At the Martinsville farmers market, Calvin McCullough has been explaining a new fruit: the Asian apple-pear.
It’s actually been around for millennia – on the other side of the world. It’s just not something you see every day in Martinsville.
Trent Farms planted Asian apple pear trees a few years ago, said Karen Collins, the daughter of Tommy Trent, who runs the farm. The unusual fruit first came in last year.
The odd fruit is the shape of an apple but with the mottled texture and brownish color of the pear, and it has the pear’s texture. Collins said it’s great in smoothies: She slices and freezes the fruits, then pulls them out to pop into the blender with orange-pineapple juice and perhaps some frozen peaches, strawberries or blueberries and maybe spinach.
Asian apple pears, also called Asian pears, are a variety of pear (not crossed with apple) that are good to eat as soon as harvested or can be kept in cold storage for several months, according to the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources Fruit & Nut Information Center. Their texture is crisp, as opposed to the European pear, which usually is served when soft and juicy. This occurs about a week after it’s taken out of cold storage.
The Uptown Martinsville Farmers’ Market is open Wednesdays and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon through Sept. 25 and just Saturdays through Nov. 9. It accepts SNAP/EBT, giving double value (up to $20) on purchases. It is located at 65 W. Main St., across from the Martinsville Fire Department and New College Institute.
At the market, shoppers and vendors alike swap recipes and cooking methods.
Brandi Dillard of Martinsville sells an assortment of baked goods. Recently one of her offerings was peach muffins, made with peaches she had bought from the farmers market.
One of the tips in her family was from her father, the late Charles Walker: The cabbage heads with flat tops have the best flavor, she said.
She’s a fan of the greens from Songrow Farms, the outlet that sell at the table next to hers, she said: “Songrow Farms has some of the best lettuce mixes I have ever seen in my life.”
Just to see how well they’d do in storage, she kept some in the refrigerator for three weeks — and the lettuce remained fresh, she said.
The Athey Family – John and Missy and sons Fisher and Hunter — have a small farm in Ridgeway and a big one in Franklin County.
Fisher Athey loves fried squash, he said, and he prepares it with a secret ingredient that most people probably wouldn’t believe: cinnamon-sugar.
To make it, chop squash into standard cubes, then boil until it’s tender. While it’s cooking, fry onions and green peppers. Then toss in the cooked squash.
While the vegetables cook together, shake over the cinnamon-sugar – “it sounds weird, but I promise it’s so good” – onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper, Athey said.
Nectarines are just coming in, said Buddy Dykes of Crews Family Farm in Gretna, and seedless blackberries are just starting to come in. Standard blackberries are nearing their end, he added.
Dylan Dinoto of Danville sells vegetables. He said many of his customers buy zucchini for “zoodling” – using a special spiral cutter to julienne the zucchini into spaghetti-like strips, which are cooked and served with butter or garlic.
Poblano peppers are popular for stuffing with cheeses or sausage blends, Dinoto said. Beets also are among his offerings. He said he never thought he liked this purple-root vegetable until he ate his sister’s canned beets, which he can’t get enough of: “Those taste like candy.”
Next to Dinoto is Lisa Watlington, who sells a variety of canned goods. They include a green tomato ketchup and bread-and-butter pickles, both made with recipes from the 1800s that her grandmother passed on to her.
Watlington cans at least once a week, often two or three times a week, she said. She used to grow a garden, but now she uses produce she buys at the market.
“Peaches and tomatoes are the hardest to can,” she said, because they involve the most preparation.
One table was not laden down with colorful produce: that of Sundancers Farm in Horsepasture. Instead, a banner was laid across it, and Vanessa Weese stood between it and her vehicle, which was open to show a refrigerator that held meat and eggs.
She also had recipes to share, including for Easy Pizza-Pasta Bake and Beef-Stuffed Shells.
Holly Kozelsky is a writer for the Martinsville Bulletin; contact her at 276-638-8801 ext. 243.