What Will September Taste Like

September 1, 2009 at 9:00 am

Rob Gardner

Just like the 60′s did not really start until the assassination of JFK, September does not really start until the conclusion of Labor Day. On the other hand, from a Chicago Eat Local perspective, September started at least a few weeks back. We think of September as a new season. Pam and Jim getting married. The High Holidays and sending our kids off to their fist day of school. There is no more fear that dog days of near 100′s in heat and humidity will be around the corner. With all of that, we should think of September as the height of summer.

We taste in September from an array of tomato types (expect a bit more on this soon on the Local Beet). Peppers are at their brightest and most varied. It cannot be summer without eggplants and sweet corn, and that is what you will see in the markets. It may seem crazy to wait for summer this autumn, but as long as it is here, enjoy the hell out of it.

The tastes of September are also the tastes you want to have when it is not fall but in deep dark winter (or miserable early spring). Now’s the time to start combing the market for paste tomatoes too can, oven dry, cook down into concentrate or just freeze. You cannot do wrong with the bushels of Michigan plum tomatoes at Caputo’s for $15. I wonder if it’s just a marketing ploy, but the farmer’s will tell you that the later season peaches are better than the vaunted Red Havens already past. They will tell you these are peaches for pickling. While corn and beans, especially shelling beans, are around, get around to blanching and freezing them. You’ll be happy to have ‘em later. And start collecting your potatoes, garlic and onions for the times the grounds grow hard.

The beauty of the tastes of September is that we are flush in everything. We get all of that summer still, and we get all that is ripening like crazy. There are assorted greens, big bracing collards and tender spinach’s and lettuces back from the heat. It is roots already, carrots and turnips and rutabagas and all. It’s the world of brassica’s, from simple heads of cabbage to the most mutant, gnarly looking piece of broca-flower. It is stock time too because we can finally have local celery.  We cannot possible taste all that there is to taste in September. So, all that hard squashes you will see in September, buy and hold.

You may think the same strategy wise for the apples. I wish I could tell you to hold off too. To store and to wait, because damn yes, your local pantry will soon contain no more fruit than those apples. Alas, the way of the apple and the apple seller, to bring new kinds to the market each week. This week may be akane and pink lady. Next week the Eastern macoun or the vaunted pippin. We can have many apples, but in September we can taste this apple or that apple.

We have other fruit too to taste in September. Berries remain. I mentioned that kinds of peaches will still be around. There are also kinds of plums getting around, especially the bluer Stanley or prune plums (hint, think preservation again). Grapes, we taste our local grapes. The intense tart-sweet-musky flavor of the local grape may be the single most convincing evidence of local superiority. Although there’s the local melons too, and a foodie friend recently confessed to me that yes a local watermelon he recently tried was in fact better than the vaunted Baylor melons that hold sway with some in our crowd.

It is rather obvious now, is it not, that the tastes of September are the tastes I most enjoy. No, I said that wrong. I adore cherries. I eat asparagus four times a week. I will even be happy with a good roasted squash. September does not taste better. It just offers the most tastes. To fully appreciate the tastes of September, use the Local Beet’s Market Locator. Better, come to the Local Beet’s Farm Dinner on September 20. You will know what September tastes like by then.