Saturday, September 22, 2007

Autumn at the Oakmont Farmers Market

With the vernal equinox looming large, I think a seasonal market update is in order.

Greens, both lettuces and crucifers, are back. Fall squash, even pumpkins, are ready. And root vegetables – potatoes, sweet potatoes and red beets – are becoming staples.

Now certainly reaching the end of their long run this year, I was surprised to find a fairly broad selection of tomatoes still at this week’s market. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised though, after the intensity of flavor in the batch of heirlooms I picked up a week earlier. Regrettably, I didn’t manage to snap a picture of the lovely composed salad they were destined for at my friend’s wedding but I did save a decent shot of a smaller, slightly less diverse batch I picked up back in August.

The fruit selection has been one of the surest meters of seasonality throughout the year. The last couple of weeks have seen the departure of peaches and all but the last plums with the corresponding arrival of a growing variety of apples and pears. And Asian pears are rolling in as well. Regrettably, North Star Orchard’s decadent, vanilla and butterscotch laced Ichibans (which I wrote about on the Oakmont Market blog), came and went in only one week. But their crisp, sweet Hosui are still in full swing.

Tasting Thunder:
Speaking of North Star Orchard, co-proprietor Ike Kerschner is apparently beginning to pursue his dream of becoming not just an artisanal orchardist but also a fruit breeder. One of his first ventures in fruit genetics, a grape variety dubbed “Thunder,” appeared at the market for the first time Wednesday just past. It’s a perfect sign of the autumn harvest season. Blue-black berries, thick skinned and bearing seeds, give a blast of robust flavor sparked by peak ripeness, good acidity and just a hint of bitterness. If you’ve been looking for a table grape that actually tastes like something more than diluted Welch’s grape juice, you might want to catch some Thunder.

Tasting Childhood:
Some of my clearest recollections of childhood revolve around the simple pleasures of food. Distinct among those memories is the taste and smell of fresh pressed apple cider, purchased at roadside farm stands on the trip home, up Route 29 in central Virginia, after late summer visits with my grandmother. That memory resurfaced recently, kindled by the arrival at the Oakmont market of honest, fresh pressed cider from Fruitwood Orchards Honey Farm. Available in pint, half-gallon and gallon jugs, it’s the real deal: sweet, rich, cloudy, a little chunky – wholesome goodness.

A bit of the autumn harvest from Fruitwood Orchards


Taylor said...

Ike taught our fruit culture class and gave us an Asian Pear tasting session like you would wine tasting. Whenever I see Asian pears(or prune a fruit tree), I think of Ike.

David McDuff said...

Hmmm, fruit culture.... That could be read so many ways. Seriously though, I'm curious about the class, Taylor. What, where and when?

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