Fall is as busy a time for local farmers and markets as mid-summer. In southeastern Virginia fresh produce remains abundant in October, although the offerings have changed a bit. You may not be finding sweet peaches, ripe tomatoes, and cool cucumbers, but you will find tart, juicy muscadine grapes; hearty, cool weather squashes; and leafy greens.
These cool-season products can be just as versatile and easy to fit into your week night meals as a tomato cut up over a salad. Pumpkins are certainly dominating the farm stands and fields right now, but look to their gourd-family cousins such as acorn, butternut, or spaghetti squash for a dinner that basically makes itself. The primal spaghetti squash gratin recipe is a great way to get kids to eat their vegetables while giving them the mac-n-cheese taste they love—plus it’s gluten-free.
Leafy greens may be a harder sell to the little ones, but they can make a deliciously healthy meal for you with some homemade dressing and a few additions. This kale and avocado salad can be served alongside the heartiest meat or by itself as a filling lunch.
While you’re out at the farm or market, take advantage of some of the many harvest-inspired events and activities including the Virginia Beach Farmers Market’s Harvest Festival on October 26th from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. featuring a hay maze, live farm animals, a fun barn, and more. Hickory Ridge Farms in Chesapeake will also be offering pony rides and hayrides, pumpkin picking, and more at their farm off South Battlefield Blvd. Brookdale Farms invites families to experience a variety of fall activities at both their Virginia Beach and Chesapeake location, including hayrides, corn mazes, and pumpkin picking.
This month we will also be celebrating both Virginia Beach and Chesapeake’s 50th anniversaries. Events will be held in both cities on October 12th, and Buy Fresh Buy Local plans to be at both events helping these cities recognize and celebrate their agricultural heritage (see below for details).
Buying local isn’t just about getting the freshest and most delicious food possible; it’s also about supporting the local farming community and making sure that our agricultural roots never become just a part of our history, but remain a critical part of our present and our future.
Primal Spaghetti Squash Gratin
1 spaghetti squash
2 T. butter
1 medium onion, finely diced
3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 1/4 cup grated Gruyère cheese (divided)
1-2 t. sea salt (to taste)
1/2 t. black pepper
1/4 t. grated nutmeg
Preheat oven to 375° F. Cut acorn squash in half lengthwise and place rind side up on a baking sheet. (If you have trouble cutting the squash, you might consider microwaving for a couple of minutes just to soften a bit before baking.) Pour enough water in the pan to come up about 1/4-inch. Bake for 45 min. and allow to cool. Scoop out the seeds and membranes from each side of the squash. Use a fork to shred the flesh of the spaghetti squash and set aside.
Heat butter in a large pan. Add the finely diced onions to the pan and sauté until translucent. Stir in the salt, pepper and nutmeg. Add the Greek yogurt, spaghetti squash, and 3/4 cup of the Gruyère to the pan, stirring to combine, and heat for a couple of minutes on medium. Pour the mixture into a baking dish and spread it evenly in baking dish. Top with the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese and bake for 30 minutes until hot and bubbling.
Recipe courtesy of www.paleospirit.com
Kale and Avocado Salad
1 bundle of kale, chopped, tough stems removed
1 cup of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 avocado, diced
fresh basil, chopped, to taste
1 shallot, minced
salt and pepper to taste
red pepper flakes to taste
1 T. extra-virgin olive oil
1 t. honey
juice of one lemon
In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients together, tossing well with tongs or salad servers. Cover and place in the refrigerator and allow salad to sit for at least an hour before serving cold.
On Oct. 12, Buy Fresh Buy Local will be at:
• Virginia Beach 50th Anniversary Celebration - Noon-10 p.m. Enjoy parade, art show, kids’ fun, music & fireworks. Neptune Park www.vblivingthelife.com (VB)
• 4th Annual Waterways Heritage Festival - 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Enjoy heritage demonstrations, music, storytelling, scavenger hunt and more. Lock Park www.gbbattlefield.org (C)
Rachel Burns is the owner at The Content Chop Shop, a small shop providing content marketing services to small businesses, designers and nonprofits. She is also the co-owner of Burn Both Ends, which develops and presents educational opportunities and resources for small businesses looking to grow. She is a local to Hampton Roads and a vocal spokesperson for all its myriad advantages, her favorites of which is the Atlantic Ocean. She has been published in The Virginian Pilot, Tidewater Women, and AltDaily, among others. She lives in the Hickory section of Chesapeake with her husband, two pugs and several feral cats.