2012 Farmers Markets
Posted 03 April 2012 - 11:34 AM
Two regular farmers' market stalwarts, Dave Garretson of Beechwood Orchards, and Ben Wenk of Three Springs Fruit Farm, both indicated that while frosts after blossoming caused some damage to their groves of apple, pear and cherry trees, the losses will be noticeable but not devastating. I spoke with them Sunday at the Philadelphia Farm & Food Fest at the convention center, co-sponsored by Fair Food and the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture.
Wenk has already harvested a little asparagus for his family's use, but expects to cut a lot more beginning this week. It's conceivable, he said, that it will be all gone by the time the Headhouse Square farmers' market opens May 6. If the season extends by a week or so, he will still have asparagus available then.
Tom Culton, also at the festival, said he does expect to still have asparagus when Headhouse opens.
If you're hankering for local asparagus now -- the supermarkets are full of thin stalks from Mexico -- maybe a trip Saturday to either the Clark Park or Fitler Square year-round markets will be in order.
And unless the weather intervenes, you can expect to see strawberries in early May.
Garretson said he's altering the Philadelphia farmers' markets he'll be attending this season. He's leaving the Tuesday market at South & Passyunk sponsored by Farm to City, but joining the Thursday afternoon Food Trust market at Fairmount and 22nd Street, where he takes over from Orchard Hill Farm of Bloomsburg. Beechwood will continue to sell at University Square on Wednesdays, Rittenhouse Square on Saturdays, and Swarthmore on Saturdays.
Posted 06 May 2012 - 12:51 PM
The market at Fairmount and 22nd Street opened Thursday with four vendors: Livengood Family Produce, Wild Flour Bakery, Sunnyside Goat Dairy, and Countryside Bakery and Farm.
A total of 33 producers and growers attended today's opening of the city's largest farmers' market at Headhouse Square. (You can find the full list of vendors at the Food Trust Headhouse Farmers Market web site.)
Farm to City, the region's other major sponsor of farmers markets, opened some of its seasonal venues last week, too: the Tuesday version of Rittenhhouse, the Wednesday University Square market at 36th and Walnut, and the Saturday Bryn Mawr market. More of its markets will open next week, including the Tuesday afternoon South & Passyunk market on May 15.
You can also find a full list of The Food Trust's 2012 Philadelphia markets here and its suburban markets here. Farm to City's schedule can be found here.
The new vendors this season at Headhouse include Cranberry Creek Farm from the Poconos for goat cheese and vegetables; Green Aisle Grocery, the East Passyunk Avenue retailer which is selling preserves and nut butters at the market; Lucky Old Souls, a burger truck; and Spring Hill Farm, which sells maple syrup from its trees north of Scranton.
Another new vendor is Tandi's Naturals, operated by Tandi and John Peter, selling local soaps and related products. That's not a new product line for farmers' markets, but Tandi's main selling point is the local angle. Many of the artisan soaps sold at farmers markets, while made by local artisans, are manufactured from components brought cross-country or even from the other side of the world: coconut oil, palm oil and olive oil). Instead, Tandi uses beef tallow from Dwayne Livengood's organically-raised cattle and rendered in the same manner by John. Tandi will be glad to explain why beef tallow is a superior base for soaps than the vegetable oils. If you stop by you might recognize John: he used to help out Dwayne and his father Earl at their family farm, as well as at local farmers' markets, but now works for a Lancaster County flower grower when he isn't doing the heavy lifting for Tandi. They also sell the products at the Saturday Rittenhouse Square market.
A few regulars from past seasons were among the missing. Beechwood Orchards skipped this week, but should start attending within a couple of weeks. North Star Orchards usually doesn't take space until the apple and pear harvest begins, usually in late July or early August. Young's Garden, which sold both cut flowers and plants for backyard gardens and provided one of the anchors at the Lombard Street entry, won't be coming back.
A.T. Buzby, as usual, was the first vendor with strawberries at Headhouse. I didn't catch the price, but they were gone by shortly after 12 noon. Countryside had them at $2.50 a half-pint at Fairmount Thursday, and Benuel Kauffman was selling local berries at the Reading Terminal Market Saturday for $4.95 a pint, iirc.
The warm weather this spring advanced the appearance of both asparagus and strawberries, but local produce is largely limited to what you'd expect: early greens and onions, radishes, etc. Tom Culton had over-wintered leeks as well as cardoons, an Italian relative of the artichoke (even though it looks like celery) that needs to be cooked to be enjoyed. Blooming Glen had a nice selection of early lettuces, spring onions, radishes and greens. Over at Queen Farm, in addition to the usualy selection of mushrooms and selected Asian greens, I scored some lilacs, the flowers providing SWMBO's favorite spring fragrance.
I enjoyed my usual lox on a bially breakfast at home, so I had no room for the burgers from Lucky Old Souls food truck, but the smell of those oniony patties was quite alluring. Next time!
My purchases this week were fairly limited, owing to some invitations to dine out with others this weekend. But Thursday I picked up asparagus and baby endive from Livengood's and a goat cheese Swiss from Sunnyside (as well as strawberries from Countryside). The asparagus joined the morels I obtained in Wisconsin to accompany a crustless quiche made with Sunnyside's cheese: with a simply-dressed salad from the endive it all made a perfect early spring supper.
Posted 08 May 2012 - 05:29 PM
On another note, do you know what happened to Pam and Russell, the flower people who used to set up in the front? They disappeared towards the end of last season and weren't there this Sunday. After being booted from RTM, I know they've had a tough time. I hope all is well with them.
Posted 08 May 2012 - 06:11 PM
Posted 12 May 2012 - 01:24 PM
They're the ultimate spring pairing: sweet strawberries and tart rhubarb. Dave Garretson of Beechwood Orchards had them Thursday at the Fairmount Farmers Market across 22nd street from Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site.
Expect to see more of his produce (including tomato plants for your patio garden) at Rittenhouse Square Saturday and Headhouse Square Sunday. Beechwood Orchards will be skipping the Tuesday market at Passyunk and South this season.
Posted 20 May 2012 - 12:56 PM
Zucchinis made their first appearance of the season at both Culton Organics and Buzby. Tom Culton sold out early, but at 1 p.m. Buzby still had some at $1.50/pound.
Culton had tons of long, beautiful asparagus ($7.50/pound, iirc), lots of radishes (as did just about every other vegetable farmer), some broccoli, tiny beets with pristine greens ($3/bunch: buy them for the greens, not the beets), and snow peas at $5/quart. The star of Culton's offerings, as far as I was concerned, were the tiny shelled peas, $5 for a half pint. I tasted a few raw and they were as sweet as could be.
Lettuces and other salad greens filled farmers' tables, too. I picked up some head lettuce at Blooming Glen and perfect looking endive at Weaver's Way.
Traffic at the market seemed quite variable. More than one vendor told me that they'd go from being slammed with long lines at one moment, to no one five minutes later, only to be slammed in another five minutes.
The two orchardists at the market, Dave Garretson of Beechwood, and Ben Wenk of Three Springs Fruit Farm, said sweet cheeries are only about two weeks away, with sour pie cherries a week or so behind that
Posted 21 May 2012 - 01:39 PM
I got to Headhouse market late on Sunday and a lot of stuff was gone. I did get an awesome breakfast sandwich from the Lucky Old Souls truck that was fantastic though. Two fried eggs, jalapeno cheddar cheese, house made ketchup and fresh sliced Jersey tomatoes on an excellent bun. Sat in the sun at the fountain and enjoyed it immensely.
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol
Posted 02 July 2012 - 01:02 PM
Corn is coming into its own, though prices can vary widely. (Over at the Reading Terminal Market Ben Kauffman was selling his Lancaster County ears for 75 cents apiece, but Iovine's has Bucks County corn for less than half that price: three ears for a buck.)
Tomatoes are also starting to taste real. Blooming Glen, one of the Headhouse vegetable stalwarts, had field tomatoes for $3/pound, and a few heirloom varieties for $4.
Those cheap frying peppers I found at Iovine Brother's Produce over the last few weeks have gone up in price to $1.49/pound; they were 99 cents. But we're starting to see bell peppers at the farmers' markets: Tom Culton had green peppers yesterday, and Weaver's Way purples.
I've making my third batch of kosher pickles of the season right now, using Mark Bittman's recipe which is nothing but cucumbers, salt, garlic and coriander seeds (you could use fresh or dried dill if you prefer). I wasn't going to make the third batch, but Tom Culton's gherkins just looked too good to pass up. Although at $5 for a box with a net weight of one pound, six ounces they were priced considerably more than full sized kirby cukes, I think they'll make great crisp pickles. Culton, who is into all things French these days (just take a look at his new sign, here) calls them cornichons.
Among the other interesting veggies Culton had this week were chickpeas in the shell ($7 a box) and good looking red and golden beets, sans leaves.
Here are some pix from yesterday's Headhouse Square visit:
Summer squashes and eggplant at A.T. Buzby, Headhouse
Beets from Culton Organics
Plums and apricots frrom Beechwood Orchards
Gherkins from Culton
Posted 02 July 2012 - 01:05 PM
Yesterday he was the only vendor I spied with cherries -- none were visible at Three Springs Fruit Farm, the other usual stall carrying them and where I picked up a quart of Montmorencey pie cherries last week. Garretson had both sweet and sour cherries today. The red and rose sweets were selling for $4/pint or $7.50/quart.
I took advantage of the sour cherry season while I could, since they tend to be here for only a few weeks: three quarts of sorbet, a couple cobblers, and a tart. Time to move on to blueberries and blackberries. (The raspberries look good, but too pricey for anything but a garnish or mixed with yogurt when they're $4.50 for a half pint.)
The last few weeks fruit vendors have been featuring a number of different gooseberries and their close relations. Last week Beechwood had Jostaberries, a triple cross of North American coastal black gooseberries, European gooseberry, and black currant. Best in cooked applications or jams and preserves.
Other varieties of stone fruit are supplanting cherries now: peaches, plums and apricots. The peaches I picked up Saturday at Fair Food (from Beechwood) had good flavor, though just a tad watery. I expect they'll intensify with the weather we've had lately.
Although they don't usually show up for another week or so, since every other crop is advanced this season, why should apples be different? Beechwood had Lodis (best for sauce and cooking rather than eating out-of-hand) for $2/pound today.
North Star Orchards, which specializes in apples and pears, usually doesn't start selling at Headhouse until August. Maybe if their crops are as early as everything else seems to be this season, we'll see them back in a few weeks.
Posted 09 July 2012 - 02:59 PM
Still, they were rather pricey considering that once shelled they produced only half a cup of legumes.
They were extraordinarily good. I cooked them simply: a two or three minute douse in gently boiling water, followed by a quick sauté in olive oil, garlic and a couple twists of black pepper.
But considering the cost, yield, and nearly 40 minutes spent shelling the peas, it's a pricey delicacy I'll probably pass on in the future.
In the process of shelling the chickpeas, about 10 percent turned out to be black. I cooked both the black peas and the greener ones together, and both tasted fine.
Tom says he has a lot of black chickpeas growing, but doesn't have the time to harvest the crop. Instead, he'll dry them on the vines, then bring the harvest to a local mill to turn into flour later this season.
Posted 09 July 2012 - 03:16 PM
Sunday at the Headhouse Square market Three Springs Fruit Farm and Beechwood Orchards presented both white and yellow peaches, and rosy, appetizing apricots. Beechwood also had some nectarines, which Ben Wenk of Three Springs plans to harvest this week. Blueberries, raspberries and blackberries also filled farmers' tables.
Definitely time for some cobblers!
Last week, with tomatoes now tasting real, I made some gazpacho to bring to our Fourth of July block party. I got my recipe from behind the pay wall at Cooks Illustrated, but there are similar recipes you can find on-line. What made this version striking was that it was creamy -- without the addition of any cream. That's accomplished by whizzing about two thirds of the tomatoes (along with green pepper, cucumber, red onion, garlic and crust-less white bread) in a blender, then dribbling in olive oil to emulsify the soup. This makes all the other versions I've tried look like watery salsa.
Posted 27 September 2012 - 01:28 PM
The vendor is Fifth of a Farm Creations, which uses the community kitchen sponsored by Greensgrow to produce fruit-in-a-jar named after Philadelphia neighborhoods. Some examples: Strawberry Mansion Jam, Parkside Prickly Pear Jelly, Fairmount Cherry Jam, etc. The stall also had some citrus marmalades. It doesn't exactly replace Noelle Margerum and her preserves, who used to frequent Fairmount, but it's a welcome addition.
Among the regulars at Fairmount yesterday was Earl Livengood, who had the largest paw paws I've ever seen. They all come from a huge tree in his front yard just outside Lancaster. I picked up a field tomato and small basket of orange pear tomatos from Earl, then stopped by Beechwood Orchards' stall for Jonathan apples, a Bartlett pear and a Crenshaw melon, another cultivar of the huge muskmelon family (honeydews, cantalopes, persian, etc.).
Posted 30 September 2012 - 11:31 AM
The forms and colors of mushrooms are diverse, but few approach the attractiveness of chicken of the woods mushroom, Laetiporus sulphureus.
This beauty represents about one-quarter of the two-and-a-half-pound specimen offered by Happy Cat at the Headhouse Square Farmers' Market today, which was being sold for $17/pound, a fair price for a delectable fungus. I plan to simply sauteé it with some shallot tonight (finishing with a bit of wine, since this variety does tend to dry out).
Chicken of the woods is a shelf mushroom found growing on the trunks of hardwood trees in the Northeast U.S. When young, like this one, the top is a neon orange, the underside a bright, clean yellow. It's perfectly edible for most folks, although the rare person may find it causes a mild reaction (perhaps swollen lips, nausea, dizziness, etc.), so try a little first before digging into a larger portion.
The variety is a polypore, i.e., it doesn't have gills but instead features pores on the underside.
Don't confuse it with hen of the woods, a.k.a. maitake, a completely different mushroom.
African horned melon, a.k.a. kiwano, a.k.a. jelly melon, attracted lots of questions at Tom Culton's stall today. What is it? How do you eat it? Do you cook it?
It's a member of the cucumber melon family, and it's usually eaten raw. The taste, so I'm told, is cucumber-ish, perhaps with a slight amount of tartness and, as it ripens, tastes slightly more fruitier. And as the jelly melon moniker implies, the edible portion is a tad gelatinous.
Yet, as one food professional remarked to me today: "It's one of those foods you think you should like, until you taste it."
With those words, I decided to pass these fruits by.