Tag Archives: fall

How ‘Bout Them Apples?

Although the first day of Autumn is not until September 23, it’s hard to not anticipate its crisp arrival. I’ve recently found myself caught in the humid fall afternoons dreaming of the crunch of fallen leaves, chilly, foggy mornings, and brisk air that pierces your lungs with a delightful sharpness. Pumpkin beers are already making their way into bars and evenings have been cooling off much more quickly. Worry not, everyone, we are getting closer and closer to the most glorious of all the seasons that is slowly ushered in by the ripening apple trees every year. So with your first bite of a seasonal apple you can allow yourself to get excited for the yellows, oranges, and reds that will begin to decorate our neighborhoods and beautiful North Carolina landscape.

Coston Farm in Hendersonville, NC is a fourth generation family farm that specializes in apples. They grow 20 different kinds of apples and the season spans from August 10 until the last week of October. If you find yourself up in the High Country to see the leaves change and to celebrate fall’s arrival, you can stop by Coston Farm to pick apples and continue the festivities. Otherwise, they can arrive at your front door in your Papa Spud’s box! The first apples of the year are Golden Crisp and Gala Apples, and by the end of this week Honey Crisps (my personal favorite) will be available. Then come Fuji, Red Delicious, and Golden Delicious in September. Finally in October come Shizuko, King Luscious, and the season ends with the beautiful Pink Ladies. This is, of course, an abbreviated list of the amazing flavor profile that is headed our way. To see the Coston’s Apple Ripening Calendar, or any pictures, recipes, or apple information, just check out their website.

Apple background

I spoke with Lola Coston on the phone who imparted a little bit of knowledge for us—if you’re making a pie the best apples to use would be Honey Crisp, Shizuko, Mutsu, or Granny Smith; a cobbler calls for Golden Delicious apples. Lola’s favorite kind of apple is the Shizuko apple, it’s a yellow apple that is both sweet and tart and will be ready in October. It’s a crispy eating apple as well as great for baking. So bring on the apple pies, turnovers, crisps, sauce, muffins, breads, and, of course, cider! Don’t forget how easy it is to store apples in different forms for the rest of the year. To freeze apples simply peel, slice, and core the apple–if you don’t want it to brown you can brush the apple slices with diluted lemon juice. Lay the apples out on a baking sheet making sure that none of them are touching and freeze. Once the apples are frozen, consolidate in a plastic bag or Tupperware and keep in the freezer!

Along with being delicious and grown locally, apples are pretty amazing fruits. Here are a few apple facts that I found interesting:
-Apples are part of the rose family, similar to pears and plums
-If you have produce that is unripe, just throw it in a bag with an apple and it will ripen more quickly because of the amount of ethylene that apples give off
-Apple trees can live for over 100 years
-The crabapple is the only type of apple native to the US.
-Apples are full of soluble fiber, which is good for digestion, as well as Vitamin C for your immune system
-The antioxidants found in apples help to prevent coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease
-Eating an apple before you work out may increase your endurance.

As you’re enjoying your apples this season and bettering your health by doing so, you can save your apple scraps to make apple cider vinegar (which is also incredibly good for digestion). This super simple recipe explains just how to make homemade apple cider vinegar so you no longer have to buy it from the store!

Ingredients

  • Cores and peels from 6-8 apples (ideally organic)
  • 2 tbs. honey
  • Water to cover

Instructions

  1. After you use the apples to make a wonderful apple treat (such asapple pie bread), place the cores and peels in a large, wide-mouthed jar. I use a 4-cup jar, but you can adjust the size of the jar to the amount of apple scraps you’re using.
  2. Cover the scraps with water and stir in the honey.
  3. Place a paper towel on top of the jar, and secure it with a band.
  4. Let the mixture soak for 2 weeks, and then strain out the liquid. Discard the solids.
  5. Return the liquid to the jar and cover it again with a paper towel and band. Leave it for 4 more weeks, stirring daily.
  6. Taste it and see if it has the acidity you would like. If it does, transfer it to a covered bottle for storage. If not, leave it in the wide-mouthed jar for a little while longer, checking every few days.

Now that you’re armed with all of these apple facts and apple ideas, I wish you a very apple-filled autumn.

Fall Is Here

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This past Tuesday morning I went to the State Farmers Market with our Assistant Manager, Justin, to meet some of the farmers we work with. Tuesdays and Wednesdays we pick up produce from Cox Farms, Walker Farms, and Wise Farms at 6:30 AM. The Farmers Market doesn’t open until 9:00, but at 6:30 (or even earlier) there are several farmers in the parking lot in front of the market with boxes and boxes of produce set up to sell to their customers who buy in bulk. These farmers were kind enough to talk to me and answer all of the questions I had about their farms—something I’m sure they were not thrilled about so early in the morning. But there’s something reassuring and grounding about talking with farmers, their rhythm of speech, their subtle jokes, their deep love of what they do. All three of these farms are family farms, they’ve been working the land their whole lives. When I asked the owner of Walker Farms how long he had been farming he quickly responded, “75 years…”and then smiled wryly and said, “and I’m 74, but my mom was farming before me and I was there.” It’s in their blood, the soil they were born upon and have lived in their whole lives. As I walked around to talk to the different farmers they seemed a little confused about why I was there but quickly warmed up, offered me scuppernogs to try, and called me back over to ask more questions.

As we transition into fall these farms will shift into their fall and winter crops or into just caring for their livestock. Wise Farms continues to grow through the winter and is currently in a slower point of their season (believe it or not) as they wait for their seedlings to grow and their work to pick up again. Toward the end of October and beginning of November their greens will finally be getting big and ready to be harvested. The end of summer means the end of tomatoes, okra, summer squash, eggplants, and peppers; but it also means the beginning of beets, greens, carrots, winter squash, and other root vegetables. We’ve grown accustomed to the convenience of being able to buy produce at any time of the year from whatever zone we desire and have lost the knowledge of living by the seasons. Farmers have not, their lives are defined by the ebb and flow of mother nature: the energy of high summer, the rest and rejuvenation of winter, and the exciting transitions of fall and spring. A lot of wisdom can be gained from paying attention to the seasons and listening to the ways each one is beckoning us to live.

I think the first step to understanding and noticing the seasons (because they affect us whether we pay attention or not) is by being aware of what is in season. In Barbara Kingsolver’s memoir-of-sorts, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, she recounts a year of eating food either grown by her family or grown in their geographic area. At the beginning of the book she discusses her family’s decision to move from Tucson, AZ, a land of stolen water and very little natural vegetation, to West Virginia, a land abundant in both. Living in a place so disconnected from agriculture it became glaringly obvious to Kingsolver how separated our culture is as a whole. In a desire to seek lost knowledge and to learn how to provide for themselves under the laws of mother nature, they take on the task of learning what it truly means to eat locally. One of the first issues that Kingsolver tackles is the lack of understanding we have of what vegetables grow in which seasons. This is such simple knowledge that we are no longer taught and our easy access to food from all over the world has hurt our ability to understand nature’s rhythms. Kingsolver came up with what she calls the “vegetannual”, a visual representation of seasonality.

vegetannual

 

“To recover an intuitive sense of what will be in season throughout the year, picture a season of foods unfolding as if from one single plant. Take a minute to study this creation—an imaginary plant that bears over the course of one growing season a cornucopia of all the different vegetable products we can harvest. We’ll call it a vegetannual. Picture its life passing before your eyes like a time-lapse film: first, in the cool early spring, shoots poke up out of the ground. Small leaves appear, then bigger leaves. As the plant grows up into the sunshine and the days grow longer, flower buds will appear, followed by small green fruits. Under midsummer’s warm sun, the fruits grow larger, riper, and more colorful. As days shorten into the autumn, these mature into hard-shelled fruits with appreciable seeds inside. Finally, as the days grow cool, the vegetannual may hoard the sugars its leaves have made, pulling them down into a storage until of some kind: a tuber, bulb, or root” p 64.

The season is changing and I don’t know about you, but fall is my favorite of all. Let’s celebrate the transformation by taking time to notice nature’s abundance as the leaves fall and the nights get cooler.