Tyler Kulp, EEFC Produce Manager

September is a great month for local produce! The days will still be warm and long, and Western PA farms will be abundant with beautiful veggies. We have seen quite a bit of rain this summer, which has had a negative impact on some of the early summer crops, but the abundance may actually help the fall crops. We should continue to see lots of cabbage (which is excellent all year long, not just for coleslaw in the summer) along with potatoes and carrots, too. Everyone knows fall carrots are the best carrots! And, of course, butternut squash. It’s the pumpkin spice latte of fall crops. Look for this on sale in a large bin outside of the Co-op, sooner than later.

As the golden hour of summer approaches, tomatoes, corn, and watermelon will be dwindling. I am always sad to see these go, but we have lots of yummy and healthy Autumn eating to look forward to. Below are just a few of the great items you can expect to hit the East End Food Co-op Produce department this season:

Brussels Sprouts: A member of the brassica family, Brussels are an excellent source of vitamins C and K. These tiny, miniature cabbages pack a powerful crunch and flavor when roasted, fried, or steamed. There are countless delicious recipes to be found online; even my almost 3-year-old nieces love crispy Brussels Sprouts!

Garlic: What more can be written about the magic of garlic? Unless you’re a vampire or allergic — you know it, you love it. Local Certified Organic garlic is not as abundant as I would like it to be, but our friends at Clarion River Organics should provide us with a nice crop by September/early October. I spoke with Lindsay Jacobs, General Manager of Clarion River Organics, to get the scoop on the garlic timetable. “The scapes are pulled in early summer; we get to enjoy those for a few weeks. The garlic then matures in the ground for a couple of weeks, and then we can enjoy it fresh, with green tops, in mid-July. Currently, it is hanging and curing in the greenhouse [where they can control temperatures]. Airflow is key for it to dry out and ‘cure.’ By the time you, dear reader, are holding this issue in your hands, we should have local Organic garlic for sale at the Co-op.” Thanks for the info, Lindsay! We are so grateful to work with you and everyone at Clarion River/Three Rivers Grown.

Radish varieties: Radishes enjoy cooler soil temperatures, so October is a great month in Pennsylvania for Watermelon radishes, Daikon, Green Meat, and China Rose. All of these are tasty, but I am partial to the watermelon variety. They don’t look too exciting from the outside, but once you cut into them, they shimmer. The dynamic pinks and vibrant orange flesh are truly special and eye-catching. You can pickle them, roast, mash, or braise them. But, the best way to preserve their impressive and vibrant color is to slice them very thin and eat them raw on a salad or slaw.

Red Kuri Squash: This is a staff favorite! Dan, one of our most senior Produce Clerks, says, “of the many fall squash varieties, Red Kuri is definitely my favorite with its sweet, deep orange flesh. Significant is the dryness of the nutty flesh, making it perfect for absorbing oil and caramelizing upon roasting.” Right on, Dan. Sounds excellent. The season for Red Kuri is always painfully short, so get them while you can!

Sweet Potatoes: There always seems to be some confusion or at least a healthy discourse around the sweet potato in PA. Some people call these “yams,” and we know what they’re talking about, but it is unrelated to an actual Yam. Whatever you call these, they are a tasty and healthy addition to your fall plate. Full of vitamins A, C, and B6, these starchy tuberous roots provide much more nutrition than their distant relative, the potato. Also, they’re downright delicious. Look for a bin of sweet potatoes out front near the butternut squash!

Fall in Western PA is a wonderful time to eat local. Some summer fruits and veggies are still hanging around while the new Autumn crops are fresh and exciting. Come by the Co-op and ask us about all of our great local produce; food and eating are some of our favorite topics to chat about!