A few trees have begun to show their annual fall foliage display, and the crisp air of fall is starting to replace summer's warmth. The calendar still says summer, but school has begun, autumn has arrived in the North Country, and it's time to gather in the crops. I am ready to taste the delights of the harvest.
Fall means harvest, and September is harvest month in our region. Now is the time to reap the fruits of hard-earned labor of spring planting and summer weeding and tending. Right now, tender summer squash, beans, cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers are abundant and ready to harvest. Soon, these will be replaced by hardier crops like cabbage, carrots, beets and other root vegetables.
Locally grown food is fresher, so it tastes better and retains more nutrients than supermarket food. When you buy locally, you support our area farmers and help to create a safe and secure food network in our region. You also help to protect the environment because food doesn't need to travel for miles in refrigerated trucks, burning oil. When local food is raised ecologically, it eliminates many pesticides, herbicides and oil-based artificial fertilizers, all of which pollute our environment.
Chefs & Farmers festival Sept. 9 in Saranac Lake
(Photo — Yvona Fast)
This month's harvest celebrations began on Sept. 1 with Saranac Lake's third annual Farm 2 Fork Festival - and they continue all month long. Sept. 9 brought Chefs & Farmers to Saranac Lake; more than a dozen area restaurants teamed up with area farmers to create a fabulous menu of culinary delights.
Sept. 15 brings the eighth annual Cream Cheese Festival in Lowville, with lots of food, music, cream cheese recipes and the world's largest cheesecake. Lowville has a great agricultural heritage and is the largest producer of Kraft Cream Cheese in the world.
Closer to home on Sept. 15 is A Taste of Local at the Adirondack History Center Museum in Elizabethtown. At lunchtime, area restaurants will showcase their favorite menu items featuring local foods. An apple dessert cooking contest is open to the public.
Farmers, Friends & Food at the Ben Wever Farm in Willsboro begins at 4 p.m. that same day (Sept. 15). Enjoy a farm tour followed by a potluck dinner in the field and under the stars, featuring food from local farms. Ben Wever Farm raises grass-fed beef, poultry, lamb, trout, eggs and honey.
On Sunday, Sept. 16, DaCy Meadow Farm in Westport is offering a locavore brunch with food harvested in the fields alongside the forest, as well as hikes on area trails led by naturalist and outdoor educator Elizabeth Lee. The brunch features quiches made with the farm's fresh eggs, fresh vegetables, bacon, ham and sausage. Dogwood Bread Company desserts, warm from the oven, will finish off the meal. There's a $45 fee to benefit Adirondack Harvest. To register, contact Elizabeth Lee, outdoor guide, by email at email@example.com or by phone at 518-962-4756.
On Saturday, Sept. 22, enjoy the annual pig roast at Sugarbush Farm in Schroon Lake with delicious, farm-fresh Berkshire pork. To RSVP and find out details, please call 518-532-9539.
Sunday, Sept. 23, is the day of the fifth annual Great Adirondack Rutabaga Festival at Marcy Field in Keene. For a small admission fee to the food tent, sample amazing rutabaga dishes served by world-class chefs. There are also races and other events.
On Sept. 29, Ticonderoga has its Heritage Harvest and Horse Festival, showcasing that region's agricultural history with a living history exhibit and fall corn maze.
That same day, just north of the Adirondack Park, is the annual Harvest Festival and Civil War Encampment at the Almanzo Wilder Homestead in Burke, near Malone. This was the boyhood home of author Laura Ingalls Wilder's husband, the inspiration for her book "Farmer Boy."
You won't go hungry with harvest events happening all around the Park during the month of September! In addition to great food, most of the events feature music, games and activities the whole family can enjoy. So come out and celebrate the Adirondack Harvest. Taste products, visit farms and meet your area farmers!
Harvest Zucchini Pie
1-2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 medium zucchini
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 medium onion
3 Japanese eggplants
2 cloves garlic
1 Tablespoon fresh minced basil
1 Tablespoon fresh minced oregano
1 large tomato
1/4 cup milk or cream
1/2 cup freshly shredded sharp cheese (like Parmesan or Cheddar)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Use a little of the oil to oil a 9-inch pie plate. Slice the zucchini in 1/8-inch to 1/4-inch rounds, and arrange on bottom and sides of pie plate. Sprinkle with salt and a little more olive oil. Bake about 10 minutes.
In the meantime, peel and chop the onion. Add a little olive oil to skillet, add onion, and cook on medium-low for 5 minutes. Slice the eggplant and mince the garlic while onion cooks, stir in, and cook another 5-7 minutes. Add freshly minced herbs and cook another 1-2 minutes.
Chop one large tomato, and set aside.
Remove zucchini from oven, and sprinkle with a tablespoon of the cheese. To assemble pie, spread eggplant mixture over zucchini. Top with the tomato. Beat eggs with milk and 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pour over. Sprinkle on the remaining cheese, and return to oven for 25-30 minutes, or until eggs have set and vegetables are cooked.
Fall Harvest Salad
This delicious salad is a dieter's delight; it has no added fat, salt or sugar.
1 bell pepper (I like to use 1/2 green and 1/2 yellow bell pepper for color)
1 dill pickle
1/2 sweet onion
1/2 cup corn kernels
Peel the onion, wash the tomato, and wash and seed the pepper.
Dice all vegetables, place in bowl, and add 1 Tablespoon juice from the pickles. Sprinkle in the corn kernels. Toss to combine, and wait about an hour for flavors to blend. Enjoy.
Summer Squash with Sausage and Peppers
1 teaspoon cooking oil
2 links Italian sausage
1 large onion
1 large or 2 small green peppers
1 fairly large summer squash (about 3-4 cups cubed)
1 teaspoon salt
2 medium tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon basil
1/2 cup shredded "pizza cheese" (mozzarella with cheddar)
Heat oil in skillet, add cut-up sausage, and brown for 3-4 minutes. While sausage browns, peel and dice onions; wash, seed and cut peppers into one-inch squares. Add to skillet, and lower heat. Cover, and cook about 10 minutes.
In the meantime, cut the squash into one-inch cubes. Add to skillet, sprinkle with the salt, stir, raise heat, and cook, stirring occasionally, another 10 minutes until tender. Wash and dice the tomatoes, and stir in along with basil and cheese. Cook about 5 minutes for flavors to blend, but not so long that the tomatoes dissipate. Serve right away over noodles and with a salad of fresh greens.
Yvona Fast lives in Lake Clear and has two passions: cooking and writing. She can be reached at www.wordsaremyworld.com.