Farmers market season nearing end

Published 8:44 am Wednesday, October 29, 2008

We are now in the last week of October, and the market season is winding down. Our market usually ends with the end of October, but this year, the last day of October comes on Friday, so if the weather is favorable, we will plan to have our last market on Saturday, Nov. 1. Our farmers market this season has grown considerably, with more vendors, more customers and more activities at the market. I believe that more people are becoming health conscious, looking for fresher produce, grown locally, and grown with little or no chemicals applied. I think that we are all becoming more concerned about our environment and the impact of what we do and how it affects future generations. More and more of our customers are bringing their own green, reusable bags.

Local growers who sell at farmers markets use a minimum of chemicals and bring their products directly to the market. This eliminates much of the packaging, and minimizes the amount of fuel used in getting the product to you. This also results in more money staying in your local community.

This year, we had free bus service to the market, provided by Sanderson Auto and Albert Lea Medical Center. If you were one of those who used that service, be sure to show your appreciation to Sanderson’s and the medical center.

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We also had more food served by local non-profit groups, raising funds to help their organizations. We also had some exceptional local talent showcased at the market.

Just a few notes to recap the growing season. Our spring and early summer were unusually cool, delaying most crops by about two weeks. We did not have as much hot weather during the summer as normal, so development of many things was slower than usual. We were, however, fortunate that a killing frost did not come early this fall. Heat loving crops such as tomatoes and peppers generally did not produce as well this year, or were later in ripening or maturing. We did not get a hard frost until at least the third week of October, and our first snow in this area came on Sunday.

You will still find a pretty good variety of fall vegetables available at the market, along with apples, meats, jams and jellies, honey, and fall decorative items such as pumpkins, gourds, ornamental corn and some craft items. This is also a good time to stock up on those things that can be stored into winter, such as potatoes, onions, squash, apples, jams, jellies, honey and meats for your freezer.

I would like to extend a thank you to all our faithful market customers this past season. You are really the ones who make the market a success!

Here are a couple recipes for winter squash:

Cranberry acorn squash

1/2 cup raw cranberries

1 small apple, cored and chopped

1/4 cup currants

1/2 cup orange juice or apple cider

1-1/2 tablespoon honey or maple syrup

1 tablespoon melted butter

Pinch salt

2 acorn squash cut in half with seeds removed

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine cranberries, apples, currants, orange juice, honey, butter and salt in pan. Heat until berries are tender. Place squash in ovenproof dish. Fill cavities with fruit. Cover and bake until squash is tender, about 35-45 minutes. Makes 4 servings.

Easy butternut squash soup

2 tablespoon butter

3 to 4 cloves garlic, mashed

1/2 cup onion, chopped

2 to 3 pounds butternut squash pulp

4 cups chicken stock (can substitute 2 bouillon cubes and 4 cups hot water)

1 bay leaf

Pinch of sugar

1/2 teaspoon curry powder

Pinch of nutmeg

Salt and pepper, to taste

2 cup milk

Heat butter over medium heat, adding garlic and onion, and cooking 7 to 10 minutes, stirring often. Puree cooked squash in food processor, and add to onion mixture. Stir in chicken stock, bay leaf, sugar, curry powder, nutmeg and salt and pepper, and simmer 20 to 30 minutes. Remove bay leaf, and add milk. Heat, but do not boil.