Fall produce at your farmers market is now in full swing. Newly arrived persimmons and pomegranates color the market with their vibrant orange and red hues.
Winter squash offers shades of orange, yellow and dark green that add a touch of fall, and mounds of bright green Brussels sprouts, lettuce, broccoli and artichokes fill the tables. And of course, you will soon see piles of bright orange pumpkins.
Have you ever tried a winter squash called kabocha? It look like a dark green pumpkin and has a bright orange interior. Full of sweet nutty flavor, these winter squash offer a heavy dose of antioxidants and vitamins.
They're delicious when cut in half, seeded, and baked with a little butter or olive oil and cumin, salt and pepper. Visit Barbagelata Farms or Halog Farms for some nice ones.
Pomegranates are one of the featured fruits this month. Called "the jewel of autumn," these big, funny-looking fruits have leathery skin that, when cracked open, reveal rows of bright red seeds filled with juice.
They are high in vitamin C and potassium, a great source of fiber, and low in calories. Eat the seeds right from the fruit, or juice them for a very healthy drink.
Sprinkle the seeds on salads, add to smoothies, top yogurt or cereal, and make a very tasty sauce or glaze for pork or chicken. Stop by and pick out some of these beauties from Jeff Rhodes Farm, Fontana Farms, Diaz Farms or Hamlow Ranch.
Another great vegetable in season right now are Brussels sprouts. These "little cabbages" look like golf ball-size knobs growing in rows on stalks. Sections of these stalks, about two-to-three feet, are sold with the sprouts attached, or loose in bulk display.
The majority of the U.S. supply comes from California's Central Coast, which offers an ideal combination of coastal fog and cool temperatures year-round. You can find Brussels sprouts at Halog Farms and J&M Farms.
We can't forget to mention the veggie of the season -- pumpkins! While most of the pumpkins marketed in the United States are used as jack-o'-lanterns, the farmers market also sells the small, sugar pie variety that are excellent to eat and to purée for pies, breads, and cookies. Stop by Barbagelata and Halog for your seasonal pumpkins.
Pumpkins are a member of the winter squash family and can be used in any recipe calling for any of the winter squashes such as acorn, butternut or turban. Pumpkins can be diced into chunks, steamed as a vegetable, spiced with nutmeg to enhance the flavor and served as a side dish at any meal.
Pumpkins can also be mixed with a variety of fruits and vegetables such as apples, pears and rhubarb. Small pumpkins make beautiful serving containers for soups and stews and of course, can be used to decorate your front porch.
Here's a Halloween treat the kids will love and it's healthy, too!
Cinnamon Baked Pumpkin
¼ cup sugar, brown (packed)
1 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
½ teaspoon salt
3 pounds pumpkin, peeled, seeded, and cut into 2½ to 3-inch pieces (each about ¼ inch thick)
2 tablespoons oil
Preheat oven to 325°F. In a small bowl, stir together brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt; set aside. In a 3-quart rectangular baking dish, toss pumpkin with oil. Sprinkle brown sugar mixture evenly over pumpkin. Cover and bake for 40 minutes. Uncover and stir pumpkin. Re-cover and bake about 15 minutes more or until pumpkin is tender.
Nutritional data: Calories:106, Saturated Fat:0g, Sodium:169mg, Dietary Fiber:0g, Total Fat:3g, Carbs: 20g, Cholesterol:0mg, Protein:1g.
-- Recipe: www.everydayhealth.com
Farmers markets are open rain or shine.
Visit www.pcfma.com or call 800-949-FARM (800-949-3276).
The Time is Ripe is a monthly column written by Vince Scalise, market operations manager, and Debra Morris, promotions coordinator, for the Pacific Coast Farmers' Market Association. Contact them at email@example.com.