At the Reston Farm Market, a quaint country store in the Virginia suburbs, the aroma of hot apple cider yesterday mingled more comfortably with the smell of burning autumn leaves than it did with talk of Tuesday's presidential election.

"Restonians have always been political mavericks," said Mason Butler, a 35-year-old Reston attorney, as he stared quizzically into a tank filled with rainbow trout. "But this election just stirs it up . . . sort of like showing up to buy a Halloween pumpkin and having a choice between a shriveled-up shell and one with a hole in it."

So this Tuesday Butler says he will vote for Barry Commoner, the candidate of the Citizens Party.

Three days before the nation's general election, in a traditionally liberal community where James Earl Carter finished a dubious second to undecided in a recent Reston Times newspaper poll, residents yesterday threw diplomacy aside, voiced disgruntlement, disappointment and little positive support for either of the two major candidates.

"I'll probably vote for Barry Commoner or John Anderson. It's strictly a protest vote," said Robert Craft, a 26-year-old psychologist. "If I were to rate the candidates, I'd put Reagan slightly ahead of Carter, but both are at the bottom of the list. Carter is inept at making decisions . . .Reagan is inept at thinking, period."

The Reston Market, where customers can slake their autumn thirst before a cozy woodstove fire with everything from homemade concord grape wine to apple fizz sodas and "Iron Kola Celery Compounds," yesterday seemed to attract a plethora of voters who said they were fed up with the entire electoral process.

"I think John Anderson is the least objectionable of the three," said 37-year-old Erin Riedy. "That would send a message to the major parties. I wish we had a category called 'None of the Above.' Then, when that won, they'd have to have a new campaign. Anderson's the most intelligent. He might make a good president."

"How about the Women's Temperance Christian Union's candidate?" asked a geologist Carol Shiflett, grinning at her own malapropism. "That would make a good protest vote . . . except I'm not sure who she is." Shiflett, 31, said she is precariously leaning toward a Carter vote. "Reagan doesn't have the timber, intellectually. He's a nitwit, but so is Carter. How can you be enthusiatic about a nitwit?"

The discontent of many Restonians, voiced among rows of exotic Peruvian and Portuguese sweet breads, local sausage and bacon (nitrite-free, of course), and all-purpose remedies such as snake oil and ginseng roots, was not unanimous.

"I don't think Carter's done anything in four years. I'm going to support Ronald Reagan," said an emphatic Pat Weatherly, a 31-year-old Reston homemaker. "A big issue today is morality in government, and I think Reagan will add that. It's time for a change in foreign policy. Our eyes are on other nations too much of the time."

A pre-election release of the American hostages in Iran wouldn't necessarily boost Carter support, either. Said Weatherly: "It wouldn't make a difference for me. They've been there 362 days too long. If they do come back, then it should be made public, before the election, what we had to give up for their release."

Others said Carter policies couldn't be blamed for high unemployment and inflation, nor for the explosive Persian Gulf situation and the Iran-Iraq war. Said Rosa Taylor, a 49-year-old Reston schoolteacher: "I'm sticking with Carter. He has to be given another chance. He went through a rough time. The world situation is pretty shaky right now. I think Carter'll do it this time. Reagan belongs in the movies."

Reston Market clerk and free-lance writer Mike Fleck, 35, wants Commonner in the White House. "He's the only candidate addressing the essential issue . . . in a word: appropriate technology. The solutions to our energy problems are overbalanced in favor of oil, coal and nuclear power, instead of geothermal, solar and water power."

But Farm Market owner Hall Kern, a Carter supporter, is just waiting for the Nov. 4 outcome so that he can place a time capsule into the ground with newspaper accounts of the election results, his "satisfaction guaranteed" snake oil compound, and a few bottles of concord grape wine."

"The wine's to wash it all down. They'll need a good chaser," Kern said."