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Winter veggies on parade

You may not wander down to the local farmers’ market as much these days. It’s understandable, given the cold and the fewer pickings and attendant growers. The season is known more for its greens – collards, kale, turnip and the like – but don’t forget about the cold-weather offerings of squash and root vegetables, of which there is still a steady supply, thanks.
Among those responding to recent winter-veggie polls by The Eater, the sweet potato came out as the most highly favored root crop, not surprising considering that this state is tops in the country in their production, with about18 million spuds harvested each year.
“I love sweet potatoes when the weather is chilling like this,” Carrboro Farmers’ Market manager Sara Blaklin told The Eater. “Spicy sweet potato soups are some of my favorite, especially if I’m battling a cold.”
Also in the root category, beets were a top choice, possibly a result of their increasing inclusion in non-pickled form on the menus of local eateries. Lantern’s spicy curried beets with crème fraiche and pappadum, Acme’s chilled spaghetti squash with roasted beets and some of Neal’s beet-based sides come to mind. Praises were also sung for parsnips and turnips and even celery root. But strangely, no mention of rutabagas. The Eater suggests a field trip to Crook’s for some Cheese Pork!, where the mashed ’bagas are a worthy side.
The usual subjects, acorn and butternut, were readers’ preferred winter squashes, with spaghetti squash in runner-up status. Ho-hum.
The Eater is partial to delicata, which has fallen out of favor because, as the name might imply, it’s delicate skin caused greater losses in transport than harder-skinned varieties. It’s making a comeback thanks to local growers and is well worth a try.

Squash: Up or down?

Seeking your up or down vote on how to best cook squash. Originally schooled in the technique of cooking them skin side down with a little butter in the bowl, The Eater has had a convincing case made by his very significant other for cooking them skin side up***** on a cookie sheet with a little sprinkling of kosher salt on the sheet.
The result is a caramelized rim and innards not dried out, as can happen skin side down. Oh, and there’s also a gooey mess on the pan, so use an easy-to-clean cookie sheet.
So how do you cook your winter squash? Send tips and tricks to

Oyster reminder

Extensive sampling by The Eater and friends indicates a solid supply of plump oysters. Please remember that you can’t toss out your shells anymore, as they were banned from landfills in 2009 in the interest of recycling them for oyster-bed restoration.
In addition to Squids’, which for years has offered a recycling service for the shells, the Orange County Landfill recently set up a shell recycling area. In early December, representatives of the State Division of Marine Fisheries made their first pick-up of shells from the landfill, carting off 600 bushels. They’re going right back to the state’s first-class oyster beds.
While we can all take pride in this, it’s not the season to rest on one’s laurels. The harvest keeps coming in and there’s work to be done.
Be sure to do your part.

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