Select the Best Fall Produce: Insider Tips from Sunnyside Farm

To continue our celebration of Fruits and Vegetables Month, I had a chance to catch up with Valerie Fowler of Sunnyside Farm in St Mary’s County, Maryland. Eastern Market is DC’s oldest, continuously operating farmer’s market and Valerie and her family have had a stall here since its opening, in 1873!

As we welcome Fall and the colorful fruits and vegetables the season brings with it, Valerie shares her advice with us on selecting the best squash from your local farmer’s market.

Here’s what Valerie says about shopping for fall vegetables:

Acorn Squash
Acorn Squash decorates the local farm stands in the fall. This vegetable has a hard, thin outer skin. It has the shape of an acorn with ribs. It is typically about 8 inches long and 5 inches in diameter. The orange/yellow interior flesh is firm and sweet with a nutty flavor. These squash come in many colors (dark green, white, orange, and colorful variegated varieties) To select acorn squash – pick one that feels heavy for its size, usually from 1 to 3 pounds. The skin should be smooth and free of any soft spots. There should be a partial orange color where the squash laid on the ground, which tells us that it was mature when picked.

The farmer typically picks the squash when the vines begin to dry up. However, The shopper does not see this part of the process. An overripe squash has the signs of being too orange in color (unless the squash is naturally an orange color), lighter in weight and the interior may start to have a dry, stringy inside. Due to the thick skin, the winter squash keeps longer than the thin skinned summer squash. Winter squash easily stores for 1 to 3 months at about 50 degrees. Since most households do not have this optimum temperature for storage, it is best to use the winter squash within a couple of weeks after purchase. Try to store in a cool dry area. You can cut up and store raw or cooked squash in a container in the refrigerator for a several days. Cooked acorn squash (chunks or mashed) can also be frozen for several months.”

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Butternut Squash
Butternut squash is a winter squash that is found on many farmer’s markets in the fall. The ripe exterior color is beige. The texture will be smooth and feel heavy for its size when you pick it up. There should be no green color on the outside if the butternut it is ripe. The skin should be a dull beige, firm to the touch with no soft spots. The interior flesh is a deep orange color.

It should be stored in a cool, dry area. Just like the acorn squash, a ripe butternut squash will last one to three months. Best to eat within a few weeks of purchase to guarentee you catch the flavor at its prime. It can be stored in fridge either raw or cooked –just like the acorn squash. Or, place cooked squash in freezer bags or air tight container in the freezer for up to several months.”

If you have a chance to visit Eastern Market in DC, be sure to visit Valerie and sample some of her fresh and delicious produce. For more information about Sunnyside Farm and Eastern Market in Washington, DC, visit this page here.

Thank you so much Valerie, for taking the time to share with us!

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