There are many reasons to love a farmers' market. Perhaps you've got your own. This past weekend's gathering of the Easton Farmers' Market was especially cool. I can always count on serendipity there. However, two small, remarkable things happened that inspired me to take a step back and express some gratitude for what these farmers and food purveyors bring forth Saturday after Saturday, through one of the harshest winters in recent memory. And this was so after-the-fact, that I don't have many photos. 1. As much as I know about food, I am still learning. This is one of the most rewarding, and humbling, things about working with food and writing about it. It has so much to teach us. Since the market moved indoors in early winter, I have bought at least two different kinds of produce I'd never seen before. One of them is called a bottle onion, grown by Josie Porter Farm. It looks like an elongated shallot; it's like a cross between a shallot and a standard yellow cooking onion (Several days after I bought this, I noticed Nigella Lawson calling them "banana shallots," on her Nigelissima program) I've been roasting them with veggies because they become especially sweet that way. They're also great minced finely and tossed into a vinaigrette.
The other item is something called claytonia, a.k.a. miner's lettuce, grown by Jett's Produce. This little green beauty grows in the cold of winter and the miners used to take it down with them into them mines to prevent scurvy, because it's rich in Vitamin C.
2. Related to number one: Thank you to Blue Moon Acres for connecting with Eat This! to supply us with some microgreens, including arugula and sunflower microgreens--a first for me. With the absence of Blooming Glen Farm, which took a hiatus this winter and had supplied us with microgreens and pea shoots last winter, this has provided a nutritional windfall to smoothies and alongside eggs.
3. We stocked up on apples from Scholl Orchards because it was the last week for them after a remarkable season from this Bethlehem farm. The Scholl Brothers Ben and Jake are so affable and great with my kids in general, but this week they thanked us for being such good market customers and just gave us a quart of apple cider, along with a couple of small cups, so we could sit and drink it right there (because with kids, you cannot wait.) Supermarkets don't do that, people. Nor do they make such amazing cider. And oh! Have you had their applesauce?
4. Stephanie Smith at 4th Street Foodworks filled up the pockets of my boys with organic kettle corn, who regularly make a Hansel-and-Gretel trail of popcorn mess leading from their table. If you have never tried their popcorn, you gotta do it. Vegan. Coconut oil. Gluten-free. Organic corn. And varieties that include chocolate, kale (yes, you read correctly!) and a spicy one I've seen now and then, too.
5. Two weeks ago I purchased something new, a honey corn loaf, from the Flour Shop Bakery, and Josh said to me, "Let me know how you like it." I came back and shared my experience--it was gone in 24 hours. And then bought another one.
It behooves a vendor to know what his or her customers enjoy, and what doesn't work. Feedback is king, and this old-school display of customer service-driven commerce is just one of many components of a successful farmers' market.
What about you? Inquiring minds wanna know. Why do you love farmers' markets? If you shop at the Easton Market, you know what I'm talking about here. If not, please share where you shop, and why you love it.