Five Michigan Crops to Cook With this Fall

Autumn in Michigan provides amazing produce for many of our seasonal favorite recipes. From ripe apples, pears, pumpkins and many more, it’s easy to support local growers in the Great Lakes state while enjoying some delicious and healthy food. Guest blogger Christina Carson from Awesome Mitten shares five crops to consider cooking with this fall.

With the crisp air of fall making its way back into Michigan, it’s hard not to get excited about the harvest season and all it brings. While some of the summer crops are starting to fade, the fall season offers a cornucopia of amazing local produce throughout the whole state.

A lot of folks don’t know that Michigan has the second most diverse production of fruits and vegetables in the country, beaten only by the ever-prevalent agriculture system of California. This means we have a near endless variety of amazing produce to choose from while supporting our own agricultural economy and local business owners.

Here are five fall Michigan crops that excite me the most. A few are expected favorites of everyone for the fall season, but I’m also including a few lesser-known crops that I encourage you to seek out and try.

1) Apples

Photo courtesy of Christina Carson.

Photo courtesy of Christina Carson

No article on Michigan’s fall crops would be complete without a mention of apples, of course. Michigan is the third largest producer of apples in the country, with an average of about 23 million bushels every year. This makes apples the largest fruit crop in Michigan. So no matter where you are in Michigan this fall, go ahead and find your way to an apple orchard – pick some apples, drink some cider and appreciate this amazing crop!

While an apple by itself may be a perfect snack, the options for cooking with apples are vast. Classic desserts like the apple pie and apple crisp should not be overlooked, but I challenge you to look past the pies and crisps this season. Put apples in your salads, roast them with carrots or stuff halved winter squash with sausage and apples before roasting for about an hour. You’ll know it’s done when the squash and apples are soft and the sausage is cooked.

2) Parsnips

Photo courtesy of Christina Carson.

Photo courtesy of Christina Carson

While often overlooked, parsnips might be my favorite fall vegetable. Their sweet white tubers don’t show up until the ground has been thoroughly frosted. The frost helps them convert starch to sugar and create that joyful flavor I can’t get enough of. They may not be a favorite of most, but you’ll find them in abundance at markets and stores throughout the state once the ground freezes.

Parsnips are best slow roasted, to bring out their natural sweetness. I like to chop them into cubes or fries, before tossing with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and fresh rosemary. Roast them up at 375 degrees until soft inside and browning on the outside, about an hour depending how large you’ve chopped them.

Maybe you’ll become as hooked on them as I am.

3) Winter Squash

Photo courtesy of Christina Carson.

Photo courtesy of Christina Carson

Winter squash and pumpkins are surely one of the telltale signs of fall, and there is so much more to these delights than the pumpkin spice flavor. Slow cooking winter squash  in the oven for an hour or two is a great way to cozy up to the fall weather.

The varieties of squash available in Michigan are hugely diverse, especially if you buy them from a farm that enjoys growing lots of variety. While difficult to find because the seed is expensive, fairy squash is my absolute favorite. The perfectly smooth texture and sweet taste make them great for squash desserts or silky smooth pureed squash soup.

If pumpkins are more your thing, make sure to pick up some pie pumpkins and explore making your very own pumpkin puree this fall. Far tastier than the canned puree, all you have to do is halve your pumpkins and scoop out the seeds. Then set the pumpkins cut side down on a baking sheet. I like to put a little water in the sheet pan to keep them moist. Bake at 375 degrees for about an hour. Once the pumpkin’s meat is very soft, scoop it from the skin and puree!

4) Pears

Photo courtesy of Christina Carson.

Photo courtesy of Christina Carson

While apples may be the celebrated fall fruit crop, Michigan grows some phenomenal pears as well.

While not  grown on a massive scale, many apple orchards dabble in pears. Two of my personal favorites are the round, apple-looking Asian pear and  the rough, brown-skinned bosc pear. !

Perfectly ripe pears are a great snack on their own, but they also shine served sliced with cheeses. Pears can also serve as a substitute in just about any apple recipe you can think of or, if you’re feeling adventurous, poached. I highly suggest you slice up some pears and make yourself a simple pear crisp. I guarantee you’ll love it.

5) Watermelon Radishes

Photo courtesy of Christina Carson.

Photo courtesy of Christina Carson

In my mind, these radishes are a bit of magic. They show up in markets when the ground gets cold and almost resemble turnips instead of an actual radish. Smooth white orbs don’t look like all that much while they’re sitting on a farmer’s market table, but once you cut into these radishes, I can promise you’ll be hooked. The centers reveal a stunning bright magenta center, like cutting into a particularly colorful watermelon.

Watermelon radishes have a bit of a bite to them, but nothing too powerful. I find them best suited as a stunning salad topper, or sliced into chip-like slices and served on a veggie platter with hummus or another veggie dip.

What is your favorite Michigan fall recipe?

774908_10100241229705605_1160233728_oAbout the Author: Christina Carson is a northern Michigan girl through and though – addicted to the Lake Michigan coastline, our incredible local food system, and the mitten’s homegrown musicians. I share my passion for beautiful, delicious and joyful food through my blog and photography business – Toot Sweet. Keep an eye out for my monthly Michigan recipes on Awesome Mitten and follow Toot Sweet on Facebook and Instagram.

Experience a Fall Fishing Adventure in Manistee County!

Fishing is a great way to spend time with family, friends or business acquaintances; the thrill of hearing the cry “FISH ON” provides a lifetime of memories. Whether it’s a line ripping salmon or a sky-rocketing steelhead jumping 6 feet in the air, you’re sure to catch on to the love of fishing while visiting Manistee County.

The Big Manistee River. Photo courtesy of 22North Photography, Brian Edward

The Big Manistee River. Photo courtesy of 22North Photography, Brian Edward

The Manistee River, which runs approximately 232 miles through the Northern Lower Peninsula, passes through several villages before reaching Lake Michigan at the City of Manistee. The river’s rocky bottom, fast moving cool water and vigorous currents with calm pools makes it a perfect habitat to hold and reproduce an abundance of fish. You can expect to catch steelhead as well as Chinook salmon and coho salmon on your fall fishing adventure. Steelhead (Rainbow) Trout Also known as rainbow trout, steelhead, are genetically the same as stream trout but can grow to a larger size if they live in Lake Michigan. One of the most exciting fish to catch, they can certainly be a challenge to get into the boat. Almost like acrobats of the lake, steelhead are known for high flying jumps with lots of twists and backflips. Chinook (King) Salmon Chinook Salmon are also called King Salmon or Kings. This species will make up the bulk of your catch most of the year. Chinook average from 2-20 pounds, with 6-15 pounds being the most common. No other Lake Michigan sport fish pulls like a king salmon. A king typically matures in four years, and then returns to the river where it was born and prepares to spawn. Some of the largest kings are as much as 4 year old.

Photo courtesy of the Manistee County Visitors Bureau

Photo courtesy of the Manistee County Visitors Bureau

Coho Salmon Sometimes  referred  to as silver salmon, or just cohos, Coho salmon are similar in appearance to kings, but quite different when it comes to the fight. Cohos like to roll, jump and do whatever they can to get off the hook. Their average size is smaller than kings, typically between 1-6 pounds, but they can sometimes get much larger. Coho tend to travel in schools, so where you find one, there are usually many more. Visitors to Manistee County can also book a fall fishing trip through several available charter companies, such as: Tilmann Outfitters: For river fishing, the Big Manistee is world renowned for its fresh, record setting Salmon, Steelhead and Brown Trout. Cruise down the Big Manistee with Captain Michael on either his roomy 18′ Sea Arc. We can fish the Big Manistee near the shoreline or in the deep holes for giant Salmon and Steelhead, or the near-shore coastal waters at the mouth of Lake Michigan. Also, we can simply spend some time exploring some of Manistee’s unspoiled wilderness areas and abundant wildlife along the river. River Haven Guide Service: Fall Steelhead is possibly the most exciting fishing experience on the Manistee River. These fish usually start to show up around the first week of October. Feeding on the eggs of the recent salmon run, they are very chrome in color, hungry, aggressive and put up a fight.

Photo courtesy of the Manistee County Visitors Bureau

Photo courtesy of the Manistee County Visitors Bureau

First Class Charters: Ideal for families or corporate groups, the charter is led by an experienced U.S. Coast Guard licensed captain with 25 years of experience. This charter is great for fishing Salmon, Steelhead, Brown Trout and Lake Trout. The tour is docked 10 minutes from Lake Michigan on the Manistee River Channel. Schmidt Outfitters: Schmidt Outfitters is a fly fishing outfitter that was established in 1976 in Wellston. They provide destination guide services on some of Michigan’s most famous trout, steelhead and salmon waters like the Manistee River, Bear Creek and Pine River. With professional fly fishing guides, a fully stocked fly shop, fly fishing schools, casting pond, it’s no wonder that anglers from around the world visit our waters and enjoy our services. You will, too. For more information about fishing in the Manistee area, go to www.visitmanisteecounty.com KathrynAbout the author: Growing up in Manistee, Kathryn Kenny spent her childhood fishing on the Manistee River systems and the Big Lake with her two older brothers; a family tradition that has been passed down to her daughters. Kathryn is the executive director of the Manistee County Visitors Bureau.

15 Photos to Inspire Your Next Trip to Frankenmuth

Frankenmuth is a true gem nestled in the heart of Michigan’s Great Lakes Bay region. From the quaint, German small-town feel to the abundance of things to see and do at the River Place shops, a trip to Michigan’s Little Bavaria never disappoints.

Read more on a few things to do in Frankenmuth this fall that makes for a perfect visit, courtesy of the Frankenmuth Convention and Visitors Bureau.

We just wrapped up our #SeeFrankenmuth summer photo contest and from the looks of things, we had plenty of visitors that could testify to the fact that 1-800-FUN-TOWN isn’t just our phone number. Take a look at some of our fan-submitted photos and start planning your next trip to Michigan’s Little Bavaria.

Photo Courtesy of Frankenmuth CVB

Photo Courtesy of Frankenmuth CVB

Nothing but blue skies over Zehnder’s Restaurant, one of Frankenmuth’s culinary gems since 1856. Want to try the World’s Famous Chicken Dinners for yourself? Taste the crispy goodness on your next trip!

Photo Courtesy of Frankenmuth CVB

Photo Courtesy of Frankenmuth CVB

An evening view like this can only come from the Bavarian Inn Lodge in Frankenmuth: featuring 4 indoor pools, 2 indoor water slides, 3 whirlpools, 360 unique guest rooms located on the Cass River, like this one.

Photo Courtesy of Frankenmuth CVB

Photo Courtesy of Frankenmuth CVB

The gorgeous River Place Shops in Frankenmuth are all-aglow at night. With over 40 specialty shops, boutiques and attractions, it is easy to shop well into the evening.

Photo Courtesy of Frankenmuth CVB

Photo Courtesy of Frankenmuth CVB

Cozy up under the striped parasols and fire lamps at Prost! Wine Bar and Charcuterie.  Offering a full bar, craft beer and cocktails and six wines on tap centrally located in the heart of downtown.

Photo Courtesy of Frankenmuth CVB

Photo Courtesy of Frankenmuth CVB

An incredible firework display celebrating Independence Day in Michigan’s Little Bavaria.

Photo Courtesy of Frankenmuth CVB

Photo Courtesy of Frankenmuth CVB

Two little visitors overlooking the Covered Bridge and gorgeous Cass River. Did you know that this is Michigan’s largest wooden covered bridge?

Photo Courtesy of Frankenmuth CVB

Photo Courtesy of Frankenmuth CVB

Water like glass. The Cass River is great for kayaking and paddle boarding. For rentals, visit the Frankenmuth Outfitters.

Photo Courtesy of Frankenmuth CVB

Photo Courtesy of Frankenmuth CVB

A whimsical moment captured from Frankenmuth’s Balloons Over Bavarian Inn Festival.

Photo Courtesy of Frankenmuth CVB

Photo Courtesy of Frankenmuth CVB

A picturesque moment of Frankenmuth’s Covered Bridge overlooking the Cass River at sunset. The perfect place to cast a fishing pole, enjoy a picnic or simply rest and experience the natural beauty that can only be found here.

Photo Courtesy of Frankenmuth CVB

Photo Courtesy of Frankenmuth CVB

A gorgeous sunrise illuminates the farm fields. When settlers came to the city in 1845, Frankenmuth was founded on flour, saw and woolen mills. They also produced beer, cheese and sausage. Agricultural and self-sustaining businesses were the norm. Check out the history here.

Photo Courtesy of Frankenmuth CVB

Photo Courtesy of Frankenmuth CVB

The Bavarian Inn Castle Shops are a world of enchantment! Located in the lower level of Bavarian Inn Restaurant, you’ll find seven unique shops that have something for everyone.

Photo Courtesy of Frankenmuth CVB

Photo Courtesy of Frankenmuth CVB

A nighttime view from inside Frankenmuth’s Covered Bridge, or as we say in German, the Holz Brucke.

Photo Courtesy of Frankenmuth CVB

Photo Courtesy of Frankenmuth CVB

An iconic landmark of Frankenmuth will always create a fun photo shoot.

Photo Courtesy of Frankenmuth CVB

Photo Courtesy of Frankenmuth CVB

Frankenmuth’s  Cass River reflecting the beautiful Bavarian Inn Lodge. This shot was taken from Frankenmuth’s River Walk: a charming willow-lined path that is a great biking and walking trail.

Photo Courtesy of Frankenmuth CVB

Photo Courtesy of Frankenmuth CVB

When Frankenmuth celebrates the Balloons Over Bavarian Inn Festival, you don’t have to be on Main Street to enjoy the show.

 What do you love to do in the area? Share in the comments!

Check out Frankenmuth’s website, Facebook and Twitter for more!