What's In Season: September
Most Americans mentally end summer on Labor Day, the Monday after the first weekend of the month. Restaurants and grocers here follow suit and break out the pumpkin-spiced everything. But in real growing seasons, the autumn equinox, or what is for growers the start of the fall season, doesn't begin until September 22nd or 23rd. That means that Starbucks starts serving up those ever-controversial pumpkin-spice lattes while farmers are still picking tomatoes in the fields. And why is it referred to as the harvest season anyway, when the vast majority of crop varieties are harvested in the spring and summer?
The word "harvest" actually stems from the Old English term haerf-est, meaning autumn, but etymologists indicate baffling connections to Latin words such as carpere, which means 'pluck,' and karpos, which means 'fruit.' Nevertheless, farmers and gardeners tend to use the word in this Latin sense, for when they reap in any season, while, for the rest of us, the words call to mind apple carts and swaying golden wheat (unless, of course, we're talking about wine, wind, or organs).
Further confusing the situation is that some crops we think of as "harvest season" crops, such as the aforementioned wheat, are harvested all year long, while some winter staples we may not associate with September are beginning thier harvest season in the fall. Beans, root vegetables, and brassicas (cabbage/broccoli/Brussel sprouts/cauliflower) are all ready for reaping in late September. A very nebulous term indeed.
Nevertheless, using everything in your CSA box before it spoils in September is decidedly less challenging. Everyone is an expert in cooking with summer ingredients by early September, and when "the harvest season" begins at month's end, we all excitedly dig up our favorite fall recipes. It's a good thing, too. Almost everything is available this month.
This is a month to savor from end to end but the challenge is ahead. Let's face it: most people outside of a small veggie-loving subculture secretly (and some not so secretly) hate long-storage vegetables. You might even say that the entire genre of food, with the notable exception of pumpkins and potatoes, is the nemesis of parents across the globe. While we can't guarantee kid-friendly recipes abound on this site, there may be one or two. And we do promise to share at least one recipe that our anti-turnip eaters have almost loved. Almost.
Here's what's in season in September:
Roots & Shrooms
Shell Beans & Gourds
*indicates that September is the first month of harvest for this crop in the NY area