From pomegranates to pears of Peshkopia and winter squash from Korça, there is plenty of fresh seasonal produce to choose from at your local market this month. Here are five foods to buy in September


Bell peppers

There is nothing at the farmers market that sums up the late summer-early fall season like the mounds of brightly colored peppers that seem to be everywhere. Their colors – red and yellow, even purple and brown – are so saturated they seem to have been designed for the painterly golden light at this time of year. And they taste as good as they look.

How to choose

Look for peppers that are firm, deeply colored and glossy. Peppers that have the straightest sides will be the easiest to peel.

How to store

Keep peppers in the refrigerator, tightly wrapped in a plastic bag.

Extra tips

To peel peppers, place them whole on the grill, turning as the skin begins to blacken. Transfer them to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap, the peel will slip right off.

Pears

The earliest pears are harvested starting in August. They are fine, but the ones picked in September and October are the bests. The ones from the region of Korça and Peshkopia are among the bests. 

How to choose

The best perfectly ripened pears will be golden and fragrant and will have a slight softness at the neck. Don't worry if the fruit shows some russeting – that's only skin-deep and doesn't affect the flavor.

How to store

Pears will continue to ripen off the tree (indeed, they really have to ripen off the tree to avoid a woody texture). So if your pears are a little green and firm, just leave them at room temperature and they'll finish up nicely. Then you can refrigerate them.

Extra tips

Almost all of the pears you’ll find even at supermarkets are actually antique varieties.

Grapes

Most grapes you’ll find at supermarkets are grown to be snack food – they’re sweet but little else. But you can find grapes with real flavor at farmers markets.

How to choose

Choose grapes that are heavy for their size with taut skins. How to store
Store grapes tightly wrapped in the refrigerator. Don't wash them until just before serving them. If the grapes are moist when you buy them, slip a paper towel into the bag to absorb the extra moisture.

Extra tips

For a real treat, late in the season look for grapes that begun to turn golden. The flavor is terrific.

 

Pomegranates

Pomegranates are a lot of work (and a fair bit of mess), but the sweet-tart jewels you wind up with are worth all the messiness. 

How to choose

Select pomegranates that are heavy for their size -- they'll be the juiciest. Don't worry too much about the color of the rind: that can vary from completely red to reddish-brown without it affecting the quality. Do look for deep color though.

How to store

Pomegranates should be refrigerated; they'll last at least three to four weeks. Once they've been seeded, the seeds can be frozen in a tightly sealed bag.

Extra tips

To seed pomegranates without making a mess, score the peel in quarters, then submerge the fruit in a bowl of water and separate the peel and the pith. These will float while the seeds will sink.

Soft herbs

What’s the quickest and easiest way to add punch to a dish that seems lifeless? Add some chopped soft herbs, such as fresh basil, parsley, cilantro or mint just before serving. It will perk up almost anything.

How to choose

When choosing soft herbs, freshness is of the utmost importance. Basil, cilantro and mint will start to wilt and lose perfume almost as soon as they’re picked. Parsley is a little hardier, but you still don’t want to push it too far.

How to store

Particularly with basil, cilantro and mint, the best way to make them last is to treat them like cut flowers — stick them upright in a glass of water, drape a plastic bag over top, and refrigerate.

Extra tips

One of the easiest things to do with soft herbs is make a pureed sauce, like pesto. Puree herbs with minced garlic and salt and with the blender running, add olive oil until you have a sauce-y consistency. Adjust seasoning with a little lemon juice and you’re there. It’s almost impossible to go wrong.

Winter squash

Why are they called “winter” squash if you buy them in the fall? Before refrigeration, these squash with their hard shells were among the few vegetables that could be stored through the cold months.

How to choose

Look for squash with deep, saturated colors and no soft spots or cracks. The stem should be hard and corky too.

How to store

Keep winter squash in a cool, dark place. You don't need to refrigerate them.

Extra tips

To prepare winter squash, cut them in half and remove the seeds. Place them cut-side down on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and bake at 400 degrees until they can be easily pierced with a knife. Cool, then spoon away the tender flesh. Or you can boil them. /AgroWeb.org