September in Minnesota is harvest season, and your local farmers market is a kaleidoscope of color and variety.
We hit up the Linden Hills Farmers Market for inspiration, and here are a few items you should grab right now that will make you look like a boss in the kitchen. A few don’t even have to touch a flame.
Heirloom Sweet Corn and Huitlacoche
Good Minnesotans know sweet corn, but do you know heirloom corn? Do you know huitlacoche? Heirloom sweet corn is beautifully colorful, and unlocks different textures and flavors. Rodning Farms is harvesting six varieties, including Ruby Queen, Blue Jade, and Oaxaxan Green. Huitlacoche – aka “corn smut” – is a mushroom that grows on corn, and is found in traditional or forward-thinking Mexican restaurants. It’s got a wonderfully woodsy, floral umami taste. Try it in quesadillas.
Freshly Harvested Dry Beans
Sebra Farm harvests fresh, heirloom black beans, Great Northern beans, Calexico beans and others too. They then dry them lightly, and sell them to you the following week. The result is a far-superior bean-cooking and eating experience. Canned beans do not even compare, and these do not have to be soaked overnight.
Ground cherries are a member of the tomatillo family. Like their bigger, greener cousin, they are a miracle ingredient. They keep on your countertop for weeks, and add a bright nuttiness, if that can be a thing, to anything where you want new interest. Toss them in soups, salads, sauces, or just eat them – after peeling off their papery husks – straight out of your hand. Think pineapple-hazelnut and you’ll be halfway there. You can even bake with these little dudes for the coolest pie or tart you've had in a long time. Also: salsa.
Nebraska Wedding Tomatoes
Ask any gardener or farmer and they’ll tell you it’s been a tough year for tomatoes in Minnesota. But all is not lost. I picked up these Nebraska Wedding tomatoes. Not only do they have the best name, but they have the highest “brix," aka sugar, count. These guys were literally bursting with ripeness and flavor, and I barely got them home before the skins were splitting and begging to be eaten. So I obliged.
Is it a lemon or a cucumber? It’s a cucumber that looks like a lemon. And tastes like a cucumber – only brighter and fresher, like it mated with a lemon. If you like cucumbers, you’ll love these, and they’ll look so cute in your next salad or even pickling vessel of choice. Blow your friends' minds at Christmas when you gift them with briny lemon cucumbers.
You won’t find these in the grocery because by appearance they look like they’d frizzle the burning daylights out of your tongue. Nothing could be further from the truth. Among the sweetest of Italian sweet peppers, use these the same way you do those red, yellow, and orange bell peppers that cost a fortune in the supermarket. Pick these up for a few bucks for an entire basket, and munch on one as you wander the market.
That big, somewhat ugly, bulbous beige root? You can treat it just like potatoes. Celeriac lends a bright note to regular old mashed potatoes or gratin, or mash or roast it on its own for a completely different experience with mashers. Ask your vendor to leave on the fronds, and treat them the same way you would celery. Find it at the Northeast Farmer’s Market, Linden Hills Farmer’s Market, and Tiny Diner Farmer’s Market from Racing Heart Farm and other vendors, too. It keeps in the basement for months, and potentially gets even better that way as it cures.