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The Oak Park Farmers Market, offering high quality, locally-grown produce, is held in the Pilgrim Church Parking lot at 460 Lake St. from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday through October.

Colleen McNichols, Market Manager, shares her musings on the final Saturdays of the Oak Park Farmers Market 2018 season:

Life is good in Oak Park in October. Start your morning with a fresh Pilgrim Church donut and a coffee (although the cups and lids are compostable, we prefer you bring your own coffee cup). With coffee in hand, you can see a 100 pound pumpkin from thirty-year vendor; R. Smits ‘The Farm” this Saturday. Try cooking with the other pumpkin varieties and seeds and roast some chestnuts which are also available at the market this weekend. Rain or shine, we hope to see you this Saturday.

McNichols wants everyone to know there is no shortage of delicious fall produce available this week, as hoop house growing extends the season. The autumn bounty includes bulbs and roots like fennel, garlic, leeks, onions, turmeric, and ginger; all of which are perfect for seasoning dishes or making sauces.

If you want a jump on flavor, Jim Vitalo “the Vinegar Man” is back this week with his (award-winning, salt-free, sugar free) herbal rubs, mixes and seasoned vinegars. One of our original vendors, Jim’s home-grown products are incredibly popular.

For those short on time, the jarred sauces from Tomato Mountain and River Valley Ranch provide a savory element for your dinners.

From apples to potatoes, October’s final crop of fruits and vegetables offer a range of intense flavors and interesting textures. Pair any meal with arugula, carrots, cucumbers, kale, cabbage, chard, mushrooms, peppers, spinach and/or the very last heirloom tomatoes (maybe) of the season.

Meat, eggs, honey, cheese, bread, and micro greens are plentiful now.  Enjoy the 15 varieties of local apples, plums, pears, cranberries (and maybe some grapes) at our second to last market.

SAVE THE DATE: STONE SOUP AT THE FARMERS MARKET:

Closing Day Market on October 27 features our annual Stone Soup event. Carnivore will prepare one meat and one vegetarian soup from market ingredients and give away free soup until it runs out beginning at 9am.

Last year Chef Brad Kanaub, of Carnivore, made a sublime roasted butternut squash soup and we cannot wait to see what he whips up this year.

VENDOR UPDATES: PRAIRIE WIND FARM

Rutabagas are creamy and starchy with a pale yellow flesh. Rutabagas are rich in vitamin C, dietary fiber, potassium and antioxidant compounds. They work well for mashing, roasting and braising.  We like to use in place of potatoes or combine with potatoes for a mashed rutabaga and potato dish. Rutabagas also store for weeks when wrapped in a plastic bag in your refrigerator.

Mel’s Smashed Rutabaga with Smoked Turkey

  • 1 (2 pound Rutabaga) peeled and cut into 1” chunks
  • 1 Smoked Turkey Neck
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks

Place the rutabaga in a soup pot filled with salted cold water.  Add the smoked turkey neck and bay leaf.  Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer.  Simmer until rutabaga is very tender (about 45 minutes). Remove the neck and shred the meat from the bones (reserve).  Discard the bay leaves. Drain the rutabaga in a colander and return it to the cooking pot.  Mash the rutabaga with a hand masher or electric hand mixer.  Add the butter and mash until melted.  Fold in ½ of the reserved smoked turkey and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve the rustic mash garnished with the remaining turkey.  This dish pairs beautifully with cranberries.

Curly parsley is a valued ingredient in French, Mediterranean, Iranian and other cuisines where its fresh flavor and nutritional value are highly appreciated. While curly and straight-leafed parsley have a few culinary differences, they can be used interchangeably. Both types of parsley contain the same flavoring ingredients. One is a compound called menthatriene, which gives parsley its unique flavor. Flat parsley is stronger in menthatriene when young, then fades to a more generic woodiness as it ages; in contrast, curly parsley is milder when young but gains in menthatriene as it matures. We use fresh parsley in nearly ever dish we make, from salads to slaws, soups to sauces.

Acorn Squash are a great storage vegetable, as they will last several months in a cool (50 degrees) spot like a basement or garage. To prepare, cut the squash in half with a sharp knife and scoop out the seeds. You can stuff or cut the squash into slices to roast or sauté. Although the skin is not edible, the seeds are delicious when roasted and lightly salted.

MARKET READY RECIPE: CANDIED GINGER

Fresh ginger root looks really ugly, but sure tastes good. Pick up locally, hoop-house, grown ginger at Saturday’s farmers market and candy it for use in a variety of recipes.

Easy Candied Ginger

  • 1 Cup water
  • 1 Cup Sugar, plus extra for garnish.
  • 3/4 Cup peeled and thinly sliced diced ginger (about 1/8″ thick slices or 1/2″ cubes)

Bring the water and sugar to a boil and stir until sugar dissolves. Add the ginger and simmer for 15 minutes until ginger is tender. Remove the ginger to a rack fitted into a rimmed baking sheet to air dry. Toss the cooled and dried ginger in additional white sugar to coat. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 months.

Diced candied ginger makes a wonderful additions to apple pie, muffin batter, pancakes, or cupcakes. It also makes a lovely garnish for pumpkin pie or pumpkin squares.

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