Don’t hang up your canvas shopping bag just yet

Farmers markets aren’t like swimming pools. Most of them stay open well past Labor Day. And unlike the swimsuit that you’ve thrown into the back of your closet until next year, the stuff you buy at farmers markets is always in season.

I enjoy shopping trips to farmers markets this time of year because there’s such a mishmash of produce for sale. Some farmers take advantage of the cooler days to sneak in a second round of “spring” vegetables: lettuces, radishes, carrots. Others get a jump on autumn with the first crops of “winter” greens and squashes: collards and kale, butternut and delicata.

But best of all are the defiant veggies of late summer. Even as tomatoes—the warm-weather divas of the produce world—have slowed to a trickle, the hard-working peppers, okra and eggplants are still going strong.

At her Cook’s Warehouse demonstration last weekend at the Decatur Book Festival, cookbook author Andrea Chesman (most recently of Recipes from the Root Cellar: 250 Fresh Ways to Enjoy Winter Vegetables,” Storey Publishing) challenged her audience to “eat locally, spice globally.” I love that, plus its corollary: Cook locally, spice globally. It’s especially good advice for these late-summer vegetables, which hold up well to curries, spicy sautés and other robust treatments that would cause a head of lettuce to run screaming in the other direction (or just wilt).

I’ve taken Chesman’s suggestion to heart with two new additions to our Southern Recipes collection, both Indian-inspired. If the only way you know to cook okra is to deep-fry it, you’ll want to try the simple method for spicing and roasting fresh-picked pods pictured here. Unless you are a fan of slime, you will be pleased to discover that you can dodge the okra slime-factor by thoroughly drying the pods after rinsing and then roasting them at a high temperature. The other recipe is for baingan bharta, a traditional dish featuring roasted eggplant, onions and ginger. Don’t be intimidated by the first step of roasting the eggplant; it goes very quickly, and you can prepare the rest of the dish simultaneously.

And don’t stop there. There’s plenty of wonderful local fruits and veggies coming in right now. Other produce available at area farmers markets includes: arugula, field peas, figs, green beans, herbs, lettuce, mizuna, muscadine grapes, pears, potatoes, sweet potato greens, Swiss chard, tomatoes, turnip greens, winter squash.

Check out our listing of area farmers markets in our freshly launched Local Foods section.