Shopping the farmers market: Bounty of fresh, locally grown produce awaits through fall
Think the farmers market is just for summer fruits and veggies? Think again. Most local farmers markets continue into October or even November, with fall crops like broccoli, beets, kale and winter squash replacing sweet corn and watermelons.
"Fall is a really good time (for vegetables)," says Ross Peterson of The Laughing Stalk Farmstead in Cape Girardeau County. "When it cools off, cold crops sweeten up because plants start storing sugar."
Some of the crops he says to be on the lookout for are broccoli, cabbage, kale, cauliflower, collards, winter squash, potatoes, onions, beets, carrots, turnips, kohlrabi and Brussels sprouts.
The Laughing Stalk sets up for both of Cape Girardeau's weekly farmers markets. Peterson says the markets give customers a chance to buy the very best produce available.
"The fresher picked (the produce is), the longer it lasts with better nutrients and quality," Peterson says.
And if you aren't an expert on cabbage or kohlrabi, chances are the person you're buying from is.
"Generally, at the farmers market, the person (selling produce) is the person who grew it," he says. "Ask questions -- When did they pick it? What variety is it? -- that's what the farmers market is about, getting information directly from the grower."
Peterson says if you want the best selection at the market to show up early, especially if it's hot out. And since Southeast Missouri is known for its temperamental weather, it could be hot in September and October.
Peterson also suggests bringing a cooler or insulated bag to tote your purchases home in. "It's a great way to keep vegetables fresh," he says.
Area farmers markets
> Cape Farmers Market: 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Thursdays, through Nov. 15, Plaza Galleria parking lot
> Cape Riverfront Market: 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays, through Oct. 27, parking lot at 35 S. Spanish St. (across from Bel Air)
> Jackson Farmers Market: 3 to 6 p.m. Tuesdays, through September, Jackson band shell parking lot
> Marble Hill Farmers Market: 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays, through Oct. 27, Bollinger County Co-op in Marble Hill
> Charleston Farmers Market: 7 to 11 a.m. Tuesdays, through the end of September, A.D. Simpson Park in Charleston
> Sikeston Farmers Market: 8 a.m. to sell out Saturdays, Legion Square in Sikeston, Mo.