Farmers’ Market: Strawberries and Artichokes and Asparagus, Oh My!!

The thing about going back with each post to see what I was doing last year is that one really notices the changes in season.  Last year, Spring came relatively early, and I had posts in October with asparagus, rhubarb, leafy spring greens, even strawberries – by November, there were tomatoes.  Not so this year – we’ve had touches of spring here and there, but the real spring foods have taken a while to arrive.

This is possibly the most joyful I’ve felt about a Farmers’ Market haul all year… of course, I feel that way pretty much every week…

So you can imagine my delight when I walked into the farmers’ market today and saw that the lovely the lovely John from Wild Dog Natural Produce was back from his winter hibernation, with strawberries and broadbeans and new-season garlic – the kind that is fresh and strong and crunchily apple-like in texture (no, I don’t actually go around biting into garlic cloves, but you can tell when you are chopping it up).  John likes to slowly cook his in oil until it is gloriously roasted and mushy – I’ve put an entire bulb in with the lemon and oregano lamb shoulder I am cooking for dinner (very slowly, to make the house smell wonderful), and I have high hopes of its flavour.

Look at all those strawberries! But really, can one ever have too many? Hmm, maybe strawberry and lemon cake should go on my afternoon agenda…

John was having an interesting conversation with a researcher who is studying  the differences between organic and conventional farming both in terms of process and in terms of outcomes. There is, it seems, little communication between the two types of farming, which John views as rather a shame, as they bring different knowledge and strengths to the field (so to speak…).  Strawberries are one of the most highly-sprayed vegetables, so coming up with alternatives that are less toxic is important… but there tend to be all sorts of social politics involved, preventing useful discussions from happening.

Obviously, the next stop had to be Casa Rita (that’s not actually what she calls her stall), where we got to hear this conversation in a slightly different form, as Tony was endeavouring to hold onto his patience in a discussion with two women who were disapproving of the insufficiently-organic status of his broccoli.  Ah, Farmers’ Market snobbery!  That’s a new feature for me…

Onion family photo: leeks, garlic, salad onions, brown onions, leeks, brown onions, garlic, salad onions, and more leeks. You can just call them Bruce, though, to make it less confusing.

Rita had her wonderful, wonderful crumbed artichokes again, so I immediately snaffled two boxes, as well as some of her dried oregano, which is worlds better than anything I get elsewhere.  And she had crostoli!  Perfect to go with my glorious strawberries and the amazing cream delivered by Koallah yesterday.  I’ve never been a huge crostoli fan, but strawberries and cream deserve something crunchy and sweet to go with them, and when I opened the box at home it smelled like my Auntie Carmel’s house – a very promising sign!

Rita’s goodies: asparagus, oregano and crostoli

We also bought some of the not-entirely-organic sprouting broccoli, and some onions and baby fennel.  And then I realised I had just spent half my budget at Rita’s stall, and thought it best to move on…

There was a new store next to Rita’s, selling dukkahs of various kind, and also peppered figs, which were amazing – spicy and sweet and soft and reminiscent of the dressing I make for the Elizabethan Garden salad (and that’s another recipe I should write down at some point).  I bought a packet, with a view to spicing up a rocket salad in the near future.

I don’t give a fig what anyone else says, these are lovely…

The organic vegetable stall had parsley and tiny leeks again.  I had about given up on asparagus for this season, but the stallholder – not even the regular one, my fame must have spread – saw me and said “Oh, did you want asparagus this week?”.  Are bears catholic?  Of course I did.  He produced a box and I gleefully gathered up handfuls, as another customer asked about asparagus.  “Oh, we just bring it down for her,” said my friendly stallholder, gesturing at me.  “Actually,” he added “I’m not really sure how much it costs…”

Behold, the asparagus! Along with its friends, fennel and carrot.

(I didn’t take all the asparagus, so the other customer was in luck, but I now feel like a minor market celebrity.  I knew the woman who usually runs the stall is aware of my asparagus habit, but I didn’t realise that I was that recognisable!  I also feel somewhat guilty, because this is not the stall where I spend the most money – though I do always buy some of my vegetables there, mostly leeks and carrots and green leafy things, which they do very well – and they really are being awfully nice to me.)

Is this a carrot I see before me? Seriously, that is one dagger-like carrot. I’ve never seen one with a stem like that before.

Next stop was the colourful vegetable stall, where I exercised restraint and just bought brightly coloured carrots, and the pasta stall, where I bought fettucine.

Not entirely organic broccoli, along with parsley and pasta. Which, incidentally, is most of a really good dinner right there – a bit of ricotta and some pine nuts and lemon, and you’re set.

We do not, strictly speaking, need cake, but there is something about those little cakes at the stall next to Wild Dog that is just irresistible.  I managed to not buy banana cake, which I truly do not need, since I have an overripe banana waiting in my kitchen to be used as we speak, and my God, there are so many sweet things in my kitchen now (I accidentally went to Leo’s on Friday night, which didn’t help), but the Chocolate and Beetroot cake really was just the thing to go with my lovely Jonesy’s milk, and the Valencia Orange cake manages to have that ‘whole orange’ flavour happening without being too bitter for my taste.  So what could we do, really?

And then breakfast called – Andrew to the pie place, and me to the lady who sells Quesadillas, cakes, and ice-cream.  Even I draw the line at ice-cream for breakfast (in this weather, at least), so it was quesadillas for me, and a nice chat about the other stalls – the stallholder commented that she never gets to look at any of the other stalls, so I’ve offered to mind her stall for her next time we are there, so that she can have a look around.  I’ve pointed her particularly in the direction of Rita’s artichokes and that amazing fresh garlic…

And off to choir to sing about dragons (yes, really), and contemplate the lovely, lovely things I get to cook this afternoon and evening.  I am particularly excited about dessert…

Crostoli and strawberries and cream, oh my! Can we start on dessert now?

Wouldn’t you be?


This time last year…

Respect the chicken!

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2 comments for “Farmers’ Market: Strawberries and Artichokes and Asparagus, Oh My!!

  1. splodge
    November 20, 2012 at 12:29 pm

    And a lovely evening was had by all.

    Incidentally, this post only just appeared on the LJ feed.

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