Saturday, January 14, 2012

Winter Farmers Markets

Most people think of farmers markets as a summer and fall thing, but local markets can be just as vibrant in the middle of winter. Just check out this picture if you want proof!

This morning, Jeff and I went over to the special winter farmers market hosted by Slow Foods Central Jersey at the education center for the D&R Greenway Trust. It was a beautiful venue for a very lively market. We filled our market basket with local barbecue sauce, shiitake mushrooms, winter root veggies and kale from North Slope Farms, Terhune Orchards apple cider (my all-time favorite - our fridge is never without it!), sausage from Beech Tree Farm, Cherry Grove Farms Havilah cheese, and a fresh loaf of bacon bread from Lawrenceville's Village Bakery. We got to meet some new vendors, sample flavorful local foods and pick up some of our old favorites.

Afterward, we headed over to Terhune Orchards' farm store for some fresh eggs, which we had neglected pick up at the market. We also snagged a large rutabaga and some cut-up blue hubbard squash. I've been wanting to try hubbard squash for some time, but have been wary of picking up one of the behemoths I've seen at the market. The lady in the farm store said that's exactly why they cut it up - to give customers a chance to try it in smaller amounts. I appreciated the gesture - it worked out perfectly for me! We also scored some free (still warm!) cider doughnuts because we brought our own bag.

Finally, we stopped by our usual haunt, the Trenton Farmers Market. I feel lucky to live right by a market that is open year-round. While the selection has wound down a bit in some areas, it has picked up in others. In addition to the expected onions and potatoes, many vendors have small pots of winter lettuce that can be kept indoors and nibbled at for several weeks. I passed on that (I tend to kill lettuce rather quickly), but picked up some onions and pumpkin ravioli from the Italian specialty store.

We got home around lunchtime and made scrambled egg sandwiches on thick slices of toasted bacon bread with Havilah cheese. Mine had some local shallots and dried dill from our garden; Jeff's had sauteed shallots and shiitake mushrooms with dried thyme, also from our garden. Eating local never tasted so delicious!

My point is that the winter farmers market (whether a special weekend market or year-round market or farm store) are chock full of local food options. The ground may be icy and the garden bare, but local farmers still have plenty to offer. So what are you waiting for? Go check it out!

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