Friday, September 28, 2012

A Feast for the Eyes at the Farmers Market

My mom called yesterday and asked if I wanted to go to the Capitol Market with her. I love going to the market just to look around, even if I don't need anything, like yesterday. The market is starting to wind down for the season. Some of the produce stands have packed up and moved out for the summer. The remaing stands will transition over to more pumpkins, foddershocks and ornamental gounds and squashes for decoration. (One huge pet peeve I have are the folks who buy those funky looking winter squashes to decorate their porches and yards and then throw them away. If you take care of them, particularly if they're under some sort of covered porch, you can eat those after its time to take down the decorations!)

I almost always end up buying something because it just looks so beautiful and tasty, but I had to hold myself back yesterday. I knew I didn't have time to do anything with all the beautiful produce I wanted to buy. I'm definitely going to go back next week, when I have some time to can apples and chop up veggies to put in the freezer. I figured if I wanted to enjoy all those beautiful vegetables, the next best thing to buying them would be to take pictures.

While the usual offerings of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and corn are fine, I was pleasantly surprised to see THREE varieties of eggplant for sale! I would have like to buy one of all three and prepare them together to highlight the subtle differences. Beautiful!

Check out these gorgeous October beans with pale yellow pods mottled with hot pink. So pretty!

It's also apple season, and most of the remaining vendors had tables overflowing with beautiful apples. I wanted to buy one to eat right there so badly (but then I rememberd pesticide!). The Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia has quite an apple industry. All of the apples for sale at the Capitol Market are from farms in the Martinsburg, WV area. Virtually none are organic. This is one of those tough situations where you have to weigh what's more important: organic apples, since apples are one of the Dirty Dozen, or supporting a local economy. It's a tough call. I've bought these apples for the past few years, but I always wash them, and I never eat the skins. I mostly make them into applesauce or pie filling and can them. Once I asked our Deputy Agriculture Commissioner, who is from the Eastern Panhandle, why none of the apple farms are organic, and he said organic apples are one of the hardest crops to grow because worms and pests are so hard to control in a commercial orchard.

Speaking of canning, yesterday I canned eight pints of Italian peppers. I call them Italian peppers because they're canned in a tomato sauce mixture. Actually it's ketchup, sugar, oil and vinegar. Not exactly healthy with the sugar and ketchup, but they are delicious on bread, pizza or pepperoni rolls. And I might even try putting them in chili. I mostly used sweet Key Largo peppers, but I mixed in a few hot banana peppers for a little kick. I bought a half bushel of mixed peppers earlier in the week at the Capitol Market for twelve dollars. You can't beat that deal! I used almost half of the box on the Italian peppers, and I use what's left making hot pepper jelly and freezing some chopped peppers.

My mom bought a box of apples to can this weekend and some mums. Next week, I'll get my own box of apples to can, and probably some beets, tomatoes, corn and beans before it's all gone for the year. All of the produce vendors will be gone by the end of October to make room for the Christmas tree vendors to move in for the following two months. Then, the stalls will be empty again until next spring.

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