A Stroll through the Farmer’s Market
Here in the Northern Hemisphere, summer will officially make her debut on Saturday, but Nature’s bounty is already being harvested. If your community has a farmer’s market, consider yourself lucky, indeed. Grab your canvas bag or a little red wagon, and gather up fresh, local fruits and veggies, plants, honey, and baked goods. Tables loaded with luscious, ripe produce are as much a feast for the eyes and soul as they are for the palate.
Whether or not there’s a farmer’s market in your community, we invite you to stroll along with Personal Chef Lindsay Rice through Iowa City’s downtown Farmer’s Market, sampling the wares of local farmers and other enterprising ecopreneurs. We bet your mouth will be watering before you’re finished reading. — Julia Wasson, Publisher
What to have for dinner? It’s that ever-present question that we ask ourselves night after night, meal after meal. To keep things fresh, I love to take a walk through the farmer’s market to determine my dinner. Early summer at the Iowa City downtown market provides many ingredients to build wonderful meals. Farmers are offering great abundance from their fields now, including fresh strawberries, glistening radishes, green onions, fresh-baked breads, tomatoes, cilantro, and dill.
Sometimes an obscure vegetable can be the inspirational starting point. Hmm... What can I build around garlic scapes? Can kohlrabi slices line the salad plate? How about beets tossed in lemon juice and locally made olive oil, with a drop of Iowa honey?
Farmers are often all too happy to provide instruction and insight about what to do with odd vegetables. When the farmers of Adelyn’s Organic Gardens sold me a $1 bunch of garlic scapes, they told me to cut them like green beans, avoid using the pointy ends, and sauté or fry them with soy and ginger, and meat or veggies.
Eric Menzel from Salt Fork Farm just south of Mt. Vernon, Iowa, said to cut off the tough root and fibrous leaves of kohlrabi, then cut up the bulb. “It’s crisp and sweet,” he said. “Eat it raw, make a slaw, or mash it with potatoes.”
Farmers also often have creative ways of using familiar veggies. After all, they often have great abundances on the farm and quickly get creative when facing yet another pound of broccoli or radishes on their dinner table.
The farmer from Pure Prairie Gardens, Mt. Vernon, Iowa told me to try roasting radishes: Slice or leave whole, toss with olive oil, and place in a roasting pan. Roast for 5–10 minutes, then take out of the oven, and sprinkle with sea salt. “Radishes are sweet, delicious, and retain color this way,” he told me.
Also try little cucumber sandwiches: Squirt a bit of lemon juice and a pinch of sea salt on thinly sliced cucumbers. Then pile them on cubes of toasted sunflower bread that has been lightly brushed with farmer’s market olive oil. Ineichen Tomatoes from Blue Grass, Iowa has the best burpless cucumbers I’ve tasted.
If you are short on time, the market also offers some ready-made items from local chefs and restaurants. Try incorporating Russian perogies, fried spring rolls, or fresh-veggie spring rolls as an appetizer. Cut the steps of making a sauce or dressing by purchasing Leaf Kitchen’s sesame or ginger salad dressings.
Cocina Del Mundo has great rubs and spices for the grill — like Citrus Honey Mesquite BBQ Rub and Smoked Alder Meat Rub (try them on lamp chops, beef or elk steaks you can also find at the market). They also sell packaged grain, bean, and soup mixtures that just need water and a touch of olive oil. Try exciting flavors like the Cashew Coconut Rice, and Bayou Rice and Beans packages.
Make a Mexican feast by starting with chicken, pork or vegetable tamales from La Reyna, a container of green salsa and a platter of roasted beets and radishes. Heap green lettuce leaves on a platter as an accompaniment. Or start with the tasty green leaves and pile Iowa-grown bacon from Pavelka’s Point Meats, along with sharp green onions, and juicy red or yellow tomatoes.
My personal favorite market catchall is a quiche. Roll out some dough, buy a dozen eggs from a Kalona farmer’s market stall and all the veggies that spark your fancy — plus an optional bit of meat from the market and a bunch of fresh herbs. Bake it all with that bit of cheese left in the fridge. Some of my favorite combinations include: asparagus, yellow squash, and tomato or spinach, ham, shallot, and dill.
There is no shortage of homemade desserts at the market. Cindy Cary gets up at quarter after four in the morning to bake 98 pies for the market, so you don’t have to. She has a variety of flavors: peach, cherry, red raspberry, apple, and pecan. Her small-tin pies cost $3 and are perfect for two, with a half-scoop of ice cream or yogurt.
Many vendors sell other tasty treats, like pumpkin bars, chocolate chip cookies, cupcakes and Rice Crispy treats. And if it’s a movie night, pick up a bag of Kettle Korn made in giant steaming poppers right at the market. And don’t forget to grab a delicately arranged bouquet of flowers from Barbara’s Country Flowers for your table.
Now go home and enjoy your very own feast. Summer won’t last forever.
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