Saturday was the first ever Coburg Farmers’ Market, held just a few blocks away from us at the North Coburg Primary School. We got up bright and early to go and check it out – after all, a new market in one’s local area should be encouraged – and, after a stop to pick up another marketing friend, we reached the market a bit before 9:30.
We were not the first ones there…
I must admit, I wasn’t expecting great things. The last brand-new farmers’ market I went to was way up the Hume Highway somewhere and had, I think, only ten stalls, most of which were selling food to eat on the spot, rather than vegetables and other exciting groceries. My expectations were therefore fairly low… and were thus dramatically exceeded.
Coburg Farmers’ Market had, I would say, nearly forty stalls, with a wide variety of fruit and veg, dairy, eggs, meat, honey, bread, pies, chocolate, dumplings, jam, pasta, seedlings, mushrooms, and I honestly can’t remember what else. If anything, it was actually larger than Flemington. Also, it was *packed* – we were probably the last people to get an easy parking spot near the school – friends who arrived half an hour after us spent a while driving around looking for a place. Stallholders were running out of things and having to go back to their vans to re-stock (I suspect that Flemington Market, tomorrow, will be rather under-stocked as a result – I recognised about a third of the stallholders from there), and I got the impression that sales were very, very good all round. Altogether, a very auspicious start.
Of course, we had been to the market last week, which meant that a) we didn’t have so much money to spend and b) we really didn’t need a lot of vegetables. So my modest (and fairly low-veg) haul doesn’t reflect the variety that was present.
But it was still rather pleasing.
We entered the market, and my friend was promptly swooped up by a honey stall, while we spotted a friend from Flemington – the lady from Misty Springs, who was there with all kinds of jam. I was seduced by rhubarb jam (which is positively the last jam I’m going to buy until we’ve used up some of the insane pantry stash), and my friend wound up with honey on the comb.
Next door were Wild Dog Produce, with strawberries and potatoes and garlic, and also shallots. Shallots are pretty much irresistible, especially if you already have stewing beef, mushrooms and red wine that need using up in a beef burgundy…
Then I forced myself to be slightly more disciplined, and went and surveyed the whole market. There really were some wonderful stalls there – of the ones I didn’t buy from, my favourite was a truly beautiful apple stall, with varieties of apples in baskets and on tables lined with apple-printed cloths. Very inviting to look at… but I had apples *and* quinces at home.
At the very end of the line was the butter lady, who we haven’t seen in about a year! My friend and I tried basically the entire contents of her stall, and I came away with crème fraiche and confit garlic butter – my friend bought buttermilk and more of the garlic butter, because it really was spectacular.
Next door to this was a stall selling free range turkey. We haven’t eaten turkey in about three years, because I haven’t seen it for sale anywhere I trusted. This was pretty exciting, but I limited myself to a sensible half kilo of turkey mince, to use in sesame-infused meatballs with chickpea salad (chickpeas!!) from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook.
We meandered further, and found the pistachio people (also frequently found at Flemington). They have several varieties of pistachio, and they sell them roasted, salted, raw, and, at this time of year, fresh and still in the pod. They also let you try everything… We couldn’t resist.
The bakery caught us both – I bought fruit buns for breakfast, and my friend bought buns and rye bread. And then we got captured by the chocolate stall, where they make the most lusciously smooth dark chocolate, as well as all sorts of infusions with native fruits and spices.
By this stage, I was almost out of money (having sensibly brought far less than usual), so I spent a while watching my friend buy vegetables. Until, hiding in a vegetable stall, we found someone making the most glorious pasta.
Chocolate and chilli was irresistible, of course, and roast pasta sounds strange and worth investigating, but I have to admit, I’m still a bit sad that I couldn’t afford the tricolore pasta flavoured with beetroot for the red and beetroot greens for the green. How magnificent is that? I know the nose-to-tail thing doesn’t really apply to vegetables, but I have to admit, one of my favourite things about beetroot is the way one can eat every part of the beet.
She also had a rather gorgeous rice mixture, that included wild rice, brown rice, jasmine rice, jade pearl rice (I’ve never had this before, but I gather it’s infused with bamboo), and I’m honestly not sure what else, with a dried lemon myrtle leaf in there to infuse the lot with flavour. This was so utterly gorgeous that I couldn’t resist. I have no idea what it will accompany, but I know it will be an ornament to anything it touches.
And that was about as much marketing as we needed for one morning. I think I will start going to this market every fortnight, possibly even on my bike, if parking continues as it was last Saturday. It’s definitely going to be one worth attending, though it will be interesting to see what the stalls settle down to – no market truly needs three free-range egg stalls and three honey stalls, for example.
Anyway, if you are local, I highly recommend it.