Seasonal shift to greens, root veggies at market

Nov. 09, 2013 @ 11:39 AM

The first frost has officially come to Durham and our local farmlands.  That means summer veggies like eggplant, okra, summer squash, melons, etc. won’t be available at farmers’ markets until next year.  Locally grown vegetables that are available at our Market have taken their fall shift. 

Here in the Piedmont, we are lucky to have mild winters and innovative farmers. That means that there will still be lots of vegetables to choose from even though summer veggies are gone. All winter long, there will be a great selection of greens to choose from – almost any variety imaginable.

To accompany the greens, look forward to lots of carrots, beets, rutabagas, turnips and other root vegetables, plenty of broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and a whole host of storage crops including sweet potatoes, winter squash and pumpkins. Some farmers who grow in greenhouses will bring small amounts of tomatoes, cucumbers and other tender veggies during the cold winter months.

Frosts also mean that certain vegetables will become sweeter. Members of the Brassica family (kale, collards, cabbage, Brussels sprouts) are known for having a sweeter flavor after they have been “kissed by the frost.”  As a protective measure, these vegetables produce more sugars in reaction to colder weather. Farmer and biologist Norm Budnitz, from Four Leaf Farm in Rougemont, says that this change “acts as an anti-freeze, lowering the freezing point of the water in the cells.” He goes on to explain that, “when the outside temperature dips below 32F, the water stays liquid and the cells don't burst.”

Root vegetables are also known for becoming sweeter as the weather gets colder. Unlike greens, which create more sugar, vegetables like carrots and beets convert their starches into sugars for a similar protective effect. In his book Four Season Harvest, author Eliot Coleman says “the effect of cold temperatures on root sweetness turns normal carrots into ‘candy’ carrots.”

Remember, the Durham Farmers’ Market is open all winter long. And there will be lots to enjoy throughout the winter months! Below, are some important dates to remember in the coming weeks.

-- Nov. 26.  Market will be open from 2-5 p.m. for a special Pre-Thanksgiving Market. Stock up with local goods for your Thanksgiving celebration, including local turkeys (pre-order is needed)

-- Nov. 30. Market will be CLOSED! This is the one Saturday during the year that the Market closes.

-- Dec. 7th – Market re-opens with winter hours. From December to March, the market is open from 10 a.m. - noon weekly.

Erin Kauffman is market manager of the Durham Farmers' Market.