Sunday, October 05, 2008
Posted by Meeta K. Wolff
Our guest writer this month is the vivacious and funny Donna Diegel from the fantastic blog Spatulas, Corkscrews & Suitcases. I am also extremely happy to announce to you that as of next month Donna will be joining the Daily Tiffin Team as a regular contributor. So, if you liked this article expect a lot more delicious and interesting posts from her in the future. Please help me welcome Donna to the Daily Tiffin.
Not that long ago our family had a stand at the local farmers' market. We had a wholesale bakery and organic gardens with 8 raised beds and a large greenhouse. The day before, in the late afternoon while my husband and son were wrapping cookies and sticky buns, I was out in the gardens picking produce. I triple washed 10 varieties of lettuce and greens, snipped 6 different herbs and hand picked 6 perfect edible flowers for each 8 ounce bag. After hours of hard work, I had 40-50 bags of organic lettuce mixes looking oh, so pretty, lined up like an army of green soldiers along the 8 foot kitchen counter. They were lovingly put to bed for the night in the big cooler in anticipation of going to the farmers' market the next morning. We always sold out, our loyal customers ordering more for the following Saturday. Writing this now, I get misty-eyed and realize I miss those farmers' market days dearly.
To a gardener or gourmet foodie, there are few things more rewarding than picking fresh veggies straight from your own garden. But what if you don't have a garden? Some of us aren't fortunate to have a piece of earth to call our own, a plot of soil to get our hands dirty in or to create a bushel of vegetables from a handful of seeds.
I no longer have my gardens. Instead, we live on a sailboat on the east coast of the USA. Gone are the raised beds, greenhouse and farmers' market. No matter how small my living space is or the harsh wind and salt water environment, I'm determined to have some living plants aboard. Right now, I'm looking at a large potted tomato plant on my aft deck loaded with Roma tomatoes and a few morning glories trailing up a pole. There's mint, lemon balm, two types of basil and a big pot of purple mums with two pumpkins on the bowsprit! But there's no way I can grow all the veggies I want on a boat. The next best option? My local Farmers' Market!
Farmers' Markets Worldwide
What part of the world do you live in? North, south, east or west - no matter where you call home, chances are there's a farmers' market right around the corner. Changing seasons yield all sorts of wild and wonderful produce, but there's no doubt about it, each part of the globe is unique!
There's a definite chill in the air now that autumn has unofficially begun in my Northeast corner of the USA. As the summer produce winds down, fall colors are beginning to pop up, not only in the foliage but at the farmers' market booths as well. Orange pumpkins, multi-colored gourds, rust colored mums and bright yellow sunflowers - it's a virtual feast for the senses! The further south and west you travel, the warmer the night air, and the farm stands are still overflowing with ripe summer produce! I'm sure you have vegetables I've never seen or heard of in your corner of the world - and visa versa!
What's In Season Now?
Heirloom tomatoes are still in abundance but you better get them soon or it will be too late. Gorgeous colors, shapes and textures, and they're mighty sweet and juicy! Use up some of those heirlooms and make a delicious Caprese Salad with some fresh basil for lunch. Or, try this Heirloom Tomato Galette with Red Onion Jam for a unique brunch idea!
Apples, Peaches and Pears Oh My!
According to Wikipedia, "There are more than 7,500 known cultivars of apples!" Your farmers' market will only have so many choices to pick from, what's local to your area and what's in season. But still, with so many choices, how in the world would you know which one is right for baking, cooking or eating? Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, Cortland or the ever popular McIntosh? Here's a handy chart to help you choose whether to make homemade apple pie, applesauce, baked apples or send one in the kids lunch boxes.
Peach supplies are starting to dwindle, but there's still some hardy varieties in the bins. Peach cobbler, peach pie and peach crisp with a scoop of your favorite ice cream or dollop of whipped cream will usher the summer out with a bang!
5000 Pear Varieties? If you thought you had a hard time choosing apples, the Wise Geek says "There are over 5000 pear varieties grown throughout the world, and England alone grows and recognizes about 100 varieties!" Bosc, Bartlett, Anjou and Asian Pears are ripe for the picking! You can make a pear galette, roasted pears, poached pears, caramel dipped pears or wrap some prosciutto around a slice of pear!
Corn, Maize, Mais, Granturco
Whatever you call it, sweet corn, butter and sugar corn or silver corn is plentiful, waiting to be grilled with a pat of butter and salt. The early corn has been picked and stalks are being cut and bound into fall decorations for your front porch. There's beautiful Indian corn to adorn your front door and popping corn for watching a favorite movie.
Squash, Squash & More Squash!
Zucchini is almost done in New England, but in its place is the most wonderful selection of winter squashes. The farm stands are loaded with acorn, banana, buttercup, butternut, delicato, hubbard, spaghetti, sweet dumplings, the bizarre looking turban squash and pumpkins of all shapes, sizes and colors. Buy them to eat, store or decorate your home with!
Kale and Kohlrabi
Have you ever seen flowering kale up close? Deep purples, pink, white and green, they're a beautiful addition to your autumn flower beds and can take temperatures down into the teens! Fancy restaurants use it as a garnish for their plates, but don't eat it! They're only ornamental!
Kohlrabi (German Turnip) has to be one of the ugliest vegetables I've ever laid eyes on! Really! This odd looking vegetable is a member of the cabbage family and kohlrabi lovers say it tastes like broccoli or brussel sprouts. But with all its funny spikes and bulbous shape, I can't help thinking it looks like a space ship from an alien world! You'll never see me eating kohlrabi, but to each his own!
I'll have to admit, I am a staunch supporter of buying local. There are many reasons why I'm so passionate about it. One of them is because I did have a farmers' market booth for years and it helped support my family. The way this economy has been lately it's so important to also support your community.
Everyone is struggling to put food on their table.
Here's a few reasons to consider:
- Eating local is better for your health (you know where it's coming from - think e coli and salmonella).
- Buying local is better for our local economy (it helps keep the money in our own back yards).
- Buying local is better for our local farmers (no explanation needed).
- So, consider shopping your local Farmers' Market! Everyone wins!
Can't find a local Farmers' Market? Try the Local Harvest website to locate one nearest you! Or Google Farmers' Market and add your own country!
Up next - Farmers' Market Alternatives:
- "What is a CSA and how can you join one?"
- "What is a Locavore?"
I'm an ex-caterer and pastry chef from Vermont that got tired of the rat race and sailed off into the sunset. That's not just a metaphor, I really did! I had my own wholesale bakery and catering business for over 15 years when I got tired and bored and said to my husband, "Let's get in the boat and sail away!" Our 4 adult children and four grandchildren were given 2 years notice that we were running away from home. I gave the inn-keeper 10 months notice to find another chef. They all thought we were nuts and would never follow through. Well, we did, and here I am, 4 years later living, cooking, baking, photographing and blogging about it all on a sailboat in RI. I do this all on a rocking, rolling boat with a 2-3 burner stove and mini oven that I affectionately call my Easy-Bake-Oven! Gone are my 30 quart mixer, 10 burner stove and my organic gardens! My plan was to eventually end up in the Bahamas sipping Pina Coladas with little umbrellas with my toes in the sand. Instead, here we are on the East coast of the USA with ice around our boat every winter. It makes for a great story though, and I wouldn't change it for anything. The location? Yeah, I would definitely go south for the winter! Read about my culinary and sailboat adventures on my blog, Spatulas, Corkscrews & Suitcases. I'm also the Baking & Desserts Feature Writer for Suite101 which keeps me on an even keel and out of trouble!
Are you interested in contributing to The Daily Tiffin? Drop us an email: firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing your ideas.
This Post was written by Donna Diegel from Spatulas, Corkscrews & Suitcases