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November 2000 Issue
Farmers’ Market -– It’s What’s for Dinner
by Michael Fick
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The classic FM is some form of public gathering of several, maybe even dozens of, individual farmers, each presenting their choices of currently ripe fruits, vegetables, and nuts, plus maybe their privately canned goods and fresh breads. You may even find some county-fair-type food vendors in case you gotta show your pizza-scarfing, beer-bellied buds what a man you are. Besides, an occasional cinnamon-and-Bavarian-cream funnel cake won’t hurt us if we shop at a FM often ... I hope.

Most supermarket produce department employees are well trained, and cheerfully answer our questions thoroughly, but the farmers who grew the stuff usually know it even better. They offer recipes, subtle differences among cooking and eating varieties of produce, and advice on selection, short and long term storage, and cooking and canning, all garnered from years or even generations of living, breathing, growing, and eating their own bounty. Some FM even have county extension agent and master gardener booths to answer all our gardening and landscaping questions. All we have to do is drive to a FM or genuine local produce stand and sniff, sample, squeeze, ask, buy, and eat.

So what can you do with your bounty of fruits, vegetables, nuts, breads, and jams? You’re going to disperse them among the fridge, the freezer, the basement, the pantry, a windowsill, and paper bags, according to the storage advice you got from the farmer what grew ‘em, and you’re going to eat ‘em -- raw, baked, grilled, stir-fried, nuked, jellied, roasted, toasted, stewed, and sautéed. You’re going to toss slabs of peppers, sweet onions, potatoes, etc. on the grill with your salmon, chicken, or steak. Pile five kinds of fruit on your bowl of cereal. Eat plums, peaches, nectarines, cherries (not too many of those, I hope), oranges, apples, and pears like candy, instead of candy, when you want a snack. Slice 10 kinds of vegetables and dump them in the hot stir-fry pan with a cup of stir-fry sauce as soon the shrimp or chicken is cooked, cook for another couple of minutes, and dive in. Tumble several kinds of sliced’n’diced veggies into lemon juice, some sugar to offset the lemon’s bite, herbs, olive oil, and maybe some no-fat ersatz butter and nuke it ‘til it’s hot and tender (not cooked, just tender), and crunch it down with your favorite low-fat meat. Make jam, cobbler, pies, syrups, cakes, soups, stews, salsa, shish kabob, salads, lasagna, sandwiches (ever try an inch of live beefsteak tomato ... no B, no L, just fresh live T ... between two slabs of dense bread? WOW!), soufflés (e.g., sweet potato, squash), omelets, malted milk (a pumpkin-cinnamon malt will roll up your sweet tooth like a flapping widow shade), stuffing, casseroles, glazes, sauces, wines, ...

Our local FM brings together at least 20 farms every Saturday from May through November, and it pays to get there at least once a month, sometimes weekly when some of our most fleeting favorites show up. We’ve hardly opened a can of vegetables since discovering it, and my daily bowl of cereal look like an orchard exploded in the middle of a wheat field. Chilled, slathered in fresh FM honey and drowned in icy milk, the whole two-to-three-pound heap tastes like it came from Baskin & Robbins. If this is health food, throw me in that brier patch anytime! Pass the chocolate syrup, please!

When a restaurant waitress serves my entrée and says, “Enjoy”, I reserve the right to reserve judgment until the last burp. But when the farmer’s daughter says, “Now remember to sprinkle this with cilantro ... I think Joe three tables down just picked his yesterday ... add some of Sally’s chile peppers over there – she has a great crop of poblanos this fall ... bake it at 315 degrees for 22 minutes and serve it with some of Miguel’s salsa”, I am already drooling.

The food sounds great, too. ;-)

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