Fall Delicacies for the Locavore
Fall is a season of harvest, but you don't have to be a farmer to reap the nation's most exotic and fresh foods and the bodily benefits they bring. Buying food from sustainable farms not only encourages fair competition between local producers, but also empowers small farming businesses, all the while promoting a little hometown pride. And though much of autumn's trademark foods grow in almost every corner of the country — garlic, blackberries, pumpkins, pomegranates, to name a few — each region boasts a tasty piece of the country. Covering the coasts, corners, plains, and deserts of the US, we've listed the in-season attractions, some of which are more unique than expected.
Southwest: Big Jim green peppers, also known as the Numex Big Jims, are big sellers in the Southwestern regions like New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas. Usually growing 10-12 inches, Big Jims are considerably mild (500-2,000 scoville units), and the pepper's volume makes it perfect for stuffing.
Southeast: Dragon fruit, also known as Pitaya, ripen right about now in Florida's fall months, growing from a vining cactus. With a thick, hot pink skin and flamboyant appearance, the dragon fruit surprisingly tastes more like a kiwi — mild and subtly sweet.
Alaska-Northwest: Wild Alsaskan salmon are on the run, fighting upstream to spawn. Known also as Chinook, Silver, Sockeye, Coho, Pink, Keta, or Red, the wild Alaskan salmon is a choice pick for fall feasting, listed by Seafood Watch. Just be sure to ask if the salmon you're eating is wild-caught.
West: Heirloom tomatoes flourish in California's breadbasket valley, but their ripening seasons are unpredictable, ranging from early August to late October. Heirloom tomatoes have odd and clownish shapes, from plump and sweet to lopsided and funky-looking: green zebras, brandywines, San Marzano, Cherokee purple, to name a few in a long list of over 175 different heritage varieties.
Northeast: Maple syrup, funny enough, triggers a sibling rivalry between Vermont and New Hampshire, especially after the summer's xylem sap harvest. A good-natured competition between the two states (together producing 1.4 million gallons in 2013) is necessary to produce the sweetest, purest, and most viscous locally processed maple syrup in the country, and it's not just meant for flapjacks — the syrup is also used to make sapling liqueur, cream, sugar, and candy.
Heartland: GMO-free sweet corn is a healthy and delicious alternative to conventional, GMO corn found all across the heartland. How to tell if the sweet corn is GMO-free? Worms and small insects present in ear's stalk, shank or husk reassure the buyer that the GMO-free sweet corn is getting good reviews from mother nature.
--Photo by iStockphoto/KitchenM
Scott Donahue is an intern at Sierra. He was a high school freshman in Mr. Hancock's English class when he first read Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air. Now, he's currently working on a graduate thesis composed of travel essays. Topics include substitute teaching kindergartners in Nepal, drinking rice beer with a Tibetan porter, and running a marathon from Everest Base Camp.