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Markets help preserve a taste of summer

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Margaret Plevak | October 2, 2013

ELKHORN — Think of farmers markets, and you think of summer's bounty. But even though autumn's arrived, don't count the markets out yet — many will remain open for at least a few more weeks in October. Sure, the asparagus has long disappeared and the just-picked strawberries are only a delicious memory, but late season farmers markets still have plenty to offer shoppers.

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“There is a much larger variety later in the season, and this season was a little later than normal,” said Peg Reedy, the agriculture/agribusiness agent for the University of Wisconsin-Extension in Walworth County. “In the spring people are really ready for fresh produce and there are often bedding plants available at the earlier markets. (But) I think the dedicated farmers market shoppers come all season.”

Hoop houses and greenhouses mean producers can grow and sell summery crops like spinach, leaf lettuce, even peppers at this late date. But fall's root crops are taking center stage at the markets, just in time for cooler weather dishes such as soups, stews and roasted vegetables.

“People are really starting to understand eating in season,” said Christy Harteau, manager at the Walworth County Farmers Market in Elkhorn's downtown square — as well as a market vendor from Moonstar Farms near Elkhorn. “This means they buy what we have as it comes in. Right now, we have folks wanting to freeze, can and pickle. Beans, beets, carrots, zucchini and tomatoes are most asked for. Most of the winter squash and pumpkins are just now coming in.

“Customers do ask for recipes, and they are very interested in how the food is grown. I can honestly say about 80 percent of my time is spent in educating. The customers appreciate the locally grown selection of produce and meat products. Some like to stock their freezers and others come to the farm during the winter to restock.”

Beth Narayanan of Brook Farm in Harvard, Ill., who sells at the market there as well as in Woodstock, Ill., and in Lake Geneva, said fewer customers are doing canning than 20 years ago, but the canners are knowledgeable.

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