Enjoy late summer crops of tomatoes and discover new ways with autumn’s abundance of root vegetables…
Tomatoes: the flavour of tomatoes improves the longer they are left in the sun so those bought later in the year are at their very tastiest. Vine-ripened tomatoes, which have been left to ripen the longest, should have the most punch, but look out for big beef tomatoes, perfect for slicing with mozzarella and basil, as well as little cherry tomatoes, ideal for halving onto quiches and pies. Store tomatoes in a sunny spot where they can breathe and ripen, never in the fridge, as this will diminish their flavour and texture.
Try this: panzanella is a classic Italian use of tomatoes. Soak old, torn sourdough bread in olive oil, red wine vinegar and season. Add handfuls of chopped tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, garlic and salt and mix to combine. Flavour with more red wine vinegar, basil leaves and seasoning to taste.
Squash: squashes come in all shapes and sizes but the most well-known in the UK is the butternut. As the name suggests, it has a buttery flavour and consistency when cooked, and a sweetness that is enhanced when mixed with a little sugar or cinnamon. Don’t let the tough skin put you off – as with many winter veg, the flavour is greatly enhanced when roasted, so just leave the skin on when roasting and scoop the soft flesh out when cooked to use in soups, risottos and stir-fries.
Try this: create spiced butternut squash wedges by peeling a squash and cutting into wedges. Mix together some herbs and spices such as oregano, curry powder and turmeric with a glug of olive oil. Add the squash and coat well, then roast for 20 minutes until cooked.
Parsnips: parsnips are not renowned for their looks, but scratch beneath the surface and you’ve got a winter root vegetable that’s deliciously sweet, densely textured, with a pleasantly mild taste. Roasting brings out the best in parsnips, perhaps with a twist of salt and pepper and a drizzle of honey, but they are also fantastic partnered with crushed spices, garlic and a little curry powder. Freshly dug parsnips have the sweetest flavour, especially after a frost, so keep an eye on the weather then stock up at Stroud Farmers’ Market!
Try this: make a parsnip purée to serve alongside meat by simmering a pan full of peeled, cubed parsnips in boiling water until tender. Blend the cooked parsnips along with a knob of butter, 3 dollops of cream and a few thyme leaves. Add seasoning and serve.
You can buy fresh seasonal produce this autumn from the following stalls every Saturday:
Coleshill Organic Farm, Croft Farm, Duncan Paget & Co, Over Farm Market, Newark Farm, Hotch Potch Organic and Days Cottage.