Grab your reusable grocery bags, small wheely cart, and a wad of cash with plenty of small bills. It’s time to go to the farmers’ market! There’s nothing quite like fresh, local produce. Every season has its own flavor. Going to your local farmers’ market is a great way to make the most of seasonal ingredients, buy organic and help out the little guy in the process. Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of your marketing. •Get there early and have a plan, but be open to new ideas. •Make a loop to get a lay of the land. •Talk to the farmers. They know their stuff and are usually more than happy to give you tips on how best to prepare the food.
Availability of some items will vary from region to region. To learn what’s in season in your region, take a trip to Field to Plate and click on your state for more information. Not sure where to go? To find a farmers’ market in your area, check out Local Harvest.
Ah, the joys of Spring! The flowers are blooming, the birds are singing and the Yankees are headed to Florida. And, it’s a great time to head out to your local farmer’s market and start enjoying some of nature’s abundance. Here are just a few of the fruits and vegetables that spring has to offer.
Asparagus – Grill it, roast it, steam it. Serve it with a drizzle of olive oil or a little lemon butter. Get creative and chop some up and toss into an omelets. Baby carrots – They might be immature, but they sure are adorable and good for you too. These are not the whittled down big carrots you buy at the grocery store; these are the real baby deal. Eat them raw or cook them and add a little dill butter.
Green garlic – They look a bit like leeks, but don’t let that fool you, this is genuine, fresh, hasn’t had a chance to dry yet garlic. They’re versatile and can add flavor to oodles of dishes. Make a pesto or a soup or plop in whole with your roast.
Fiddlehead ferns – This crazy little veggie is only available for a few weeks in spring, so be on the lookout. They’re the unfurled fronds of a small fern and look like something out of a James Cameron movie. They taste a bit like asparagus. Try them gently sautéed with garlic and butter.
Mint – Mint starts appearing in the spring and is usually available up until fall. How does some tender lamb with a nice mint chutney sound? If you’re not sure about minty food, you can always mix yourself up a Mint Julep and retire to the veranda. Oh, Magnolia!
Morels – This mushroom has built up a virtual cult following. And, if the idea of eating a little fungus among us doesn’t bother you, you’ll soon see why. Try them in a cream sauce with some Madeira, shallots and garlic.
Meal Suggestion: Try a fiddlehead and morel salad on a bed of baby greens with a little Gouda cheese. Follow with roasted chicken flavored with spring onions and sides of snow peas and grilled asparagus. Top it off with an apricot cobbler and a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Whether you’re planning a Sunday brunch, an old fashioned barbecue or a dusky dinner party, summer offers a wonderful assortment of seasonal fruits and vegetables. Your local farmers’ market will be flush with succulent berries and mouthwatering produce.
Blackberries – Blackberries are just one of the berries available in the summer months. You can find boysenberries and raspberries too. They’re delicious with a little cream, or give them a rinse and eat them right out of the carton.
Blueberries – They’re everywhere! You’ll see them on lake shores and the roadside, but none will be as tasty as those at your farmer’s market. Test a few from various vendors to find the best berry. Make some muffins or try a classic crisp.
Cherries – Sweet Bing cherries are one of the best things about summer. They’re meaty, juicy and sweet. Tart cherries have a short growing season, so be on the lookout for them. From salads to pies, cherries just make everything a little better. If you’re feeling adventurous, try your hand at Cherries Jubilee.
Corn – Nothing says summer quite like having corn stuck between your teeth. Other varieties of corn are available late into the fall, but summer corn is fresh and sweet. Grill it on the cob to enjoy it at its corniest.
Eggplant – Eggplant’s weird. It’s okay to admit it. But its weird, spongy, meaty nature is also what makes it so great. Typically at its best in July and August, eggplant is great meat substitute. Grill it for sandwiches or use it in a vegetarian Moussaka.
Melons – Casaba, Honeydew, Crenshaw… Melons are where it’s at. From cantaloupe to watermelons these delicious fruits are at their peak during the warm summer months. Use them in salads, cocktails or just slice and bite!
Shelling beans – Some people knit, some people shell beans. It’s therapeutic and the end result is a tasty bean. Bumpy, plump pods hold the best beans. Use them in soups or stews or braise for a great side dish.
Tomatoes – Branch out from the beefsteak, choose something other than cherries. There’s a world of tomatoes out there waiting for you to try them and summer’s the time. Talk to the vendors about their heirloom varieties. Heirlooms are seed variants that have passed down from generation to generation and are generally grown in very small crops. Each variety is unique and adds a new color and flavor to your cooking.
Zucchini – Zucchini and other summer squash are available all the way into early fall. Smaller is usually better and a look for a nice glossy skin. If you’re feeling daring, try a zucchini blossom (the actual flower part of a young zucchini). Stuff it with feta cheese and fry until golden brown.
Meal Suggestion: Start with a shaved zucchini salad with olive oil and parmesan cheese. Grill some chicken, eggplant and corn. And finish it all off with a big slab of peach pie.
As another summer fades into memory, autumn’s brisk mornings take center stage. The air is as crisp as a ripe Cameo apple. Baseball gives way to football and everything, including food, starts to bundle up for the cooler months ahead. The fall harvest has a little something for everyone.