Fall in Georgia is short and is often a big fake-out before we head back to summer for a few weeks, but it is lovely. It also doesn’t get as much credit as spring in the produce arena, probably because we haven’t been living off winter greens and potatoes for months by the time it rolls around. Nonetheless, cooler temperatures allow for delicate crops like lettuces to flourish once more, and some late summer offerings are yet hanging around. Well, Athens’ farmers’ markets are ready to capitalize on your pumpkin-based desires fueled by a very long summer.
Athens Farmers Market continues to operate on Saturday mornings at Bishop Park with some COVID-era rules: one person shopping per family, wash your hands, wear a mask, social distancing, cashless payment preferred, pre-order when possible. Point your browser to athensfarmersmarket.net/shopatbishoppark to find a list of the vendors taking pre-orders, which is also a fun way to menu-plan before you go. Here are some of the things you can likely find there this fall:
● Pearsephone pears come from Harvest Moon Garden, which is the only place around that has them and is worth checking out on Instagram at @harvestmoon_garden.
● Heartier greens like kale and chard are in season.
● More delicate greens like head lettuce and arugula are available, too.
● Mushrooms are really in season year-round but come in handy for heartier vegetarian and vegan dishes.
● Turnips include the beautiful, tiny, snow-white Hakurei variety that will make people love turnips who otherwise do not.
● Winter squashes include butternut, acorn and, of course, pumpkin. Roast these dudes with salt, olive oil and aromatics, then puree with water or your favorite broth into a soup.
● Flowers: You usually aren’t supposed to eat them, but they can help make you happy, and numerous AFM vendors make lovely bouquets or wreaths.
● Galangal: This cousin of ginger, with a slightly different, less sharp, more citrusy flavor, is available from Ladybird Farm.
● Okra: Get it while you can. You only have about a month before it’s not in season anymore. Eat it raw for a snack. Roast it lightly on high heat. Fry it. Put it in a soup and cook it into delicious, gooey mush. It’s good all ways.
● Peppers: These, too, are winding down, but it’s worth getting them while their skins are thin and their flavors concentrated by the sun.
West Broad Farmers Market is nearby and with a slightly different ordering system, which opens for online ordering at wbfm.locallygrown.net/ every Sunday at 5 p.m. and closes up Thursdays at 1 p.m. Ready your order, then drive through the parking lot of the Athens Housing Authority at 300 Rocksprings Street from 11:30 a.m.–1:30 p.m. on Saturday. You can either pay then and there or in advance (details on the site). It, too, has kale and okra still, with winter greens and squash on the horizon. You can also get fine sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts and frozen berries (including mulberries, which are one of the best things around and which my kids will literally eat off the sidewalk when they’re in season in May). One of the best things about the market is its plant selection, and if you’ve always envied your neighbor’s beautyberry plant, you can pick up one of your own, as well as fig trees, walking onions, sweet potato plants (easy to grow and productive), succulents and ferns.
Opa Robby’s, on Atlanta Highway in front of Target, is open for online ordering at opa-robbys-marketvirtual-shopping.com/ with contactless or curbside pickup Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m.–3 p.m. It offers several different weekly baskets, which present the opportunity to experiment with things like chayote squash or tomatillos, and include 12–15 locally or regionally grown fruits and vegetables. Don’t want a whole basket? You can also shop its offerings by the pound, including pie pumpkins, butterbeans, green peanuts and both pinkeye and lady acre peas. It has an entire “fall” section if you are itching for mulled cider, mini pumpkins, decorative gourds, cornstalks, hay bales and suchlike, and both elderberry jam and elderberry syrup, which you can use to supplement but not replace your flu shot.
Collective Harvest collectiveharvestathens.com/ has a fall CSA box and à la carte orders. You can pick up either at Locally Grown on West Broad (multiple days and times, listed on the website), in the parking lot of St Gregory the Great Episcopal Church on Barnett Shoals on Wednesdays between 3–6 p.m. or in the parking lot of the Krimson Kafe in downtown Watkinsville on Thursdays between 4–7 p.m. Add $8, and they will deliver to your home. Right now, it has pumpkins and persimmons, as well as hibiscus, lots of eggplants, many peppers, and muscadines and Fuji and Gala apples from farms in the region.
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