While Oktoberfest celebrations are great excuses to ingest the bulk of one’s calories in sausage, beer, and pretzel formats, October is also the month for some of the best local produce and wild- foraged edibles in our region. Don’t let the increasingly chilly weather be your excuse to put on a hoodie and never look back from bar food.
- Beets, like carrots a week ago, are going gangbusters. Pick up the pink and white striped chioggia variety (also called candy cane beets) and dust off that mandoline to shave some into a salad.
- Fall Salad Greens Spring and fall are great times for greens both large and small, so keep an eye out for salad mixes. There’s peppery arugula, or if you prefer a milder flavor, look for a mix of red and green lettuces. For something more robust, look for Asian greens mix with spicy mizuna, tatsoi, and baby mustard greens. Want something colorful? Ask for a mix with baby beet greens, kale, or chard.
- Romanesco Cauliflower Though you might initially mistake it for a variety of broccoli. romanesco is actually a light green cauliflower with spiral-shaped florets. Break the florets apart and pickle or roast them to enjoy both their distinctive shape and their lovely flavor.
- Mushrooms Look for the bright yellow foraged chicken of the woods mushrooms, not to be mistaken for the more subtle, brown hen of the woods variety. Cultivated oyster mushrooms and shiitakes are also beginning to show themselves, just in time for soup season.
Keep Your Eyes Out For....
- Quince Though they look like big, yellow apples quince are another tree fruit entirely. Their flesh is dense and when eaten raw it has a tannic punch that would be incredibly useful in beginning wine appreciation classes. That said, it mellows beautifully when cooked, its white flesh going rosy and sweet. Membrillo, the Spanish preserve often served with dense cheeses like manchego is made from quince! If you’re not up for a baking project, consider picking up a few anyway. The whole fruits give off a lovely fragrance just sitting in a bowl on your table.
- Hickory Nuts These smooth, beige nuts aren’t cultivated, but rather foraged from hickory trees in our region. Should you see them for sale at market, they’ll likely still be inside their smooth, light brown shells. Instead of using a regular nut cracker (which can shatter the shells and fragment the meat) simply place them on a hard surface and give them a solid thump with a hammer or a rock. Their flavor is rare, but like their relative pecans, not to be missed.