Fairfield Farmers’ Market with All the Fruit

I think we can take it as read that, horrible as last week was for those of us who work in offices, for those who work outside it was an absolute nightmare.  And for farmers who were trying to keep their crops alive on top of everything else… well, I’m very grateful for the people who do that job, but I am *so glad* it isn’t mine!

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Accordingly, it was very important to me to get to the markets this weekend, to say hello to the stallholders I know, and to generally show my support.  I won’t lie – my primary reason for going to the markets is because I love food and I love new and interesting vegetables and the produce I can find at the markets is spectacular – but the opportunity to directly support local farmers comes a close second when it comes to reasons for marketing.  It’s a selfish form of altruism, really – I want these people to keep on growing (or creating) the marvellous things they bring to the market, and I’m very well aware that this can only happen if people buy their produce.

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I stopped and shopped at nearly every stall, and every conversation started with me asking “So, how did you go with the weather last week?” and the stallholder in question rolling their eyes and going “Oh my God…” before launching into tales of watering twice a day in oppressive heat, trying to keep fragile crops under cover, and running the sprinklers over the cattle to keep them cool during the later parts of the day.  Oh, and watching over their shoulders for bushfires as they went.  Lovely.  I know the rural life is iconically Australian, but at times like this, it sounds like sheer hell to me.

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Fruit and berries were the big news at the market today!  Most of the summer vegetables were nowhere to be seen, possibly because tomatoes, at least, are fragile enough to cook on the vine.  We were too late for the raspberries, which were not very numerous in this weather, but blackberries are virtually unkillable (the term ‘weed’ comes to mind), and the strawberries were somehow surviving as well.  I’m totally confused about our strawberry season in Australia – it seems to go for a good six months of the year, not that I’m complaining!

berries

At the rhubarb stall, I chatted to the women I’d bought rhubarb from at Flemington the week before, enthusing about rhubarb ice-cream as I bought more rhubarb for to stew with spices and split peas later in the week.  I love their deep red carrots, and got through the entire batch from last week, as well as all the ones that had been stashed in other parts of the fridge, so of course I had to get a bundle more, along with some long, purple beetroot and some delicately pink radishes.

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I am already feeling virtuous with regard to those radishes – not only do I have plans for the radishes themselves on Friday, but I have already used their leaves (and the beetroot leaves, too) in a pasta dish.  Positively shining with frugal virtue, that’s me.

I didn’t really need blueberries, but the blueberry farmers have stopped coming to Coburg (twice a month seems to mean half the custom, so it isn’t worth their while), which is very sad, so I had to stop and say hello.  After the usual commiseration over the heat, I naturally found myself buying two little blueberry pies, now stashed in the freezer for a rainy day.

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The Tivoli Road Bakery has a stall at Fairfield!  This wouldn’t normally have caught my eye, but it was reviewed recently by a fellow food blogger (and I apologise to that food blogger, because I cannot find the review now and can’t think who it might have been), and the phrase ‘salted caramel doughnut’ is not one that one forgets.  Sadly, nobody else had forgotten it either, and they were all sold out – we had to make do with lamington doughnuts instead, which wasn’t the same thing at all.  I may have to find an excuse to visit that bakery directly.

goodies

We had not one but two mushroom stalls at Fairfield yesterday!  My usual mushroom man was there with his swiss browns and portobellos, but there was another stall with all sorts of exotic mushrooms – shiitake, chestnut, oyster, black fungus, enoki, and many others that I’d never heard of.  I’m pretty excited about this – I’ve always rather hoped that one of the markets would start doing wild or exotic mushrooms, and this is the first time I’ve seen such a thing in a Melbourne market.  I chose shiitake and chestnut, because I did at least have some vague idea what to do with them.  I asked my regular mushroom man about the competition, but he’s happy to have them there – apparently these mushrooms are all much more of a pain to grow, and last week was quite annoying enough with the standard varieties…

mushroom

I thought I’d better get some more vegetables, which is when my eye fell on the man making braids at at the Greek garlic stall.

garlic

Isn’t it beautiful?  I have this one hanging up in my pantry right now, and it makes me happy just to consider it.  Shortly, I’m going to roast more garlic, to go into an evil sauce with puréed cannelini beans and lemon juice that will be perfect with roasted root vegetables.

And speaking of root vegetables, the potato stall had a variety I’ve only ever heard of, but not tasted.  Pink Fir Apple potatoes.  I’m not sure about the origin of this name, but I suspect it is because the eyes make them look a bit like pinecones.  The stallholder warned me that they are quite addictive, with their waxy flesh and strong potato flavour, and he was right.  Already, I want more…

garlicpot

The next stall had zucchini flowers!  You know how I feel about zucchini flowers, right?  Of course you do. I bought a dozen of them, gleefully, and then compared recipes with the stallholder.  I’ve been feeling faintly guilty at not even attempting to pick zucchini flowers from my garden, but apparently this is trickier than it might appear at first – there are, it seems, proper times of day for this sort of thing.  I also invested in oregano and purple basil, not to mention rainbow chard. Though at least, for once, I know exactly what I want to do with said chard!  I have this awful habit of buying it because it is pretty and then not using it…

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Of course, one of the things you put in zucchini flowers is cheese, so I had to go next door to L’Artisan Cheese, where I was totally seduced by raclette, which is not suitable for stuffing flowers at all.  Fortunately, it’s very suitable for melting over beautiful pink fir apple potatoes for lunch…

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I rarely get to farmers’ markets which have milk for sale, so I made a point of visiting the main dairy stall, where I was offered milk in one or two litre bottles, yoghurt both standard or Greek, and four litres of cream.

This is a lot of cream.  I enquired as to whether it came in smaller quantities.  Apparently not.  Visions of man-eating panacotta swam in my head, and I decided to stick with the milk and the yoghurt.

milk

(Incidentally, I’m sure you will all be glad to hear that all the cows survived the heatwave.  I know I was.)

I was actually not feeling too well yesterday (or today, as it happens), and when I’m not well I get obsessed with making soup and bread.  So pumpkin was necessary.  And it turns out that even when I already have rhubarb *and* strawberries *and* blackberries, I can’t walk past apricots without buying them…

apricot

Oops.

And at that point, it was about time to leave the market and go home to curl up in bed and feel sorry for myself.  Though it’s difficult to feel truly sorry for oneself while reading Nigella Lawson’s How To Eat and contemplating one’s glorious array of farmers market delights and all the beautiful food we will be eating this week…

Menu, for those who are amused by such things

Sunday – Pumpkin Soup and Oregano Pizza for lunch; blackberry cake for afternoon tea; stuffed zucchini flowers in passata for dinner, with balsamic strawberries for dessert

Monday – Sultana Pizza for breakfast; leftover radish green and sausage pasta for lunch; roast veg with garlicky cannelini beans for dinner

Tuesday – Sultana pizza for breakfast again, leftovers for lunch, mushroom sandwich on oregano pizza for dinner.

Wednesday – Smoothie for breakfast, Carrot and Beetroot Salad with burghul and figs for lunch, wild mushroom tacos followed by lamb and black bean chilli for dinner.

Thursday – breakfast and lunch as for Wednesday, rainbow chard pie with prunes and pine nuts for dinner, leeks vinaigrette, apricot crumble

Friday – apricot crumble for breakfast with yoghurt, swiss chard pie for lunch, radish crostini for a snack after work, beetroot pasta for dinner

Saturday – smoothie or crumble for breakfast, rhubarb and split pea soup for lunch, BBQ for dinner

(I do love having my menu planned for the week, even if it is a lot of cooking…)

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One Year Ago: Half-Baked Fruity Muesli
Two Years Ago: Vanilla Poached Stonefruit

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15 responses to “Fairfield Farmers’ Market with All the Fruit

  1. Thank you so much for that beautiful tour! While we’re enduring freezing temperatures it’s nice to have a reminder that spring is ahead!

    • You’re very welcome! I must admit, with four days in a row of weather above 41°C (and barely getting below 30 overnight), your cold weather sounds pretty appealing to me!

  2. “Shortly, I’m going to roast more garlic, to go into an evil sauce with puréed cannelini beans and lemon juice that will be perfect with roasted root vegetables.”

    You will share a recipe for this, right? *makes big eyes* Please. It sounds almost exactly like something I’ve been wanting to try of late, and a recipe as guidelines at least would be awesome 🙂

    Should you feel so inclined, I’m also curious about these: radish green and sausage pasta, wild mushroom tacos, lamb and black bean chilli 😀

    • Hi Lirion, I can write up that recipe, of course, and the radish green pasta one is half written already. The mushroom tacos are from Heidi Swanson’s cookbook ‘Super Natural Every Day’, and the chilli recipe comes from Diana Henry’s book ‘Food from Plenty’, so I can’t write those ones up for you for copyright reasons!

  3. My step-dad is German Swiss. A couple of weeks ago, he was gleefully burbling about feeding us a traditional Swiss meal, of raclette toasted on rye, with boiled potatoes. This being me, he also added other vegetables. He was so gleeful at having found raclette over here, & now you’re sharing the love. Apparently, great minds think alike, half a world apart.

    🙂

    • Raclette is amazing… though also a bit stinky when melted, it must be confessed. We made it at work once, and people were coming from two floors away to find out what the terrible smell was!

  4. I just baked bread on the weekend to celebrate getting through the heatwave – but I admire your dedication to farmers markets – hearing about the farmers makes me feel like the loss of a few little tomatoes is not so bad (is that why there are no tomatoes in the supermarket lately? I thought maybe a heatwaves makes everyone eat tomatoes) And are you having a rhubarb and split pea soup on Saturday or is is rhubarb and a split pea soup – I would love it to be the former 🙂

    • I baked Nonna-style pizza on Saturday, for similar reasons. And yes, it’s a stew of rhubarb, split peas and spices that I’m making on Saturday – from the Green Kitchen Cookbook, which is my favourite vegetarian cookbook of all time.

      I don’t know what’s going on with the tomatoes. Mine just aren’t ripening, but a friend of mine found that hers were cooking on the vine. And then, i think people do eat more tomatoes in heatwaves… And yes, I love my farmers’ markets – I’m sure I wind up eating more fruit and vegetables, too, now that I am admiring all this bounty week after week…

  5. I love Pink Fir Apple potatoes. We bought some at one of the local Farmers Markets (Local is relative this far from civilisation, it’s 2 1/2 hours drive) and I fell in love. We are trying to grow our own again this year. Last year they were delicious but we got like 20 tiny potatoes so they didn’t make much more than one meal.

    I live in central west NSW and the strawberries here are amazing. I guess because we get frosts in the winter and they ripen more slowly. I tend not to buy the Queensland ones any more as they’re always disappointing. Guess it helps that the grocer we go to get stuff straight from the farms (no wax on the apples!) and the farms are not more than an hour away from the grocer.

    Because of the frosts though we do have a much shorter strawberry season but I look forward to it so much.

    This year, before Christmas we were making jam for everyone for presents and finally, after 3 years of living out here, made it to the berry farm. Unfortunately they were closed as they had had frosts and it had damaged the crop. Of course for jam they probably still would have been fine but they were shut so we didn’t get the chance.
    We did however get some amazing apricots with this gorgeous pink blush on them straight from the farm shop so it wasn’t too disappointing a trip. That and local cider. Never forget the local cider.

    Now I’m just waiting for the end of the awful heat and apple season to start. I always liked apples well enough but they weren’t anything special but then we moved here and got the local heritage varieties and OMG. Have you tried Cox’s Orange Pippin? Or Four Crowns? Snowy was pretty fantastic too.

    • The pink fir apples were great – I’ll be keeping an eye out for them in future. I’m impressed that you’ve tried to grow them – I’ve never been game to try potatoes, because whenever I read the growing instructions they sound disconcertingly complex.

      And berry farms – oh yes, I always mean to get to one, and I never do. Maybe this will be the weekend for it? As for Cox’s Orange Pippin, no, I have not tried them! And people keep telling me how amazing they are, too! But sadly, none of my local farmers have brought them to market yet…

      I can’t imagine how hot it must be where you are – we at least have the coast not too far away, which brings the temperature down somewhat, but it sounds like you must be a fair way inland, and also a fair way north. I think I would find that a very difficult climate to contend with!

      Lovely to see you here, Emma!

      Catherine

      • Ah well I didn’t realise it was difficult to grow them. We just found seed potatoes of them at Bunnings and chucked them in the ground and dug them up when the green stuff died off.
        It’s worth trying.

        Cox’s don’t have a very long season. We have to be in Orange at the right time to get them or go pick them ourselves from a heritage orchard. They get floury once they’re past peak.

        It’s really dry where we are but we’re about 850m above sea level so thankfully we’re a lot cooler than we could be.
        We’re about 6-10c cooler than the coast. We used to get so much hotter in the Hunter Valley.
        We’ve had two weeks of shit heat recently but for the rest of the year it’s not too bad. It’s also cooler in winter and we get down to -6 at the coldest in the winter and get about 1 snow day a year. Well we get a tiny bit of snow fall. Doesn’t stick for more than a couple of hours.

        We are about 7 hours inland, right in the blank space in between Bathurst, Orange and Mudgee.

        • Wow, snow! I’ve never lived anywhere that got snow, she says, wistfully. Do you farm then? (I hope I’m not asking personal questions, but I am such a city creature myself that it’s quite hard to imagine living so far away from any towns. And while I presume there must be other things that one might do in the outback other than farming or mining, I can’t think of them…)

          • Thankfully I get to take a few pictures and then it’s gone before I have to drive on it. Best kind of snow.

            Until recently we lived in or near Newcastle so moving to the bush was a big change for us. My girlfriend’s great grandfather had bought a cottage in a gold mining village in the 1930s and in the 1970s it was taken off the family by National Parks and since then it was rented very cheaply by the family as a holiday cottage basically. When her Grandparents died the lease was renegotiated and it was too much. My girlfriend and I are both on disability payment so it made sense that we would be the ones to move out here. It’s just over an hour to get to Bathurst where we do our shopping. The village does have a general store that sells coffee and basic supplies but they’re expensive and we have a pub and that’s it. There are about 150 people here but they’re not all here all year.

            It has a fairly strong artists community. I draw and take photos and both of us are really in to fibre arts. We have a stall at a tiny local market twice a year and we sell some stuff online. Gives us enough extra to buy more yarn and fibre but that’s about it.

            There is a gold mine in the area but they’re only running occasionally. Someone starts it up but they often run out of money after a few years.

            We have a vegetable bed but we have a tiny house (1 bedroom, 4 rooms total) and a tiny yard so we don’t grow a lot.
            Bathurst and Orange both have really great farmers markets once a month and there is a local, chemical free co-op in Bathurst and a cafe that has fantastic local food. There’s also a fruit and veg shop that gets stuff straight from the farms and Orange has great farm gates and a wonderful place called The Agrestic Grocer.
            We were not expecting such awesome food options out here. We’re both gluten free and we’ve found more, fantastic GF options in Bathurst than we ever did in Newcastle or Penrith.

            I keep meaning to get around to writing an Eating Gluten Free in the Central West NSW blog series but I haven’t yet.

  6. Hi Emma,

    Thanks for replying! It sounds like you have created a very beautiful life for yourselves. I am both surprised and impressed by what you write about your local food options. Living in the city, one has this idea that grocery shopping possibilities would be very limited in remote places. (This is possibly because I’m a city girl who grew up reading about families living on remote cattle stations and essentially having food deliveries from the outside world three or four times a year – presumably things have improved. And presumably you are not quite as remote as all that!) One does get the sense that it’s a whole different world out in regional Australia, but perhaps this sense is a false – or at least an incomplete – one.

    I would definitely read that blog series if you ever got around to writing it!

    Catherine

    • I think once you get out to cattle and sheep stations where not much grows it might not be much different now but the land around Bathurst and Orange is where an awful lot of NSWs food is grown.
      I know Orange and Bathurst have both been developed as Evo Cities recently so they’re being marketed as an alternative to the big cities for businesses. Shops are even open on Sundays and normal hours now. Still lack a late night chemist and I miss being able to go shopping at 3am but that’s my insomnia talking.
      Orange runs a bunch of food and wine festivals throughout the year. Food Week, Wine Fest and Apple Fest, I think they cancelled Frost Fest. They run trains out from Sydney. There is a walking food event called Forage where you walk between wineries and farm gates and orchards. I think that includes a truffle farm. I know there’s a black tie and gumboots event at the truffle farm. A fair bit of tourism is based on food though I’d never heard of it when I lived on the coast.

      Mudgee, Bathurst and Orange have Farmers Markets once a month. Orange is great, Bathurst is pretty good, Mudgee seems to be more value added stuff rather than produce but good if you like wine and olive oil etc. I still miss Newcastle’s massive, weekly Farmers Market but the local fruit, kale, broccoli and asparagus at the grocers makes up for it.

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