BY JANE BLOODWORTH ROWE
PUNGO — Now that the weather’s finally changing, locals are looking forward to the fall vegetables beginning to appear at local farm stands, and, despite hot, dry weather earlier in the season, consumers should find this year’s offerings to be plentiful, high quality and varied.
While there are still pumpkins and apples, as well as a few summer squash and tomatoes available, farmers are looking ahead toward the leafy green vegetables, broccoli, and cauliflower that are coming into season.
This year, there will be the usual flat-leafed kales and autumn squash and, of course, the Thanksgiving collards and sweet potatoes. Locals will also find a few vegetables that might not be familiar, and perhaps learn new cooking techniques to make others more appealing.
Elizabeth Cromwell of Cromwell’s Produce at 3116 New Bridge Road hopes that people who think that they loathe brussel sprouts will give hers a try when they become available later this fall. The secret to brussel sprouts, she said, is in the cooking.
“Some people were traumatized as children because their mothers steamed or boiled them,” Cromwell said. For a more flavorful vegetable and a crunchier texture, try roasting them with olive oil, salt, pepper and maybe a little garlic, she said.
Bruce Henley, owner of Flip Flop Farmer, is also offering bok choy, an Asian vegetable that can be steamed, stir fried, eaten in soups or eaten raw. The market is located at 1166 Culver Lane in Ocean Lakes.
White sweet potatoes and Tuscan kale, a curly-leafed kale that is very sweet and crunchy, are among the other offerings that might not be familiar to locals.
Henley was already offering flat-leafed kale, turnip greens and mustard greens by early October, and growers expect other vegetables to come in as the season progresses.
Robbie Vaughan of Vaughan Farms’ Produce at 1258 Princess Anne Road, will have lettuces, kale and sweet potatoes, and collards should be ready by Thanksgiving, he said.
Cromwell also expects that her season will be in full swing in November with broccoli, cauliflower, lettuces, kales, rutabaga and collards. Brussel sprouts might not be ready until later in December, she said.The unusually hot weather during fall planting season was a challenge to the young plants, which thrive on cooler weather, Vaughan said. Dry weather was also a challenge because, while the produce growers have irrigation, this year’s extremely dry conditions taxed their time and patience.
“It’s unusual to have to pump so much water at this time of the year,” Cromwell said.
Farmers recently have been setting out strawberry plants for the spring, and it was particularly challenging to get sufficient water to both the young strawberries and the emerging fall vegetables, Henley said.
“We’ve been moving pumps back and forth,” Henley said. “The ground is just so dry down deep.”
Irrigation increases the costs for the farmers, but Virginia Beach Agriculture Extension Agent Roy Flanagan said that he didn’t expect that customers would see a price increase. [Ed. — Flanagan is kin to John Doucette, editor of The Independent News.]
Most farm stands will remain open through Christmas, and Christmas trees will be available in December. Vaughan Farm Produce will open for full service only on weekends, but customers can buy eggs and other items on the honor system on weekdays. Flip Flop Farmer’s New Bridge Road location is closed, but the Culver Lane market will remain open until December.
A full listing of local growers is available from Buy Fresh Buy Local Hampton Roads online via buylocalhamptonroads.org/local-food-guide. Customers are always advised to call before they come to a market because hours and availability may vary.
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