Located less than three miles from campus, the Raleigh Farmers Market is a lively, welcoming space offering fresh produce and other goods from local farmers and vendors. As the fall season rolls around, seasonal items are making their appearance.
Known for delicious pies, decorations and, of course, lattes, the pumpkin is a fan favorite of the fall harvest. Lining the aisle of the market is a huge selection of pumpkins from growers across the state. From small pie pumpkins to large carving pumpkins to even green or white pumpkins, market-goers are sure to find a pumpkin to suit their fall fancy.
The Cronus pumpkins are famous for their classic jack-o’-lantern shape with a round, bright orange body and deep green stem. However, this seemingly common variety actually requires very specific growing conditions — it has to be grown in a certain amount of acreage that hasn’t been touched for a long time to get the right nutrients.
With all of these different pumpkin varieties, Howell Brothers Farms has one of the most impressive pumpkin displays at the market. Later in the month, they’ll add pumpkins with special carvings from a famous Raleigh native, Jim Bille.
NC State students and staff can receive a $2 discount on a pumpkin of their choosing every Monday through Thursday in the month of October. A student/staff ID or other proof of university affiliation is required.
Aside from pumpkins, the fall season also brings a harvest of fresh greens and other vegetables great for salads, side dishes or even main courses.
“We’re not pumpkin growers, but we will be getting into our greens season soon,” said Stephanie Moore of Moore’s Produce from Johnston County, North Carolina. “We’ll have a lot of different lettuces, different types of cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi. We grow mizuna, arugula, red Russian kale, different types of kale, so the fall is a really good time of the year for a lot of nice greens.”
Among these, people are sure to find familiar favorites as well as some new crops that encourage a step out of their comfort zone. Mizuna and kohlrabi specifically may be new names. Mizuna is a variety of lettuce that is commonly used in salads and is rich in antioxidants and vitamin A. Kohlrabi consists of a large fibrous bulb with strong stems that support dark green leaves, all of which can be consumed raw or cooked. Although it is commonly prepared in salads or slaws, kohlrabi is quite versatile and can be used in just about any dish to add color, flavor and nutrients.
According to Moore, root crops such as sweet potatoes, rutabaga, turnips and beets will also become available.
Some fruits are set to join the vegetables on the stands this season as well. These include apples, grapes, blackberries and even a certain type of strawberries, which is typically an early summer crop.
“At the end of October we’ll have our winter strawberries,” said Gary Harper, who runs a full time stand at the farmers market. “We’ve been doing [winter strawberries] for about 13 years, growing them down in Wilmington. It’s a certain type of strawberry you can grow only in the winter time. … They taste a whole lot better.”
In addition to all of the wonderful produce found at the market, there is a certain charm to the place and a passion that can be felt from the farmers who run it. Some farmers have been selling at the farmers market for decades and keep coming back year after year to serve the community.
“We’re here six days a week, been here 25 years,” said Helen Wise of Wise Farms from Mt. Olive, North Carolina. “It’s just in us, we can’t leave it alone.”
So, as the cooler weather and colorful leaves roll in this month, a full assortment of local produce is rolling into the State Farmers Market, proving that pumpkin spice lattes aren’t the only seasonal treat to look forward to.