Harvest Season Offers a Festival of Food

By James Riemermann

apples

Photo by Sunny Augustine

For many Minnesotans, the annual fall trip to a favorite orchard to pick a peck (or three) of perfectly ripe apples is essentially a holiday, a festival, and certainly an honored tradition. Families look forward to that sunny weekend afternoon picking and eating everybody’s favorite varieties right off the tree: crisp and juicy Haralsons, Honeycrisps, Firesides and more.

Many orchards offer hayrides out to the trees, petting zoos, snack bars and gift shops with cider, pies, and all sorts of apple treats and other foods. Most have pick-your-own pumpkins as well, and a number have pick-your-own raspberry patches producing through September.

St. Paul Farmers Market
St. Paul Farmers Market / Photo by Mary I.

Fall is also prime farmers market season, with a dazzling variety of super-fresh produce from broccoli, cauliflower and carrots to parsnips, Brussels sprouts and squash of every color and shape. At last count, Minnesota had 187 farmers markets, with larger cities like Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth having multiple markets around town.

Minneapolis’ North Lyndale market is so big, busy and thoroughly urban you can almost get lost there. It’s open every day into November, with countless vegetable, fruit and flower varieties, meats and cheeses, food trucks, weekend entertainment, and gardening and cooking classes.

St. Paul’s main farmers market is smaller but charming, in downtown’s Lowertown neighborhood next to CHS Field, new home to the St. Paul Saints baseball team. It’s open on Saturday and Sunday mornings; to avoid parking challenges, take the Green Line light rail to Union Depot, a couple blocks from the market.

Just a few of the more popular farmers markets around the state include the Duluth Farmers Market, the Lakes Area Farmers Market in Detroit Lakes, the Riverwalk Market Fair in Northfield, the Park Rapids Farmers Market, and the Rochester Downtown Farmers Market. Most are open Saturday mornings or afternoons; a few have weekday afternoon hours.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s minnesotagrown.com is the ultimate resource for finding farms and orchards open to the public, farmers markets, local food-related events, and tips on what’s best at a given time of year. In addition to a hefty printed guide, they have an online directory of more than 1,200 providers searchable by product and location.