Monday, January 25, 2010

Wayland Winter Farmers' Market review

I love New England, but the dark days of winter seem so long by the end of January. A few weeks ago, I was sitting around lamenting the lack of fresh produce, considering just how crazy it would be to make a 2+ hour drive to the winter farmers' markets I'd heard about in Rhode Island or Connecticut.

Imagine my surprise when I found there's not one, but TWO winter farmers' markets in the area! How do I miss these things? Anyway, after lots of squealing and jumping for joy, I told my husband and we planned our trips. Both markets are still about 45 minutes away, but that's a little less extreme than leaving the state :)

This past Saturday, we checked out the Wayland Winter Farmers' Market. It runs Saturdays 10-1 through February 27.

It was awesome! Just what I needed!

Okay, now for a more useful review. We arrived shortly after the market opened, about 10:30. The parking lot was crowded and exceedingly slippery. We wound our way through the store to the area where farmers' market was set up. It was ridiculously crowded! I mean, stacks of people crowded around stalls, queued up to buy, blocking aisles.

I figure this is a good and bad thing. Good, because it certainly proves there's a demand, and I can hope next winter there will be more farmers' markets. Good, because I like to see the farmers' work supported and valued. Bad for me who was trying to shop with two kids and a baby in a stroller! It certainly wasn't the relaxing experience of most summer farmers' markets where you can spend a minute or two talking to vendors.

As to be expected in the winter, the market was heavier on prepared foods than produce. A lot of the prepared foods are produced locally, but not necessarily with local ingredients. That doesn't bother me, but my issue is that many of the prepared foods aren't nut-safe, so we can't get them due to nut allergies. Ah well. We got some anyway and just won't let our son eat any! We ended up with a container of maple syrup and a container of Thai Maple Peanut Sauce from The Warren Farm, a jar of delicious cranberry-lime sauce from Appalachian Naturals, and a very exciting container of Baba Ganoush from Samira's Homemade, not to mention their Ful Medammes and some pita bread. We got some gnocchi and mozzarella from Fior D'Italia and some stew beef from Springdell Farm.

I embarrassingly can't remember which farm the veggies came from...hey, as I said, I was wrangling twins, an infant, and braving huge crowds. The veggie stand was so swamped when we arrived that we passed them by at first. We stopped back as we were ready to leave at about 11:15, and the stand was less crowded but looking a little picked over. I wonder what it was like closer to 1 when the market closed! For example, I really wanted kale, and by the time we got there, there were only 3 scraggly looking bundles left. I snapped one of them up...made it into yummy soup last night :) We also got some onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and garlic. Plus just enough baby spinach and arugula to make a salad for my husband and I. At $14 a lb, we didn't buy much, but it sure was a delightful mid-winter treat and worth the splurge!

Overall, I'd give this one a positive review. I'm glad it was so crowded, even if it did make it a little bit difficult for me to maneuver through. Just go expecting the crowds...the products there were all high-quality, delicious, and worth the trip!

Next week, we're off to try the Natick Winter Farmers' Market! I'll let you know what I think.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Smitten and Spoiled

Those of you who have been following this blog since the beginning are quite aware of how smitten I am with our CSA Farm. I love everything about belonging to a CSA - farm to table food (some of which we get to pick ourselves!), the opportunity to show my young son EXACTLY where his food comes from, developing a real relationship with the farmers that in essence are present at our table every day (I could go on and on).

Yes, indeed, we become a wee bit spoiled during the traditional growing season here in Western, MA when fresh, local produce (and a large variety of it) is readily available. But, all good things must come to an end, and eventually even the storage crops begin to dwindle. I knew this was going to be a tough transition for me (and my family).

To their credit, our local Big Y is committed to supporting local farms and food producers and labels these selections accordingly, making it relatively easy to continue purchasing local staples, but it's the fresh, local produce I really missed. Enter Berkshire Organics. Once again, I am smitten. My only regret is that this business wasn't my brainchild (though I'm eternally grateful to Aleisha for conceiving and ultimately giving birth to this convenient and affordable service).

For the past couple of months, we've been the proud (and happy) recipients of the Berkshire Basket. Since Berkshire Organics is "right down the road" from my daycare provider, I've opted to pick our basket up (vs. having it delivered) and we manage to stretch our basket out over the course of two weeks (with supplements from our freezer, root cellar and I'll be honest...the grocer). I LOVE the fact that Berkshire Organics' goal is to help reduce the distance from the farm to our table (sound familiar). They work with a number of farms within a 50-mile radius as well as an organic supplier who shares their vision by purchasing produce as close to New England as possible. The produce is fantastic and the variety (and flexibility) is great too! They let you know ahead of time what's in that weeks' basket and if there's something you don't like you can email them to request a substitution from a list of items that are available.

As we move into February and each day brings us a little closer to spring, the distance our food travels will begin to diminish. Before you know it we'll once again be basking in the warmth that Holiday Brook Farm brings to so many ways.

I am extremely grateful for the local food options available to us here in the Berkshires. For those of you who try to eat locally when you can, what do YOU do during the "off season"?

Bon Appetit!

Note: New England Bloggers are celebrating their one-year anniversary this week. To celebrate, Elizabeth - host(ess) of NEB has organized a carnival of posts that relate to our wonderful region. Please stop by to see the celebratory blog posts - and don't forget to say "hi"!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Pure Comfort

The last time we "spoke", I was waxing poetic about the collection of various local squash adorning our dining room table. I've certainly come to see these delectable treats in a new light over the past couple of months - for they are one of the last remaining vegetables we have left from our CSA Farm. I've come to cherish this connection with Mother Earth and thoroughly enjoy preparing and eating each and every one.

I stumbled upon Amy Cotler's recipe for Tropical Butternut Squash Bisque in a recent edition of Rural Intelligence. I knew I had one lone butternut squash stocked away* and just happened to have a can of coconut milk in the pantry, so it all seemed meant to be...

For those of you who aren't local and may not be familiar with Amy, she's been a BIG farm to table advocate for years. She is the founding director of Berkshire Grown, which became an early model for local food and farm advocacy in my neck of the woods.

I followed the recipe exactly, except for the garnish - I was making this for my brown bag lunches, which don't lend themselves to garnishes as well as a home-cooked lunch or dinner might, but it was fabulous nonetheless! I love the way the earthy, sweet flavor of the squash melds with the tropical hint from the coconut and the mild spice of cayenne. YUM! This one's a keeper. And a BIG thank you to Amy for teaching me you don't have to wrestle with butternut squash in an attempt to peel it! Just pierce it and toss it in the oven - once it's roasted, the skin will peel right off (who knew)?

Bon Appetit!

*This particular squash was locally sourced, but was not a part of our actual CSA distribution.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Bean Soup

I was reading the winter issue of Edible Boston, and there was an article about Baer's Best, a local grower of dried beans. And even better, it mentioned they're sold at Idylwilde Farm, a place I frequently shop! So I headed out and bought myself some beans. There were plenty of varieties to chose from, and I decided on the mixed bag of Heirloom Bean Soup.

Isn't it pretty? How could I resist?

There was a recipe on the back of the bag that I used for a jumping off point. I added some ingredients based on what was in my fridge. Here's my version of the recipe:

Heirloom Bean Soup

1 lb mixed dried beans
Lots of water (see recipe)
1 Tbsp salt
1 ham hock or 1/4 lb finely diced ham
1 large onion, diced
1 or 2 15 oz cans of diced tomatoes (I used two cans, but thought it turned out a little too tomato-y, so you might just want to start with one can)
1 parsnip, peeled and sliced
3 large carrots, peeled and sliced
Juice of one lemon
Pepper to taste

Wash the beans, then place in a pot with 4 cups of water and 1 Tbsp salt. Let stand overnight.

The next day, drain the beans. Return beans to the pot and add 8 cups water. Add the diced onion and ham hock or diced ham. Simmer for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, adding more water as necessary if the water level starts getting low. Over the entire course of cooking, I added about 5 more cups of water, so you might need to add quite a bit more than the initial 8 cups.

If you used a ham hock, take the bone out of the soup, pick off any meat, and return the meat to the soup. Discard the bone.

Add remaining ingredients and simmer until carrots and parsnips are tender, about 45 minutes, adding more water if the soup is too thick for you.


The end result was outstanding! Bean soups take a lot of time, but my husband and I both love them so every once in a while, it's worth the effort. One of my kids even ate quite a bit of this soup, and since neither of them ever eat anything new, it was pretty exciting!

And I went back to the store and bought 3 more bags of beans: one bag of black beans, one bag of split peas, and of course another bag of the Heirloom Soup beans. Delightful! Plenty more soups in our future!