Head on out this weekend for live music, demonstrations, new treats, and all that the fall harvest has to offer!
In a place where corn covers the landscape, why look any further than your own local grower for the best, juiciest sweet produce in the country? Corn is like your favorite box of crayons – it comes in such a wide variety of colors and styles. Keep an eye open for Bear Paw, Black Aztec, the multi-colored Smoke Signals, or the Two-Inch Strawberry Popcorn variety, as they all can double as a beautiful addition to table arrangements for your fall décor.
Beyond its decorative powers, corn is simply delicious. Consider making a corn chowder to warm up a chilly autumn night. How about slicing corn kernels off the cob and tossing them into corn bread muffins? Try slicing a few jalapenos into those muffins for a New Mexican style flavor.
My family’s favorite way to cook corn is over an open fire or on our charcoal grill. Keep the husk on and frequently rotate the cob for approximately 15-20 minutes. The husk protects the kernels, so you don’t need foil. Once cooked, remove the corn from heat, remove the husk, and slather the corn with salt and butter. Use the stalk stub as a handle to eat this delicious treat!
The cool evening temperatures provide the perfect growing environment for lettuce, mustard greens, spinach, arugula, and other greens. Farmers bring their greens into the city this time of year by the basket-full, and while lettuce is available year-round, the heartier varieties of greens available now are at their prime – and they’re too nutritious to pass up.
Consider using arugula and spinach in a quiche. Get creative with your salads and create fall-inspired ones by tossing cubes of roasted pumpkin on a bed of spinach, along with goat cheese and toasted pecans. Or throw your fresh spinach, kale, or lettuce into your smoothie for an added boost of Vitamin K.
Many farms and orchards in the Midwest harvest European varieties of plums by offering a ‘pick-your-own’ option this time of year. Plums are most delicious when left to ripen on the tree, and once they are picked, they don’t store so well. Keeping that in mind, its best to eat plums shortly after purchase to savor this delicious fruit.
Braised pork or beef is divine when cooked with plums. Plum chutney is one way of preserving the fruit so you can enjoy it with roasted meats at a later date. But our favorite way to eat those plums, besides raw like an apple, is in a plum tart. Paired with a shortbread crust and a hot cup of coffee, we can’t think of a more delicious treat on a cool October morning!
What are your preferred fruits and vegetables to purchase in the fall at your favorite farmers market in your area of the Midwest? Share with us in the comments, and don’t forget to tell us how you like to prepare your produce.