Monday, June 27, 2011

Been to the Farmer's Market, now what? Part 1

I used to be a little intimidated by a visit to the farmer's market. What should I buy? How will I know what to cook? I even went armed a few times with a shopping list trying to find things things that I could fit into pre-selected recipes.  FAIL.  When I couldn't find what was on the list, I would end up frustrated at the supermarket.

But I soon learned that by taking this approach I was missing out on the beauty of local, seasonal vegetable shopping.  I had to learn to yield to the farmer's market and work with the peak vegetables, not the other way around.  This way, a whole new world of vegetables opened up to me.

I started looking for new things that I hadn't tried and things that I thought I didn't like.  Green beans?  Ew, this is the girl who only likes them cooked to death and covered in thick mushroom cream sauce and topped with fried onions.  

When I found something that looked new and interesting to me, I started asking questions of the farmers.  How do you prepare them?  This is how I learned that I love fresh crowder peas! 

May I have a taste?  The farmers are always more than happy to let you know exactly what to do with their prized vegetables and will always offer up a sample.  Now, I'm becoming quite familiar with my favorite vendors and they are always quite generous with repeat customers, quick to break up a punnet if I want less of a particular item, or to tuck an extra tomato or two into my parcel.

Here is a look at my haul from last Tuesday...

We have Georgia peaches, hydroponically grown organic red bibb and romaine lettuces, crowder peas, baby summer squash, zucchini, a variety of spinach called poye from the Pakistani ladies who sell all sorts of exotic veggies and love to tell you how they cook them, blueberries, red tomatoes and purple and yellow Russian heirloom tomatoes, Blue Lake green beans and local honey from bees that pollinate the farmer's sweet corn.  All the produce cost under $25, the honey cost $7.

Look how lovely and golden it is.  The flavor is much more delicate than darker honeys but less sweet, more earthy.  Have you ever  eaten a bit of raw sweet corn off the ear? That's the earthy sweetness I'm talking about.  Since cutting way back on processed sugar, this honey will come in handy when I want a little sweetness, like a little drizzle on top of homemade yogurt. 

I was down to  my last $3 but wanted these blueberries.  The farmer was asking $5 but I said I only had $3.  He gave me a bagful at a special price!  Some I ate out of hand and some went into the flax minute breakfast muffins.

Georgia peaches need no explanation.  They are so good just eaten out of hand.  They are also amazing in the Jamie Oliver Peach and Mozzarella salad that I had made with my last batch of peaches.

Here's a closeup of the Russian heirloom tomatoes.  I got there late and the farmer only had a few left.  I paid for the purple ones and he added his last two yellow ones as a bonus.

Vine ripened heirloom tomatoes don't need anything other than slicing and eating.  But I made a whole lunch out of them.  Some boiled eggs and some basil drizzled with balsamic vinegar and a bit of spicy extra virgin olive oil drizzled over everything.  This weekday lunch was something out of the ordinary.  The tomatoes were juicy and sweet and bursting with rich, tomato flavor.  I hope he has more tomorrow!

Watch this space for part 2 to see what I did with the other goodies from my haul!

What is in season at your local farmer's market right now?

See this post at Real Food Wednesday!


  1. We're so far north that we're still seeing the tail end of asparagus and the strawberries have just made their first appearance. Additionally, last week we bought: braising mix (a mix of baby kale, chard, arugula, etc), green leaf lettuce, cilantro, radishes and garlic scapes.

  2. Asparagus is done, now it's stone fruit, eggplant, corn strawberries, all kinds of greens, potatoes, fava and sweet peas. Bitter melon (I'll skip that one, thanks). My market is huge and the vendors come from all over CA, so it's a big selection. For a while I was buying the strange vegetable of the week, but it's often kind of tough for me to know what to do with this stuff. The language barriers tend to be high enough that I'm lucky if I can get an English name, let alone how to cook. I've bought tiny fuzzy Indian bean pods, okra or jute leaves (language), sweet potato leaves, odd roots. Fun stuff, and I get to try new veggies, and sleuth them out.

  3. I frequent the farmer's markets as well and you have some great recipes, thank you for sharing them.

    We do some gluten free buying and I am looking forward to also trying the bread witht the coconut products you spoke about.