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    Persimmons, Pomegranates and Lots of Pumpkins!

    Photo Courtesy of Pacific Coast Farmers Market Association

    By Debra Morris–

    Fall produce at your farmers’ market is now in full swing. Newly arrived persimmons and pomegranates color the market with their vibrant orange and red hues; winter squash offers shades of orange, yellow, and dark green; and mounds of bright green Brussels sprouts, lettuce, broccoli, and artichokes fill the tables. And, of course, you will soon see piles of bright orange pumpkins! The farmers’ market is the best place to get the quality, freshness, and flavor that you desire when it comes to fruits and vegetables.

    Winter squash is a must have this time of year. Butternut, spaghetti, acorn, and other hard-shell winter squash are here. Have you ever tried a kabocha squash? It looks like a dark green pumpkin and has a bright orange interior. Full of sweet nutty flavor, these winter squash offer a heavy dose of antioxidants and vitamins. They’re delicious when cut in half, seeded, and baked with a little butter or olive oil and sprinkled with cumin, salt, and pepper. Visit Happy Boy Farms out of Watsonville or Jacob’s Farm from Los Banos for some nice ones.

    Pomegranates are one of the featured fruits this month. Called “the jewel of autumn,” these big, funny-looking fruits have leathery skin that, when cracked open, reveal rows of bright red seeds filled with juice. They are high in vitamin C and potassium, are a great source of fiber, and are low in calories. Eat the seeds right from the fruit, or juice them for a very healthy drink. Sprinkle the seeds on salads, add to smoothies, top yogurt or cereal, or make a very tasty sauce or glaze for pork or chicken. Stop by and pick out some of these beauties from Allard Farms out of Westley, Arata Fruit from Byron, and Ken’s Top Notch of Reedley.

    Other great vegetables in season right now are Brussels sprouts. These “little cabbages” look like golf ball-size knobs growing in rows on stalks. Sections of these stalks, about 2 to 3 feet, are sold with the sprouts attached, or loose in bulk display. The majority of the U.S. supply comes from California’s Central Coast, which offers an ideal combination of coastal fog and cool temperatures year-round. You can find Brussels sprouts at Fifth Crown Farms out of Pescadero and Jacob’s Farm in Los Banos.

    Photography by Rink

    We can’t forget to mention the star of the season—pumpkins! While most of the pumpkins marketed in the U.S. are used as jack-o’-lanterns, the farmers’ market also sells the small, sugar pie variety that are excellent to eat and to purée for pies, breads, and cookies. Stop by Fifth Crow Farm out of Pescadero and Happy Boy Farm of Watsonville for your seasonal pumpkins.

    Pumpkins are a member of the winter squash family and can be used in any recipe calling for any of the winter squashes such as acorn, butternut, or turban. Pumpkins can be diced into chunks, steamed as a vegetable, spiced with nutmeg to enhance the flavor, and served as a side dish at any meal. Pumpkins can also be mixed with a variety of fruits and vegetables such as apples, pears, and rhubarb. Small pumpkins make beautiful serving containers for soups and stews, and, of course, can be used to decorate your front porch!

    Get your hands on some of the best fall produce around at the Castro Farmers’ Market this month. You can’t find fresher or more delicious produce anywhere!

    Roasted Winter Squash

    1 large acorn or kabocha squash, cut in half, seeds removed
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    Salt and pepper

    Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cut the pumpkins or squash in quarters and scoop out all of the seeds and string. Cover a baking sheet with foil. Brush a little melted butter on the cut edges of the pumpkin/squash. Place on the baking sheet. Cook for about 1/2 hour to 45 minutes, depending on the size of the squash, until it is soft to the touch. Serve hot.

    Debra Morris is a spokesperson for the Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association (PCFMA). Check out the PCFMA website for recipes, information about farmers’ markets throughout the region and for much more: