The Hyde Collection, Glens Falls, N.Y.

The Hyde Collection, Glens Falls, N.Y.
One of My Favorite Places on Earth

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

In Defense of Farmers Markets

Stevie Stevens and his wares

Sweet Spring Farm - One of each, Please

Joseph of Saratoga Apple with his favorite customer

Crop of the Day from Butternut Ridge Farms in Argyle

Squash Blossoms in Their Natural State

Squash Blossoms Bathed in Chickpea Batter and Sizzling in Olive Oil

OK, farmers markets really don’t need defending, I just love an excuse to emulate one of my favorite authors: .

This is my weekly ritual May through pumpkin harvest (at which time I plunge into seasonal mourning). It could be Queensbury, Troy, Saratoga, Glens Falls…and when I’m feeling pastoral, the Cambridge Farmers Market. Doesn’t matter. They’re all good. I just pick the nearest one and GO.

From the crowded stone mazes of Jerusalem’s Old City (where I came upon a cache of sweet-smelling zataar to bury deep in my suitcase for the flight home) to the edge of a pine forest on Route 73 near Saranac Lake, I’ve never met an open-air market I didn’t like.

What do I like most about them? Quite simply, that nothing has been shipped at a distance. Just picked, blended, chopped or stirred only hours before the market officially opens for business. Oh yes, and the vendors at these markets have a tendency to look you in the eye and smile – love that!

As Jeffrey from Sweet Spring Farm in Cossayuna gathers my usual two packages of White Lily, his signature soft-rind goat cheese, he reminds me that as soon as the last leaf has fallen in November, he’s off to Brazil for the winter.

Stevie Stevens doesn’t need a sales pitch for his bumper crop of deep-emerald broccoli (so full of flavor, it would be an official crime to boil it). His strawberries sell out within the hour. Next door, his sister-in-law, Debbie Stevens, has just put out a tray of the most gorgeous white onions I’ve ever laid eyes on.

Before I reach the shining rows of cherries from Saratoga Apple’s table, Joseph is already flashing a grin as he extends a stemmed ruby gem for me to try before I buy.

The table from Kilpatrick Family Farm in Granville is laden with scallions, lettuce, early tomatoes, and radishes. I ignore them all and head for a bin of squash blossoms. Elated, I sift through the pile for the sturdiest ones I can find, fantasizing how, in less than two hours, they’ll be bathed in a chickpea batter and sautéing in olive oil. These squash blossoms are stellar: the color of fresh egg yolks and as big as tiger lilies. Before I count out eight of them, three people stop me and ask what to do with them.

“It’s easy,” I assure their puzzled faces. “And so much better than French fries.’

Fried Squash Blossoms

8 squash blossoms *
1 cup flour (I’m partial to chickpea or rice because it’s gluten-free)
1 can seltzer
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
Grapeseed or olive oil (not extra-virgin) for frying

* I don’t rinse the blossoms because they’re extremely fragile and absorb a lot of water. Instead, I shake them for insects. And of course, humanely deposit any I find on the porch.

Note: A non-stick pan works best for this recipe. Despite generous amounts of oil, I could not keep the blossom from sticking to a cast-iron pan)

Place frying pan on medium heat and add enough oil so that it’s about a quarter-inch deep.

While oil is heating, place flour, salt, and baking soda in mixing bowl. Using a wire whisk, blend in enough seltzer to make a frothy batter. Consistency should compare with a thin cream soup.

Coat each blossom with batter, rolling it around so all sides are covered, let excess drip into bowl for a few seconds and then place in pan (oil should be hot enough that they sizzle).

Depending on the size of your pan, you’ll probably have to fry in batches. Cook for three minutes on each side until crispy. Place on a baking sheet in a warm oven until all blossoms are done.

Serve with mescaline salad from your nearest farm and a wedge of White Lily.


Jay Barr said...

Great Blog! Keep em coming. Farmers Markets RULE, and yet I never go to them. I usually just forget. But it's a habit I need to start immediately, b/c everytime I go, I'm simply AMAZED at the quality and selection. There is no comparison between your average farmers market, and any supermarket; take your pick. I was traveling last weekend, and we hit a service area off the highway, with the usual selection of not-so-wholesome choices; BK, Roy Rogers, Starbucks. However, outside, was a substantial farmers market stand with great choices like wasabi chick peas, blue berries, dried fruits, and my personal favorite; home made fackseed cornchips. They were AWESOME!!!!! VIVA LA FARMERS, Y VIVA LA MARKET!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Fantastic Blog. Never again will I ever pass a Farmer's Market. You have captured the true essence of why so many speak so highly of these markets. Not only do they provide the freshest products vs. our chain stores, but they are offered by the hard working farmers themselves. I loved how you spoke of each farmer and what their products consisted of. You gave these markets a personal feel and so much more worthwhile to shp at vs. simply going to a convenience store.
Thank you.........this is one of the finest blogs yet and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Esp the insertion of the recipe in your text and the fact that when we frequent these markets we can look forward to a true smiling face looking right at us. Not only are the farmers appreciative of our business but we have all the more reason to be very appreciative of their hardwork and humility as well.
Excellent Job!

Anonymous said...

Food is a complex issue. Agribusiness sponsors so-called "studies" which claim that factory farm produce is as nutritious as organic. In the coming end of the "Age of Oil" local produce will become the norm. But even closer to home permaculture gardens will occur in every vacant lot, on roofs, in front yards, along curbs, just about anywhere. And as Stacey Morris reports; the bounty will be a joy!