Sunday, May 18, 2008

Date with the Farmer's Market

On Saturday morning, Spring officially arrived in Evanston, IL. At 7:30, the Russian Banana potatoes and Jerusalem artichokes slept quietly in their wooden crates. Twenty minutes later, I arrived to wake the vegetables, rouse the home-grown honey and whisper to the fresh goat cheese.

Starting with fresh pressed apple cider from Dowagiac, Michigan, I tasted my way through about twenty different stands. Standing upright next to the gallon jugs of juice, purple asparagus begged me to take a bite. Flesh was tender and sweeter than its green cousin, perfect for raw summer snacking. Later that day the asparagus went perfectly with fresh cottage cheese and basil for a mid afternoon snack. For only four dollars, the bunch contained no less than 20 stalks!

Placing my loot in my designated market bag, I moved on to Henry's Farm, specializing in Asian and Heirloom herbs and veggies. This seemed a strange specialization for a midwesterner but Henry's years in Asia and his Japanese wife provided him with inspiration. After raising his own food for 17 years, Henry told me he "expects everyone would want to be farmer if they could." Walking between lemony sorrel, thin Mongolian chives and breakfast radishes, I agreed with him.

Thats the great part of any Farmers Market, its about the locals. The Wisconsin based farm is already raking in the fungi from the community. I spoke with Carmine from River Valley Kitchens, who espouses the virtues of being a Locavore (one who eats locally of course!) Members of the community go mushroom hunting in their own backyard then bring the bounty to River Valley to sell. Even in early May, the farm had shitakes, portabellas, oyster and the ever illusive morel mushroom.

I finished my Saturday morning wanderings with a piece of baked Scandinavian cheese called Burn-uusto. Its always eaten grilled like this and never melts because its been cooked and pressed so all the liquid is leeched out. The soft gooey gourmet-cheese-curd was the perfect way to end the morning.

Its quite sad I have no kitchen of own, because the mounds of sculpture-like potatoes and delicate spring onions (to name few) called my name in sadness as I left. Never fear dear veggies, I will be back in one week's time....And as for you Evanston and market goers around the country, its time to get cooking! It only gets better from here, Zucchini, Tomatoes and Lettuces still to come!!

This is a great recipe that showcases the ingredients available in May at the market! Asparagus with Morels and Tarragon

Evanston Farmer's Market: Saturdays, May 17th- November 1st, 7:30-1:00pm. At the intersection of University Place and Oak Avenue.