By Himanee Gupta
We know and love/hate the vagaries of fall: sun and warmth, then rain and chill; mornings in the 30s; afternoons in the 70s. We await those first hard frosts with worry about our gardens even as we wonder at Nature’s beauty amid it all.
Fall’s seesaw weather patterns are showing up these days at the Saratoga Farmers’ Market, where pumpkins, potatoes, and frost-tolerant mustard greens share space with peppers and tomatoes. If you like to eat with the seasons, you can enjoy summer and fall together.
I used to fear hard frosts as early as September. Those frosts would kill the vines that give us squashes, peppers, and tomatoes. Now, with changes in our climate patterns, these plants often make it through mid-October, and their fruits might remain fresh into early November.
Adapting our diets to these shifting patterns allows for a new array of flavors.
Keep some sweet, mild, and hot peppers on your countertop, along with the garlic, onions, ginger, lemongrass, and turmeric at the market now. When it’s time to create a stir fry, soup, stew, or a dish like meatloaf, try replacing the dried black and crushed red peppers from most recipes with fresher, plumper green bell or frying peppers.
Many farmers market regulars have come to enjoy shishito peppers, blistered with a little oil in a hot skillet. Padron peppers offer a similar sweet-with-a-kick flavor with a more sustained warm burn. Both work well as a snack or can add a spicy edge to stews, casseroles, and risotto.
Green tomatoes are abundant now, partly because our warmer fall lets outdoor plants keep producing fruits. These fruits seem less buggy than their summer counterparts but are not ripening red because, in part, of diminished daylight. Still, a tomato is a tomato and can be eaten green.
Consider a green tomato sandwich, with slices of a firm, plump green tomato in between toasted and buttered slices of artisanal bread with perhaps a bit of cheese and spicy mustard greens. Or keep a few on the counter to chop up and toss into whatever happens to be cooking. Their moisture helps keep other ingredients from drying out, and their tangy taste complements other flavors. Green tomatoes can replace tomatillos in taco fillings, salsas, or chili Verde.
And at least one meal of fried green tomatoes is an October must-have.
The Saratoga Farmers’ Market is open Wednesdays from 3 to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at High Rock Park. The farmers’ market will move to the Wilton Mall on November 5. Find us online at www.saratogafarmersmarket.org and follow us on Facebook and Instagram.