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At the Winter Markets, Sunchokes, Brussels & Quince

Posted Dec 18 2008 7:17pm

While not all of us get to enjoy sunny weather and fresh local citrus year-round, you may be surprised at the variety of local produce that’s still available even into December. Here in the DC area, apples and pears are winter mainstays, along with sweet potatoes and other root vegetables. Greens and other vegetables are greenhouse-grown, keeping them on the market tables long after the first frost. December is an ideal time to sample some of the aged cheeses that might be available, as cheeses aged several months come from cows (or goats or sheep) milked at the peak of summer’s green grass season. This is also the time to check out your farmers’ prepared items that you might have skipped over in the heyday of summer. Locally, Toigo, D&S Farm and Bigg Riggs offer homemade pasta sauces, salsas, jams and more that will speed up your dinner preparations but offer the continued assurance that they contain the best of local, all-natural ingredients.

In Alexandria, the Del Ray Farmers Market season officially ended this past weekend, but Toigo Orchards will be returning through December 20 and Tom the Cheese Guy and Smith Meadows Farms will be coming through the winter. The Old Town Alexandria market is year-round.

In the District, the Penn Quarter FreshFarm market continues for two more weeks, through Thursday, December 18. Of course, the biggest selection continues to be at the Dupont Circle Market, where I recently came across sunchokes and leeks from Next Step Produce which I used to make this wonderful seasonal soup. Quince are another seasonal specialty, currently available from Toigo. Last year I made a quince-cranberry sauce with them, but for now they are freshening up my refrigerator (they pack a potent sweet aroma!) while I try to decide what recipe to try next.

For those local, I’ve prepared a Google Map of markets continuing through December and beyond. (With thanks to the Washington Post’s farmers market guide.) Outside the Beltway? Check Local Harvest for a winter market near you.

And please share, what favorite winter item have you cooked with recently?

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