It’s that time again: the glorious season of the farmer’s markets where I wake up on a Saturday morning, ride my bike down to the Center School parking lot and peruse the piles of garden fresh gems. It is the season of standing barefoot in the kitchen, creating something with fresh ingredients: garlic scapes sautéed in olive oil, garden greens, plump tomatoes, and loaves of bread, crusty on the outside and chewy on the inside. One can find locally produced meats, cheese, milk, honey, salsa, baked goods and much more, including handmade clothing, soaps and crafts. What is not to love about the farmer’s market? The Litchfield Farmer’s Market, which opened last Saturday, contains a wide array of vendors and I hear they have expanded this year. I am fond of visiting other farmer’s market as well. This past weekend I visited the Dorset Farmer’s Market in Vermont and was amazed at the many different vendors. There were farm produce stands with an abundance of goodies, but there were also vendors where you could buy homemade foods freshly prepared to-go (like empanadas or gluten-free japanese noodles), sustainably manufactured wooden tables and utensils (I purchased a beautiful apple-wood spoon), hand-made clothing, delicious smelling soaps with fun names by the Filthy Farmgirl company, and other artisanal crafts. I spent at least an hour walking around and taking it all in. It’s fun to see the differences in the farmer’s markets in other towns and states.
Besides the abundance of fresh foods, I love the farmer’s markets for two reasons: 1. I like to support the farmers and small businesses and 2. it makes me feel connected to the past. By buying local, I help the families and small farmers, and our fragile environment because my food doesn’t have to travel across the ocean and use fuel to get here when I buy local. The farmers love talking about what they do too, and your almost guaranteed to engage in a wonderfully enlightening conversation with them by asking just one question.
My second reason, feeling connected to the past, stems from the fact that buying local, or growing your own food, was the way of life for our ancestors. Just looking back to when my grandma was a child, there was always fresh milk delivered to the doorstep in glass bottles, eggs from the chickens in the yard, homemade breads, jams and baked goods and of course garden vegetables. If you didn’t grow or produce all of your own foods, there was always the neighbors who were willing to share their stock. Past generations truly knew what it was to be “green,” and nobody had to tell them. When you were done with the milk bottle, you put it outside and it got picked up, cleaned, and reused.
I am thoroughly excited for another season at the Litchfield Farmer’s Market, as well as exploring other area markets this summer…I never know what treasures I will happen upon!
Check out these farmers market inspired reads:
Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating From America’s Farmers’ Markets by Deborah Madison is just the book to get you cooking in the kitchen when you get home with your tote bags brimming with goodies. There are many fabulous recipes, like braised root vegetables with black lentils and red wine sauce or the “big tomato sandwich,” and she even provides some full menu ideas for the seasons. The author has visited thousands of markets throughout the U.S. and parts of the world, and they played a part in her creation of this book.
Recipes from the Root Cellar: 270 Fresh Ways to Enjoy Winter Vegetables by Andrea Chesman: Okay, so the last thing we want to be thinking about is winter (at least I don’t want to be) but this is still a great book to browse through for some ideas when the butternut squash, beets, and potatoes start showing up at the market later in the season. The book is neatly organized into different types of dishes. From soups and salads to vegetarian entrees and meats, you will find something to your liking.
Hay Day Country Market Cookbook by Kim Rizk: Hay Day started as a country farm stand in Westport, Connecticut and then grew to a series of stores. This book has a ton of great recipes from breads to main and side dishes and contains some fun facts about foods mixed in. I love their Peasant Bread and Whole Meal Bread which I’ve made a few times.
Farm to Fork: Cooking Local, Cooking Fresh by Emeril Lagasse is one of my favorites. His recipes are flavorful and generally easy to put together. I love how the book is organized into food groups sections, like the nightshades, cool crops, and roots, shoots, tubers, and bulbs. Lagasse strives to use local ingredients in his restauraunts too. In his intro, Lagasse says it best when he writes: “The way I see it, it’s returning to a way of life that used to be taken for granted. We can have more to say about what we eat.”
Cooking From the Farmers Market by Jodi Liano has recipes for each ingredient you might pick up at the market. For example, if you come home with sugar snap peas and have no clue what to do with them, there are at least three to four recipes on how to prepare them. The gorgeous photographs will have your stomach growling.
Waiting for Rain: One farmer’s struggle to hold on to a vanishing American dream by Dan Butterworth is a poignant look at the struggles of being a farmer in a land where it is a dying way of life, and the fight to just survive as a farm becomes harder each day. Perhaps if we all spent the day on a farm, and saw that the work is never done, we would pay that extra dollar or two for farm fresh.
Harvest: A Year in the Life of an Organic Farm is a fascinating look at the daily life of one family on their small farm in Vermont. The family grows enough of their own produce to feed themselves, and to sell at markets. They also have their own meat, eggs, fruit and honey. We get a true in-depth look at life on this small farm, the struggles and joyful moments, with exquisite photos to match.
The Backyard Homestead: Guide to Raising Farm Animals is the perfect companion if you are considering getting some guests for your backyard. The book covers everything from breeding to (gulp) slaughter.
Get out and around this summer and see what you can find to cook up at home from your local farmer’s market!
Sarai is the Publicity Coordinator/Library Assistant who is loving her handmade spoon ring which she purchased at the Dorset Farmers Market.