Just looking through my recipe box: It's filled with my favorite recipes, shared with me by family and friends. I pass one from a friend in Texarkana, another from my cousin. I pick out one of my faves: Mexican Rhubarb Brownies. This is a scrumptious recipe that combines rhubarb, New Mexico chili powder and semi-sweet chocolate chips. The product is a moist, flavorful brownie that offers another great use for our market fresh (or frozen) rhubarb. A regular customer brought me a copy of this recipe one morning at the local farmers market where my mom and I sell.
We are always sharing yummy recipes and tasty tips at the farmers market. Do you go to a local farmers market? Well, if you do, I think you will understand what I am talking about. We sellers are usually just as interested in how to eat our fresh produce as we are in how we grow and harvest it! One of my favorite things to point out is that unless you know how to eat your produce, you are probably not going to know how best to harvest it.
Food is a constant topic at our market. Last spring, when we were bringing fresh spearmint to sell, a regular buyer, Debbie, kept coming back for more of this aromatic herb. Finally I asked her, "So, what are you using your spearmint for?" She gave me this recipe: Pretty Water. In a pitcher slice up a cucumber, lemon, grated fresh ginger and add a bunch of spearmint. Fill the pitcher with water and stick it in the fridge overnight. This instantly became a hit with me. Very refreshing.
Others might offer tips, rather than recipes. To relieve his addiction to pesto, one seller shared with me that he uses parsley in place of basil (parsley is available in spring, whereas basil is a summer herb). Very good, and it is terrific for your kidneys as well! Sellers and buyers alike have preferences and suggestions: Asparagus is great grilled. Yukon gold potatoes are delicious quartered, drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with Greek seasoning and roasted on a cookie sheet in the oven. A touch of balsamic vinegar is great added to green beans just before serving. When cooking fried okra, use seasoned fish fry instead of plain cornmeal. The entire time at the market is dotted with these quick little notes and recommendations.
Sometimes suggestions or recipes must be given to sell produce, especially unfamiliar ones. Every spring I encounter market patrons who have never seen or eaten kohlrabi. "What in the world is that thing?" Well, it is from the cabbage family, kind of cabbagey tasting, a little turnipy tasting, but mild and very crisp. It is tasty cut into sticks and eaten with dip, such as ranch dressing. It is also great in stir-fry: a little olive oil in a skillet with sliced onion, carrot and some cabbage. Also, try using it in a salad as a crispy substitute to radish. Some buyers will become intrigued and try it; maybe it will become a favorite, maybe not. A few will come back by next week with a recipe of their own using this new vegetable.
Most everyone finds adventure in trying something new. At the market there are always pocketknives ready and a saltshaker handy to try out a new tomato variety, a bizarre cucumber or something altogether different. Brownies with rhubarb? Very good. In fact, I'm getting out a package of chopped rhubarb I stuck in the freezer last spring. While savoring my moist, fudgy brownies I'm going to dream of summertime and think about the new opportunities to enjoy fresh produce and be part of a community that shares our love of food.
I'd love to hear your farmers market stories! Have you tried something new this year or found a new way to prepare one of your favorite fruits or vegetables? Need to find a farmers market near you? Local Harvest has many markets listed.