Farmers Market is in season
I liked going to our West Shore Farmers Market near Camp Hill (go CV!) when I was a kid. Of course, at that time penny candy was the big draw and I didn’t think about vegetables. Even though I love them, I admit when I was raising babies and toddlers, I would try to get by on once-a-month mega-hauls from the big box store to stalk up on frozen veggies.
Once you’ve bought produce at an open-air market it’s hard to face the supermarket, and unbelievably, even though I’m not in the military, I found where the weapons and chemicals of mass destruction are! They’re in processed foods.
Market day is a tradition going back centuries, and the Friends of the Lititz Farmers Market has been reviving this tradition locally.
Nicole Eisenbach was the first volunteer five years ago.
“We’re looking to have more volunteers,” she said. “We promote the market, help to organize the special days for market like Dog Day, Ice Cream Days. I organize Kids’ Day. I really think there’s a place for kids at market.”
So I’ve been trying to go back to my roots. I don’t mean as far back as gnawing on a bone and passing it to the next, I mean pre-1960s before I was born, when going “to market” was nearly a daily ritual and needed to prepare fresh meals. Throwing a block of spinach into my cart (and I live on a farm!) was a disconnect from this, the soil, preparing and savoring.
There should be a rhythm to eating, a natural anticipation of something we know we will soon lose. Canning mass produce of food has conditioned us to expect all foods year-round. Seasonality is about adapting our eating to what is available at market for a short time, and it shouldn’t be taken for granted.
“I bought asparagus because it’s so beautiful and I was drooling over it,” said Eisenbach. I’m so excited for it to be in season. I also like to support the local economy, too, and teach my kids to do the same.”
It makes sense, like, there were no strawberries at the first Thanksgiving. Duh!
“Strawberries are coming in soon, but right now we have the pots,” said Jim Kroeck, market vendor and farmer at Springleaf Farm. “If you hang it on your porch, you can’t invite the entire neighborhood over for strawberry shortcake. You can put them in your cereal, stick them in your strawberry pancakes, that kind of stuff, and it will supply you all summer long.”
One place where you can pick enough of your own strawberries for shortcake is at Creek Side Farm Market in Manheim. Kelly Morris and Kenny McFadden work at the farm and sell the produce at market. They love their jobs.
“I pull into the driveway every day and say, welcome to the office,” said Morris. “It’s pretty awesome. Even on rainy days, we may get stuck in the mud, not exactly ideal but still fun at the same time.”
You should be getting the impression that shopping at market is also a social occasion. Neighbors, friends, strangers compare notes, recipes and get to know the farmers and vendors. They learn to trust and come back the next week with questions and reports.
Handcrafted quality in cooking by making it ourselves is satisfying and rewarding. The way I cook now doesn’t take a lot of time. In the time it would take to make a box meal, I can come up with something that is fresh, healthy, easy and with few ingredients.
I make a strawberry-champagne jam every year. We eat it all up, but it makes an impressive anniversary gift or wedding add-on token when it’s canned. I usually use it for strawberry shortcake instead of plain strawberries. I make two circular white cakes and layer it with the jam (I make it more runny like a sauce for shortcake) and whipped cream. Just make sure your cake platter’s edges turn up because it will ooze outside the cake, which is what you want!
This time of year I also make marinated asparagus, excellent either chilled or warm. Snap off the ends of the asparagus, not chop. If you hold the asparagus at both ends, “slinky” it for a moment and the asparagus will “tell” you where to snap off at the widest end. The marinade seeps into the asparagus and is heavenly. Since my parents were from the Depression Era, I’ve learned not to be hasty-with-the-wasty. An inch of string? Use it. So for the tips of the asparagus, I puree them with my ninja chopper and add to macaroni and cheese. It’s up to you whether you want to tell anyone.
The market is open from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturdays and is at the parking lot on North Water Street, a half block from East Main Street.
To volunteer with Friends of Lititz Farmers Market, contact Jay at 625-2668, email firstname.lastname@example.org or stop by the information table staffed by volunteers located at the market entrance.
Next time I might bring my dog, Digory. He’s an 8-year-old English Setter. Please have mercy on us, we rescued him and he’s kinda hyper and misbehavin’, but we just give him love and put dog training on the back burner. He’s an alpha dog, so it will be interesting!
Chilled or Warm
2 bunches fresh asparagus, ends snapped off
1 ½ cups balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing (about a bottle)
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (grate the outside of an unpeeled lemon)
¼ cup chopped parsley
Put asparagus in a large frying pan with the dressing and boil/sear just until tender, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and transfer to a 9×13 dish. Cover and refrigerate overnight, mixing occasionally.
Just before serving, arrange asparagus on a platter, uniformed. Spoon marinade on top, going down only the middle. Sprinkle with parsley and lemon zest down the middle of the platter.
All these ingredients can be purchased at market, except for the dressing. It’s a classy side dish to take to picnics and something different from macaroni salad. I usually make my own dressing, but in a pinch I like the Nature’s Promise line at Giant. Even though it’s organic, it’s much less expensive than the other brands and all of the dressings are good in the line. It’s in the regular dressing aisle. Okay, go into a supermarket aisle just for this, coffee, and a few other things. Use the leftover marinade for a salad. No waste!
6 cups fresh strawberries
6 cups sugar (or to taste, I like light brown sugar)
2 (1.75 ounce) packages dry, unsweetened pectin
1 ½ cups champagne
Throw all in a large frying pan and mix. Bring to boil and immediately simmer on low. Stir occasionally. A long simmer will produce a jam. A short simmer will give a sauce. I slice the berries in half, but some not at all, or you can dice the berries. I have used Chardonnay as a substitute for champagne or whatever is at hand.
Michele Walter Fry is a freelance feature writer and photographer for the Record Express. She welcomes your comments at email@example.com.