Autumn is nearly here – the days become cooler and a tad shorter, but the market buzzes with fresh produce to signal the change of season. Carriageworks Farmers Market Creative Director Mike McEnearney shares his top tips for autumn:
- Pears and apples are the quintessential fruits of Autumn. They are the perfect snack on the hoof and offer us essential vitamins to galvanise our immune system for the colder months. Pears generally start before apples and my favourite being the ever-versatile beurre bosc variety. When they are firm and crisp, slice them raw into sharp flavoured salads to balance their sweetness or roast them in halves with verjus and thyme to be served alongside meat and fish. As they ripen, try bottling them by placing them in a tightly sealed jar covered in 50/50 sugar syrup, a vanilla bean and a dash of white wine vinegar. Place the sealed jar in boiling water and simmer gently for 1hour. Remove from the water and leave the jar to cool in a dark place. They will keep in the larder for months and are delicious served with their syrup. Apples are always crisp so are fantastic grated into a slaw or sliced into a salad. As the cooler weather sets in, try baking them whole by removing the core and stuffing the cavity with raisins and spices such as cinnamon and clove. Place a dollop of butter on top, scatter with a tablespoon of brown sugar and a splash of white wine and bake for an hour in a moderate oven until the flesh is very soft and a lovely caramel has formed in the pan. Perfect with ice cream for that hot and cold kind of vibe.
- Other wonderful Autumn fruits to look for are figs and plums which are at the very tail end of their season, raspberries and the wonderful start of rhubarb, persimmons from March to June and pomegranates from March to May. Let’s not forget the other pear we all love, the avocado. The Shepard variety are in season from February through to May, while the Hass variety are in season from May through to January.
- Autumn is also an exciting time for vegetables. Jerusalem artichokes are available from March to April and come in lots of odd shapes, so you may need to cook them in different ways. If they are shaped like an egg, you’ll want to cut them in half. If they are the little knobbly ones that look like ginger, break the nodules from each other and leave them as they are. There flavour is like a nutty potato and are perfect roasted or simmered and blended into a soup. Other great vegetables to look out for are beans such as broad, borlotti and yellow wax before the weather gets too cold, pumpkins and squash and of course mushrooms being at their peak in autumn. Look out for saffron milk caps (pine mushrooms) for a real treat and the large parasols which are delicious roasted whole in the oven with garlic butter, thyme and breadcrumbs.
- Nuts are harvested between late march and June and are delicious green, while olives are harvested in April. The Olive harvest is truly a magical time as the first run of the new season olive oil known as Novella is in my mind like tasting vintage wine. It is cloudy and viscous as it hasn’t had time to be racked and filtered and has a fresh, spicy flavour that speaks of its terroir. Only use it as a finishing oil as heat will destroy its freshness. Look out for it, as it is always in limited supply.