This time of year is one of the most exciting in terms of produce that is ready to be eaten right off the vine, tree, or plant. With summer wrapping up and fall goodies just beginning, there are so many versatile options for culinary exploration. Being that the Valley is situated in a region with four very distinct seasons, we can apply different kinds of seasonal cooking all year round. Chef Jordan James of La Cuisine Privée says that seasonal options are abundant at the moment, with many of these possibilities showcased here in his restaurant’s autumn salad PHOTO La Cuisine Privée/Facebook La Cuisine Privée is a restaurant in Ormstown that creates a menu to best reflect what goods are available. Chef Jordan James explains that “As a seasonal restaurant, we truly appreciate the Valley’s agricultural diversity, from the flat farmlands to the tail end of the Adirondack mountains.” Each menu revolves around as many local producers as possible. “We take pride in showcasing and promoting local farms on our menus, in hopes that people become more inclined to go check them out as well,” he says. The current menu features items from Stevenson’s Orchards, Domaine Herdman, Brix 66, and more. For folks who wish to cook seasonally at home, James says “Research is key! Check out what produce your local farms will be harvesting, and when, the year.” There are so many options here that once you start looking for foods to experiment with, you’ll find many others that compliment them. “There’s a bit of everything being produced in our region, from fruits, vegetables, locally raised meats, wineries ... We have many unique local sources to purchase our food; it would be a shame to not utilize that.” Something to remember with seasonal produce is that it’s just that: seasonal. “Produce will not typically be available to purchase all year round when sourced locally,” explains James. Though that can seem like a downside, it actually allows you to cook with fresher produce, and that enhances your cooking in more ways than one. “Try to adapt your habits and buy produce during their harvesting seasons. You will always get more for your money, and peace of mind knowing the food was grown in a sustainable manner while supporting your local economy,” he says. It’ll also help you make new recipes based on accessible ingredients. Right now, James highlights that “Since we are at the end-of-the-year harvest season, you can find anything from tomatoes, newly ripened apples, gourds pumpkins, and root vegetables.” What’s available now presents lots of versatile options. Lynda Vandermeet from Caravias Farm in Hemmingford reminds folks to get creative with their cooking and points out that squashes aren’t just for savoury dishes: they make incredible desserts as well. She shares that one of her favourite fall treats is the Sunshine squash. She describes it as sweeter than most and says, “It has a nice texture. It serves four to six people so it’s something that we have at Thanksgiving. It’s very nice.” Trying a new local product at Thanksgiving is one way to experience more seasonal flavours this year. Seasonal produce can be bought across the Valley from many farms, stores, and markets. For example, the Huntingdon County Farmers’ Market is open each Wednesday until October 19, and there is an abundance of local seasonal produce available there to cook with. Caravias alone offers over 30 different squash varieties that you can use in a plethora of ways. And if you feel like having the cooking done for you, La Cuisine Privée is open for dinner on Fridays and Saturdays from September 23 until October 29, and for brunch on Sundays from September 25 until October 30. It is even having a one-year anniversary party with a live jazz trio on October 1. Reservations can be made on the La Cuisine Privée website.