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SEEN Stealers

Picked Fresh

September 26, 2014

Autumn’s flavors are calling at area farmers markets

By Nick Moretti

Waning summer breezes carry the cool scents of autumn as green leaves fade to fiery shades. The harvest is upon us, with farmers bringing their end-of-season crops to area markets everywhere.

At the Birmingham Farmers Market, held each Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., shoppers enjoy specific choices from fall’s harvest, the result of a summer’s growth and nurture. More than 70 booths feature locally and regionally grown produce, garden plants and flowers, organics, fresh prepared foods, hand crafted items, live music and fun for the kids.

“We’re in our 12th year,” says Lori Rondello, communications and special events, Birmingham Shopping District. “It has become a sort of meeting place on Sunday mornings for neighbors to connect with a cup of coffee and breakfast treat and catch up on relevant news. There are also people from many of the surrounding communities who frequent our market for the comfortable atmosphere.”

Come and get it!

Of course, the main reason to visit a farmers market is the food. George Uhlianuk, a farmer and partner of Uhlianuk Farms in Armada, has been a vendor at the Birmingham Farmers Market for 12 years; his company has been in business for 48 years. He is excited to offer shoppers the freshest choices when it comes to farm-grown food.

“The biggest difference between buying food directly from a farmer and buying from a grocery store is flavor and nutritional content,” Uhlianuk says. “Food can lose up to 10 percent of its flavor and nutritional content every hour after it’s picked. When I know I’m going to market the next day, I’ll pick my product the evening before or even the morning of to ensure it tastes as fresh as possible. I once bought corn at a supermarket in winter and it tasted like a burlap bag!”

Shoppers can also often find items at the farmers market that just aren’t available at a supermarket. Jackie
Piceu, a Birmingham resident for 14 years, currently taking cooking lessons, likes the hard-to-find herbs and variations of food available.

“I can only get zucchini flowers at the farmers market,” she says. “The grocery store is limited when you’re looking for more specialty herbs and cooking ingredients, especially fresh ones. It’s also a friendly and fun atmosphere with things of interest for all ages.”

Fall favorites

In terms of what to shop for, there are specific choices this time of year. Richard “Cousin Don” Hobson, who sells organic produce from his family farm in Clifford, says that “throughout September we’ll see potatoes, onions, plums, squash, grapes, raspberries, rutabagas, butternut squash and acorn squash.”

Uhlianuk has his own favorites to offer customers this time of year.

“Fall is the best time to buy tomatoes for canning. You get that real old-time tomato flavor,” he says. “Basil for pesto is popular in the fall. Stock up and freeze it for the winter months. Broccoli and cauliflower together are big sellers, as well as heirloom pumpkins, which are not only beautiful for decorating but also are great for eating. And, of course, fresh-cut flowers.”

Meet the farmers

Not only can shoppers get fresh food, they can also meet the people who are actually growing the food. Customers can develop personal relationships with different farmers and learn about how the food they’re buying and eating is grown and harvested. As Cousin Don says, “We encourage you to talk to each farmer at the market to learn about their process. Please ask questions — farmers love to talk produce!”

Uhlianuk agrees: “It takes me 120 days to grow something, so when I present it to you I can tell you everything about it.”

Still going strong

“Our market season will end on October 19th,” Rondello says. “Traditionally, this last week is called our ‘End of Season Celebration.’ There is definitely a festive atmosphere and patrons can enjoy the bountiful Michigan harvest. Colors are vibrant at the market this time of year with fall flower arrangements, pumpkins, gourds and the myriad types of produce available during this season. Children are encouraged to wear their Halloween costumes and are able to decorate their own pumpkin at the Kids Zone.”

We may be saying goodbye to summer, but there are still a few more weeks to meander around your favorite farmers market and enjoy some end-of-season pleasures.

For more information, visit birminghamfarmersmarket.org. NS

Don’t miss the area’s other popular farmers markets!

• Clawson: cityofclawson.com/your_community/community_events/your_community/clawson_farmer_s_market.php

• Franklin Village: facebook.com/franklinvillagefarmersmarket

• Lathrup Village: lathrupvillage.org/index.aspx?nid=241

• Royal Oak: ci.royal-oak.mi.us/portal/farmers-market

• Southfield: cityofsouthfield.com/NewsEvents/tabid/158/mid/1480/newsid1480/994/Southfield-Farmers-Market-open-every-
Thursday-through-October-13/Default.aspx

• Waterford: destinationoakland.com/countymarket/Pages

For a list of Michigan’s famers markets, go to: michigan.org/farm-markets/

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