Feeling out fresh produce for the fall

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As fall approaches, Auburn and Opelika are preparing for the season with fresh fruits and vegetables.

Taylor Hatchett of Boozer Farms sells her own locally grown produce in the area. She said the next two weeks will be prime time for the most popular produce this upcoming season: pumpkins, squash, tomatoes, okra and corn.

However, these vegetables are not the only options available. Hatchett said there is produce that people might not expect to be super successful this time of year that are actually at their prime in the colder months.

“There are some that you can grow in the spring but won’t be as successful — your lettuces, your cabbages,” Hatchett said. “They’re going to be so much happier growing this time of year because the days are getting shorter and cooler. The crops that don’t love our humidity do a lot better as a fall crop than they do as a spring crop.”

Lessie Smith, 14-year employee for the Opelika Farmer’s Market, agreed with Hatchett. She added that watermelons, muscadines, squash, cantaloupes, butter beans, cucumbers, gourds and corn are coming into their prime season this fall as well.

Smith said the most popular produce items from her local market are pecans and pecan candy as customers get ready for fall. The muscadine, or the “Southern grape,” is also popular and is perfect for making wine, pies and jellies, Smith said.

When it comes to buying produce, Smith said that farmer’s markets sell fresher produce than grocery stores — even the freshest produce at a grocery store doesn’t compare.

“Stands likes ours buy in smaller quantities and receive more frequently, so we have the freshest produce,” Smith said.

Hatchett said freshness is one of the top reasons to consider eating not only what is in season but also what is closer to where you live.

“My personal opinion is that eating in season is better because it is more environmentally considerate and results in tastier fruits and veggies,” Hatchett said. “When you purchase food that is not in season where you live, that means it is coming from somewhere else where it is in season.”

An example of this, Hatchett said, is that Central Alabama, when the strawberry seasons ends, the strawberries purchased in the grocery store are normally coming from California where their weather allows them to have a much longer season.

“This means that they are picked less ripe — to handle storage and shipping — and they are shipped hundreds of miles. The quality is reduced because they are not harvested at peak ripeness and because they spend more time in transit being shipped. The distance they are shipped also means there are many other resources that are used to get them from California to Alabama.”

Hatchett and Smith encourage the community to get out and explore what the local farmers have to offer this season.

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