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June 1999 Issue
Fresh Foods on Parade!
by Ronda L. Halpin
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Last June, I couldn't help but include an article about all the wonderful foods you can find at your local farmers' market. This year, I'm finding myself ready to go down that road again.

Every year, I start to get anxious near the end of April. That's because the Dane County Farmers' Market always begins the last Saturday of April. You can bet I'll be there bright and early, armed with a basket, a canvas bag and -- if I'm ready to get seedlings for my garden -- a large box or little red wagon. It becomes a special ritual for me. I get up early, put on comfy tennis shoes or sandals, grab my favorite containers and make sure I have plenty of bills in my wallet. The last thing I want is to find the perfect basket of blooming annuals and not have the cash to get it.

By the time June rolls around, our farmers' market is in full swing. In addition to the seedlings, fresh bakery items and other culinary goodies, the amount and quality of veggies and fruits on the Capitol Square increases. Where a month ago there were a few tomatoes among the vendors, now there are so many varieties that it's almost mind-boggling. Cucumbers, green beans and strawberries join the salad greens, onions and mushrooms that have been out since April. Suddenly, it seems like that basket and canvas bag are shrinking!

Buying from your local farmers' market insures that you are getting fresh, high quality produce. It's also nice to support your local farmers, bakeries, and businesses. It's not unusual to find a vendor at the market that also sells his or her wares at other locations during non-market days. Walking through a farmers' market certainly can be quite a learning experience.

To get the most out of your trip, give yourself enough time to wander through the market once before making your purchases -- especially if you are unfamiliar with the current offerings. Since my local farmers' market is local in a large circle around the Wisconsin State Capitol, it's easy for me to complete one circle during which I compare quality and prices and then follow up with a second trip during which I make my purchases. Of course, I almost always start my trip with a cup of fresh coffee and a piping hot muffin that I simply couldn't resist!

I'm including five recipes that have originated from my trips to the Dane County Farmers' Market thus far this year. You can feel free to try your hand at substituting some of the items available at markets near you. If you find something fantastic, please send your findings on to me. I love trying new variations on the recipes I've used. In the meantime, enjoy these fresh foods on parade:

For more farmers' market recipes, check out last year's Farmers' Market Finds.
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