Shopping local is one way you can give back to the community and support your area’s farmers. You might know that agriculture is Pennsylvania’s largest industry, but did you know that there are more than 1,000 farm markets and community farmers’ markets in the state? You’ll find Pennsylvania produce year-round, but some of the tastiest fruits and vegetables flourish in late August.
August is Pennsylvania Produce Month, and since there are still a few days left, we wanted to share the best produce tips to help you in the kitchen and keep you motivated to buy local in Pennsylvania. (We used research and tips from PAVeggies.org’s veggie month report).
PA Chefs’ tips and tricks for using produce. The Food Network channel offers cooking shows for all different cuisines. Some shows offer tips and tricks for maneuvering around the kitchen. Skip the television this time around, and take advice from the Keystone State chefs themselves, since they work with Pennsylvania produce all the time.
One vegetable that Pennsylvania chefs love using is corn. According to the PA Veggies report, sweet corn is Pennsylvania’s largest vegetable crop with approximately 10,300 acres per year. In fact, the state ranks seventh in the country for corn.
Instead of just grilling this summer favorite, Chef Josh Fidler of Fidler & Co. Craft Kitchen & Grocery, suggests using different types of sea salt for flavoring, or making Mexican grilled corn to really spice things up.
Chef Trevett Hooper of Legume loves that corn is versatile, and “goes with lots of flavors and gives great flavor, color and texture.”
Consider sweet cantaloupe for soups, salads, fruit salsa and even “as a vessel for tuna salad,” said Phoebe Canakis of Phoebe’s Pure Food. For other salads, use tomatoes, or save the red beauties for gazpacho, dressing, and for roasting in the oven, said Canakis.
Marisa McClellan of Food in Jars suggests preserving your summer produce by making chutney. It’s relatively easy to make, she says, and a little dollop of the preserves can liven up any meal.
A Pennsylvania guide to the tomato family. Tomatoes come in all different shapes, sizes, and flavors. While one tomato might work best for soups or sauces, other varieties work better as an afternoon snack or for kabobs.
Pennsylvania has plenty of tomatoes; in fact, they cover more than 2,500 acres of fresh-to-market tomatoes, plus about 1,000 acres of processing tomatoes, according to PAVeggies.org. That’s like having over 200 Lincoln Financial Field covered in tomatoes!
Want some new ideas on what to do with all this tasty produce? The Pennsylvania Vegetable Marketing & Research Program shares their 2016 picks here. Click on the image below to enlarge.
- Brandywine Beefsteak: This tomato is nearly seedless, making it the perfect addition to your sandwiches or sliced into gazpacho. Similar varietals include Mortgage Lifter, Giant Pink Belgium, and German Queen.
- Green Zebra Specialty: This green tomato has a firm flesh and tart yet not overly acidic taste. Use it for BLTs, Caprese salad, or a spicy fried green tomatoes dish. Similar varietals include Red Zebra, Red Lightning, Cherokee Green.
- Striped German Beefsteak: This tomato is fruity, sweet and goes well with a summer crudite platter or paired with other tomatoes. Similar varietals include Pineapple, Big Rainbow, Mr. Stripey.
- Rutgers: An ideal tomato for homemade ketchup. Similar varietals include Arkansas Traveler, Mountain Fresh, and Crista.
- Amish Paste Plum: Use this sweet, plum shaped tomato that will work great for paste tomato. Similar varietals Roma, and San Marzano.
- Riesentraube Cherry: These tomatoes have an intense flavor and work well for snacks and kabobs. Similar varietals include Juliet, Five Star Grape, Sweet Chelsea, and Napa.
- Sun Gold Cherry: You know these tomatoes as the little orange ones that are great with a cherry tomato feast. Easy to snack on! Similar varietals include Juliet, Five Star Grape, Sweet Chelsea and Napa.
We have our own opinions about tomatoes! Learn a quick and dirty way to freeze tomatoes, or cut up a few varieties of red tomatoes for this summer side salad featuring tomatoes and peaches. If you plan on picking up tomatoes, corn, cantaloupe, or other August produce favorites, download this local food shopping list from BUCKS COUNTY TASTE – perfect for planning your weekly shopping at local farms and markets.
Are you stuck on where to find good produce? For a full listing of Bucks County farmer markets and their days/times, go to our Local Food Guide of Bucks County farmers markets.