C'est la rentrée. It's back to school/back to work time. The sun is making a glorious showing in the aftermath of Irene, but there is a definite chill in the air. Autumn is only a few weeks away... The trees don't seem to have noticed it, nevertheless, the lighting's quality has changed. It's sharper, crisper, one can almost hear the light slice through the air.
However, do not write off the bounties of summer just yet. The fields are still producing a lot of gorgeous food, that only need to be minimally prepped to keep you and yours tasting the sun in the coming months. A snippet of what to look for in September:
Although we usually think of mid-summer as the most plenteous season, late summer/early autumn is actually when the offerings are truly copious. Not only are the fields and orchards reaching their apogee at this time of the year, later crops coming into fruition.
There are still lots of berries to be had well into September: Quebec strawberries are usually available until October, if the heavy frosts stay at bay, but the heat of August seems to have pushed other berries to keep producing -local raspberries, blueberries and currants are still available for a little while yet. Cranberries will also be showing up shortly.
Although the chilly weather is edging in, Quebec watermelons and cantaloupes are finally at their peak. I'm quite sure that the situation is similar across Canada and northern states in the U.S.
Peaches, plums, pluots and apricots are still going strong both from British Columbia and Ontario; Quebec plums have also arrived at the markets.
And one mustn't forget the apples and the pears: the cool nights bring crunch to apples, and fall varieties are trickling in.
Northern chokes are in! They look particularly lovely this year, really big and meaty.
Cabbages, Cauliflowers and Co.
Every member of the cabbage family has proven to be powerhouses of nutrition. They are available in all shapes and sizes -and colours! Look at those fluorescent-hued cauliflowers!- and there is most certainly one that will suits your taste. Kale is especially lovely at this time of the year, as the cooler weather seems to sweeten the tough greens.
Tomatoes and Family
Tomatoes need no introduction, but many are unaware that their extended family is enormous. Members include peppers (hot and mild); eggplants; potatoes; ground cherries and tomatillos; and a few that are not edible.
North Americans love their sweet corn, and with reason! There is no pleasure like that of biting into a piping hot ear of boiled or grilled corn. While we often think of July and August as the time for eating fresh corn, September is actually when it's at its best. Especially if you are a fan of old school yellow corn; while it does show up in August, yellow corn requires a longer growing season than the more modern, sugar enhanced Peaches n' Cream and white corns, so it is at its most abundant in September. It is a touch less sweet than newer corn varieties, but it still scrumptious.
Patty pans, zucchinis, yellow squashes and cucumbers still dominate market shelves, but their winter counterparts are now squeezing in for some room. Delicata and spaghetti squashes were the first to show up, however, butternut, butter cups and acorns have been spotted, along with green hubbards.
Pod beans for pickling and shelling beans for salads... Beans are good for you!
If you're into foraging, you will probably have noticed that the timing was a little off this year. Quebec chanterelles are only just coming to their peak (they usually appear in July!), while other, later varieties have also begun popping up!
Elderberries usually peak in August, but they are only just beginning to ripen, so if you like making jam, you should try to seek them out.
The list is long: onions; garlic; carrots; leeks; beets; rutabagas; turnips; parsnips; Jerusalem artichokes; potatoes... I've forgotten a few, but these old standbys will keep you going until the spring. They may seem ho-hum compared to fluorescent purple cauliflower, but they should not be snubbed. Try them roasted, mashed (the link goes to a post on potatoes, but any root can be mashed), or in a soup.