Once you start growing your own food and shopping at the farmers’ market regularly, you may find you start buying more and more of your food directly from farmers. The taste really is that dramatically better and fresh vegetables have more nutrients than those shipped for thousands of miles and pumped full of chemicals and pesticides. It just becomes normal to get your food from the person who grew it (especially if you’re lucky and can grow at least a little bit of it yourself).
It’s amazing what you can buy at the farmers market in the height of the summer and early season, hundreds of kinds of vegetables, including dozens each of greens, tomato, pepper, eggplant and squash varieties, and herbs, orchard/stone fruits, berries, mushrooms, grains, milk, yogurt, butter, ice-cream, fresh and aged cheeses of traditional and new varieties, chicken, turkey, lamb, beef, pork, rabbit, sausages, fresh and smoked fish, shellfish, wine, beer, juices and hard cider, whole grains, pastas, breads and baked goods, popping corn, syrup and honey, jams and pickles, soaps, wool, plants for the garden and sill…all grown within a couple of hundred miles from New York City and much of which is organic.
Many people think, “well, that’s great in the summer, but once October, November rolls around, the market options are reduced to boring root vegetables [NOTE: there is NOTHING boring to me about root vegetables!], jars of pickles and jams, and some baked goods.” That used to be true in the early years of farmers markets and unfortunately still is around many parts of the country that haven’t seen the local/regional farming demand that New York City area has seen in the past five or more years. This burgeoning demand has fed and is being fed by innovations in sustainable farming, such as season extenders like hoop houses that let farmers grow fresh greens and other hardy vegetables well into January and beyond, new local value-added products from entrepreneurial producers, who pickle and jar more than just cucumbers, the rise of food hubs and processors that allow farmers to start freezing some of their crop at the height of freshness, and the growth in demand for local grass-fed and pastured-raised meat and dairy have added variety and nutrition to the market (and local stores that carry the farmers products) throughout most of the winter.
Still, by the middle of February well through most of March, the local pickings do get a tad slim as the last of the fall carrots, onions and beets run out or start looking somewhat worse for wear. There may be a few new wintered-over ones coming in to replace the ragged cellared versions, but for the most part, the spring vegetables have not yet begun to appear, even with the help of greenhouses and hoop houses (you do start to see greenhouse tomatoes and basil, but I am generally a summer vegetable purist and try to wait patiently for the full summer sun to do the ripening). So a committed locavore may need to get creative, or at least determined, to try to put together meals based largely on market ingredients.
Determined I was, and I managed to make quite a few meals that had at least the main ingredient and in many cases, all of the ingredients, that sourced from the farmers market during March, or that I had in my pantry/freezer using produce I previously either grew or purchased at peak season and then dried, froze or pickled for use during the dark winter months. Obviously, some ingredients generally aren’t local—lemons or limes and most citrus, olive oil, most spices, most rice, couscous or Asian noodles and such, but it’s pretty amazing what you can cook even in the darkest of dark before the spring dawn.
Here’s the list…I’ll post a photo where I have it and I’ll come back and fill in recipes in separate posts, but I wanted to get this posted before March officially ends.
MARKET COOKING IN MARCH
Beet and Kohlrabi Salad with Pea Sprouts
Lamb Kofta, Local Herbs, Sheep’s Yogurt, with Roasted Leeks and Couscous
Leg of Lamb with Garlic, Rosemary and Mint, Mashed Potatoes
Roasted Carrots, Cipollini Onions and Oyster Mushrooms
Braised Savoy Cabbage Au Gratin with Shiitake Mushrooms
Duck and Mushroom Pasta
Caesar Salad with Homemade Herb and Garlic Croutons
Daikon and Kohlrabi Cakes with Garlic Aioli
Grass-Fed New York Strip with Roasted Potatoes and Carrots