Fall harvest presents nutritious, delicious bounty
By Valerie Beerbower
Autumn has arrived in the Miami Valley, bringing with it the foliage wardrobe change, football season and the reemergence of hooded sweatshirts and jackets from their dusty corner of the closet. Customers at the PNC 2nd Street Market in downtown Dayton also will notice a rotation in the lineup from their favorite local farmers. “Fall offers a colorful assortment of gourds, squash, apples and other seasonal produce,” said Market Manager Jimmy Harless. “I see people get excited at the start of every season — spring asparagus, summer berries, tomatoes and so on — but I think there’s a little more excitement when it comes to fall favorites. Probably because it’s the signal that people’s favorite holidays are right around the corner.”
Here’s a list of some of the produce patrons will find at their next Market visit, as well as some tips on how to prepare them:
- Apples: October begins winding down this fruit’s season, but apple-products like apple butter or cider will be available over the next few months. Loaded with antioxidants and fiber, this nutritional powerhouse can help reduce cholesterol, promote weight loss and recent studies even suggest “an apple a day” keeps colon, prostate and lung cancer away! While requesting this fruit be served in anything other than pastry-form might seem “un-American,” tons of sugar and fat will negate any nutritional value. Instead, use them in salads, slide a few tart variety slices in a deli-meat sandwich, or bake them in the oven with just a touch of brown sugar or local honey. Apples and pork are best buds — pair them in a meal for a dynamic duo.
- Sweet potatoes: Also operating under the alias “yam,” this knobby root vegetable is loaded with beta carotene (which supports the immune system — important stuff for the advent of cold and flu season), vitamin C, vitamin B6, dietary fiber and minerals. Give him a good scrub and bake or broil for a healthy side dish, or peel the skin and cut down into fries and bake for a healthier take on steak fries. Watch the toppings — adding butter, sugar or honey is OK in small quantities, but anything more will turn this nutritional boon into a dietary bomb.
- Pumpkins: Arguably the star of the fall farm stand, the rule of thumb to picking the perfect pumpkin is the smaller, the sweeter. If one must transform this good-for-you food into a nutritional finger wag, can the canned stuff and select smaller varieties for sweeter taste. Otherwise, split this gourd in half, remove the seeds, lightly brush with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast in the oven to produce fork-tender morsels packed with vitamin A (beta carotene), vitamin C, and other important nutrients. Try blending some pumpkin with chicken stock to make a hearty, low-calorie soup. Puree also works well as a curry for Thai or Indian-inspired fare.
- Squash: Shunned for its awkward shapes and odd appearance, it’s high time to put this pleasant produce in its rightful place. Autumn and winter squash varieties, including butternut or acorn, are prepared the same way you would a pumpkin — split it in half, scoop out the guts, roast in the oven and reap the nutritional and flavor rewards! Butternut squash makes a dandy filling for homemade raviolis (cheat the system and tuck the goods in a wonton wrapper), and acorn squash makes a tasty — and nutritious — container for stuffing.
Shoppers will still find end-of-summer crops such as zucchini, beans, broccoli, tomatoes, peppers and onions. Get to the Market early on Saturday to ensure the best selection! It never hurts to buy in bulk and freeze or can fruits or vegetables. This will extend the availability of local produce and ensure meals at the dinner table will be healthier than most cardboard-ensconced offerings.
Another convenience that may have missed most Market-goers memory is that many vendors feature pre-ordering. For those who know they need to re-stock on fruits, veggies, meat or other kitchen staples but don’t have the time for browsing, consult a Market vendor to pre-order items that can simply be picked up from the Market at a designated date. This option becomes especially handy in the rush of the holiday season.
Visit the PNC 2nd Street Market for a taste of fall, or celebrate the end of the growing season with a special festival. The Possum Creek Harvest Jamboree takes place from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15 at Possum Creek MetroPark (4790 Frytown Road, Dayton). Check out music, agricultural demonstrations, displays, pony rides, wagon rides, the Scarecrow Convention and other family-friendly activities during this free event. To learn more, visit metroparks.org/harvest or call (937) 276-7062.
Reach DCP freelance writer Valerie Beerbower at email@example.com.
PNC 2nd Street Market
600 E. Second St.
11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays
8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays