During September and October, many farmers’ markets and roadside stands in The Great Waterway will be offering their late summer crop before the weather cools down. Freshly picked apples, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and kale are at their peak of perfection at this time of year. Not only are these items abundant right now, but they are all versatile and can be prepared in ways you might not have guessed. I caught up with four local farmers to see how they enjoy their own harvest bounty.
Apples are the staple late summer and early fall fruit. And with several varieties grown in The Great Waterway, you’ll find endless uses for your fresh apples. You can bake with them, turn them into jelly or cider, or simmply eat them fresh. Wynn Farms Apple Orchards, just west of Bath, offers 10 varieties of pre-picked and u-pick apples throughout the season. Some varieties include Macintosh (early September), Honeycrisp (mid September), and Empire (end of September).
Owner Sarah Wynn says her favourite way to enjoy apples is straight off the tree (Empires are her favourite) and the youngest Wynn, 4-year-old Abby, loves fresh apple sauce. For a sweet treat, Sarah bakes up apple crisp using a recipe handed down from her mother. She says the secret to a crispy topping is to use your hands to make sure the crumble is in big chunks, and that the mixture isn’t too dry. Sarah generously shares her apple recipe with The Great Waterway!
Brussels sprouts are a member of the cabbage family and are in season throughout fall. Besides being very nutritious, they can be cooked in a variety of delicious ways. Brussels sprouts can be roasted, steamed and stir-fried. You can even use the outer leaves to make Brussels sprout chips! A word of caution: do not overcook your Brussels sprouts as this can make them taste bitter. When choosing Brussels sprouts, make sure they are bright green and small and, if you can, purchase them while still on their stalk.
Dianne Campbell from Campbell’s Orchards enjoys the humble Brussels sprouts in a variety of different dishes, so even if you’re one of those people who professes to dislike Brussels sprouts, it’s worth giving these tiny cabbages a second chance. From their family farm in Carrying Place and satellite market in Rossmore, the Campbell family sells a wide range of fall harvest foods such as squash, broccoli, potatoes and of course, apples.
Also a member of the cabbage family, cauliflower is abundant in the autumn. While white varieties are the most common, green purple and orange cauliflower florets make a vibrant addition to your harvest meals. Roasting cauliflower brings out its surprising sweetness, but served up fresh in a savoury salad is how David and Pamela Phillips of Avonmore Berry Farm enjoys this fall food. Simply toss your favourite fresh vegetables with fresh garlic, dill, olive oil, salt, pepper and cider vinegar. For the best flavour, Pamela says to let this salad marinate and to kick it up a bit, sprinkle freshly chopped jalapenos on top before serving.
This nutritional powerhouse has been cultivated for centuries and until the Middle Ages, kale was one of the most widely grown green vegetables in Europe. New Kingstonian Laura Watt grows four varieties of kale at Cubits Seeds, her farm in Consecon, Prince Edward County. Hardy varieties, like Dinosaur Kale, actually become sweeter after frost. Laura’s favourite varieties is the flashy garden showstopper Red Russian Kale. It’s sweeter and more tender than other varieties – and even grows in the snow!
In the fall, your CSA bin or farmers’ market is likely brimming with this leafy Brassica, but if you’ve never gone beyond making kale chips or using it in smoothies, you’re missing out on how to best enjoy this flavourful fall food. Laura adds kale to scrambled eggs and quiche, or sautes it with bacon and salmon. Of course, kale is just as delicious when finely sliced up and served raw, like in Laura’s Kale Beet Carrot and Pomegranate Salad.
This fall when you are travelling throughout The Great Waterway, look for these items and support your local food growers.