Summer heat makes me wilt quickly, but even if it is hot as blazes, this time of year is the perfect time to hit the farmers’ market. I’m one of those folks who shows up at the local market early in the season when the first pale mixed greens are coming out, and I’m one of the last to leave in winter (here in VA, we can get fresh produce almost up until Christmas).
There are always fantastic treats to be had, but late June is the beginning of the magic season. After Father’s Day, suddenly tomatoes begin bursting out all over. They are soon joined by peppers, squash and (my favorite) eggplant. Even a good grocery cannot match the flavor of the fresh treats at the farmers’ market. Since we’ve had an amazing amount of rain this year, the crops are doing really well and I’ll be having some lovely grilled veggies for the 4th.
And then there are the fruits! I love going to the berry stands. Black raspberries are my favorite, but the assortment of cherries, blackberries and blueberries always provides me with a lot of temptation. Peaches are coming into season now, too, so I feel the urge to make a peach pie coming on.
I actually have several farmers’ market cookbooks, but with such fresh produce, I find simpler recipes work best. Lightly broiled asparagus brushed with olive oil, with lemon juice and a little parsley is heavenly, and baby potatoes mashed with the small white baby turnips is a fantastic treat (if you want something a little more exotic, try flavoring this with lemon juice and a little fresh ginger).
With such a wealth of treats, I think I eat more in the summer and fall than any other time of year. One thing I love about the local market is that I’m always finding something new. My new discovery this year has been squash blossoms. One of the sellers taught me how to bread and fry these as an appetizer or snack. Not the most healthiest thing on earth, but definitely tasty. Very easy to make, too. I just use a batter of water, eggs and flour flavored with salt, cayenne pepper and a little turmeric.
Another aspect of the market that I enjoy are simply the sights. We have all kinds of produce here in Virginia that I never knew existed and wandering the market often takes on the feel of a treasure hunt. The bustle of the crowds and the fantastic sight of the stands brimming over with fresh produce of many colors makes the place simply come alive. As I am not a morning person, I am generally half-awake at best when I arrive, but I always feel more vividly alive than ever after I get there and started walking among the stands. Using the local farmers’ market is good for the environment and good for local farmers, but I also find it good for the soul.
What are some of your favorite farmers’ market treats?