Another farmers’ market Sunday today! There was an extra Sunday in May, but my pay cycle has stayed the same – so we’ve shifted across from the second and fourth Sundays of the month to the first and third, which means we get a whole different set of stall-holders, including my favourite veggie stallholders – an Italian husband and wife team who stock strange vegetables which I’ve only heard of (tromboncini zucchini!), and parts of plants I didn’t know you could eat (zucchini leaves and tendrils are surprisingly tasty, actually, though apparently not all varieties are edible). Best of all, the wife will happily tell you just how you should cook everything – indeed, she was the one who demonstrated the fine art of artichoke handling to me last spring.
The artichokes were bigger today. And they look all fresh and green and shiny, just like the ones on the covers of books! (The books probably don’t have tupperware in the background, though.) In any case, they were far too pretty to resist, and I didn’t try…
Next to the artichokes were these weird, tough-looking stem things that I couldn’t identify. Apparently, they are cardoons, and if I understood the lady correctly (I probably didn’t), they are related to the artichokes. Possibly the stems and leaves of artichokes? This seems unlikely, but it did seem to be what the lady was saying, and she should know.
Apparently, cardoons are good with olive oil and lemon and garlic. But then, what isn’t? I have a few recipes for them in some of my Italian vegetable cookbooks. They tend to suggest boiling them, then flouring them, then frying them, then cooking them in a sauce. This sounds a tad labour-intensive, however, so I may go with something a bit simpler.
The other highlight of this stall was the capsicums and chillis. I haven’t seen any capsicums at any farmers’ markets since we started doing this, and had concluded that you just can’t grow them so well in Victoria. Certainly I’ve never had any luck with them (though I am a pretty poor gardener). But there they were – looking gorgeous, though perhaps not quite so pretty as they do in this photo. (I was aiming for a sun-symbol, but Andrew just looked over my shoulder and said ‘Wow, it’s a three-headed nonapus’. He has no artistic soul for vegetables, clearly). Oh, and here’s a question for my overseas readers – I’d call the things in the middle capsicums and the outer things chillis, though probably sweet chillis. Are these what you would call bell peppers and sweet peppers?
I also bought some garlic to go with my Italian vegetables. It seemed fitting.
But actually, I’m telling this out of order, because the stall I made a bee-line for the moment I went in was quite a different vegetable stall, though also one I hadn’t seen for a while. I had no choice but to start there, you see, because they had fractal broccoli.
Yes, I know that picture is enormous, but it really needs a close-up so that you can appreciate it’s awesome fractalliness. Isn’t it glorious? There were only two left at the stall, so it was vital that I get there without delay. I’ve never tasted Romanesco Broccoli, largely because when I have tried to grow it, the caterpillars did all the tasting there was to be had, but nothing that bright green and fractally could possibly taste bad. And if it does, I’ll just serve it with my Indian-inspired spiced butter. Of course, the real trick is working out how to cook it – it’s a little big to be served whole, but it seems a pity to break it up and lose the amazing visual.
The stall was having a big root vegetable day – carrots of many colours, leeks, Easter Egg radishes, chiroggio, golden and bulls-blood beetroot, and all sorts of other wintry goodies. I decided that I really didn’t need radishes (I tend to get seduced by the look of Easter Egg radishes – what’s not to like about a bunch of little radishes in varying shades of pink, purple, red and cream? – and then I get them home and don’t know what to do with them, and they sit in the bottom of the fridge for ages…), but did pick up my root vegetables for the fortnight.
My friendly potato man with his purple potatoes wasn’t here today, so I tried out the other potato stall, which had all sorts of potatoes I’d never even heard of before. I ended up getting Winlock, which I am informed makes the best mash ever (and how good will mashed potato be with saffron butter through it?), and Kipfler, which I have used before, and which seemed like they would be nice boiled with spiced butter. Why yes, there was a bit of a theme of ‘what will go nicely with butter’ in today’s shopping. I can’t imagine why. I even ended up getting two lots of sourdough bread – one white, one rye, on the same principle, since I know I am really not going to get around to baking today.
The fruit stalls are all about apples, pears and oranges at the moment, with the grapes nearly finished, and a few lemons, mandarins and tamarillos starting. And everyone seems to have pistachios at present, too. I was planning to follow my tradition of trying a new apple each time I go there, but the Royal Galas were just about glowing with goodness – they looked bright and juicy and almost golden in the light. Irresistible. Even that photo is making me hungry – I think I’m going to have to go eat an apple after I post this.
I’d promised to get pies for the hungry tenors if I could, and the change of Sundays seems to have done the trick, because the pie stall was there. A bit understocked – I gather everyone wants pies this weekend. We got a variety of pies for the boys, and two pies each for us – lamb with mint sauce (lunch today), and steak with mushroom (to freeze for next week). The lamb stall was also there, and I got some diced lamb for a casserole. I’m thinking about making Youvetsi (a stew of lamb, tomatoes, garlic and cinnamon, with risoni pasta to thicken it), or possibly a casserole of lamb with artichokes and preserved lemons. If I can find the lemons, and the cookbook with the recipe in it. Either way, it’s lovely and fresh and from a lamb that was well-treated and free-range, so I’ll be making the most of it.
And the egg stall was back, which means more free-range eggs for me, and I am resisting the urge to make mayonnaise with my lovely fresh eggs. I do not need a house full of mayonnaise *and* butter. That really would be insane.
And, just for the hell of it, one more picture of my loot piled up on the kitchen table. Aren’t the colours wonderful? I think that’s my favourite thing about buying fruit and vegetables – the sense of having a shopping cart or a table or a fridge full of all this healthy, vibrantly-coloured food. And how wonderful to have all this glorious produce available to me. How could anyone cook badly with ingredients like these?