They are also nouns which can act as verbs: the wind gusts, the nighttime temps bite, and the colors blaze.
But more important, these words register a time of year, early fall, when our instincts tell us to pull back, put away, and prepare for the scrape of winter. Garden hoses are curled up and stored for their winter’s nap, leaves are raked, bagged, and hauled off, even better yet, stuffed into compost bins; irrigation pumps are drained, screens taken down and replaced with storm windows; firewood is stacked, swamp coolers drained and pilot lights lit, chimneys and gutters cleaned, lawns fertilized, hay brought in, gardens turned under; food is picked and prepared, pantries and freezers are filling up.
The Cortez Farmers Market too is battening down its hatches for the cold season and will be closing in one week. October 25 is its last scheduled day to be open for anyone who wants to stockpile locally grown produce at great prices.
Remarkably, there are still squash, tomatoes, bok choy, kale, chard, turnips, carrots, peppers, beets, cucumbers, eggplant, melons, and apples. If you look closely, you may still find tidy bunches of little green grapes, bags of cherries, arugula, fennel, and sweet posies of late bloomers tied up with ribbon. There is also organic apple cider, homemade dill pickles, jams, sauces and salsas, breads, herbs, dried beans, and dryland winter wheat milled in Cortez. “It’s fresh. It’s local. Try it,” says vendor Diane LaChapelle as she offers a sample of her fresh baked bread.
On my most recent pass through the market I came upon sweet potatoes, a favorite fall food. And then I spied a newcomer at Battlerock Farm: gingerroot. Gingerroot, I learned, is a heavy feeder with a long growing season; the folks at Battlerock Farm feed theirs with comfrey and seaweed extract. Ginger prefers hot places like a greenhouse or high tunnel, requires lots of water, grows best in mounds, and needs to be dug before freezing temperatures set in.
Fresh grated gingerroot is a happy companion to sweet potatoes. Grate some ginger over your favorite sweet potato casserole, or if you’re serving the sweet potatoes in their skins, then wait to grate the ginger until you’ve sliced them open and added a knob of butter. And by the way, have you ever tried grating fresh gingerroot and grumbled when it turned into a shredded mess of stringy pulp? Then try this: freeze it. I keep a small freezer bag of gingerroot in my freezer. When it’s time to use it, pull it out of the freezer and watch how easily it grates into a fine usable powder, then back into the freezer until next time. I got this tip from a chef years ago and it completely changed my appreciation for this root vegetable.
Parsnips: the sweet root crop. It’s a great winter storage crop that can last for months in your refrigerator. They can be boiled or roasted or used in soups, stews, and casseroles. Try mashing them with some potatoes. (No one has to know but you.) Parsnips, like their carrot cousins, should be peeled before cooking. If storing them, remove the green tops because they wick moisture away from the root. Michelle Martz at SongHaven Farm uses parsnips for a quick meal. She recommends cutting the parsnips into ¼” rounds and steaming until fork tender. Add some butter and sprinkle a little sea salt. Braising in a little water in a skillet is another easy way to sneak parsnips onto your table.
Market manager Theresa Titone is enthusiastic about the success of this year’s market. Looking back over the previous months she said, “I think it’s been a really great season, busier than it has been before, and we’ve been lucking out with the weather, beautiful days every Saturday. We’ve had no rain, no wind. The crowds have been massive.” She remembered seeing the familiar faces from week to week as well as many foreigners, including French, Austrian, Germans, and British tourists. She attributes the market’s success in part to an influx of new vendors, specifically more produce vendors than ever before, and to the music that provided the fun and friendly backdrop for shoppers each week. Says Titone, “The music has been lively and has contributed to the overall spirit of the market which has been great. It’s been a diverse community of people. It’s been a lot of fun.” Indeed it has.
And as the farmers market dwindles down to its final days, so must the Parsnippet. There is a season for everything and the Parsnippet, like the bears in the mountains, is heading for hibernation. But hopefully it will awaken in late spring, sniff the air, stretch and yawn, grumble a bit, and then begin prowling the local environs for the next great feast.