The Market Report: November 3, 2012

November 5, 2012 § Leave a comment

Phoenixville, PA, USA

We all have weekend rituals, and mine is going to the farmers’ market. I use the definite article loosely, because the market may be near our family farm in Pennsylvania, in New York City, in London, or wherever I happen to be traveling.

The market used to be just a routine. Back in 2002 when my parents started our local farmers’ market in Pennsylvania, we had to go, or there would be no shoppers. By the time I left for college, it was thriving, and I couldn’t imagine a week without one. It wasn’t long before I started a campus farmers’ market at Princeton. By now, the morning market has become more than a routine: it’s a ritual.

Wherever I wake up on Saturday morning, the local market is my first destination.

No two markets are alike, but a good farmers’ market features good local food. Selection changes with the seasons, and every growing season is different from the last. One year’s bumper crop of apples is next year’s time for cherries to shine. At home on the farm, our beets are tiny this year, but our sweet potatoes have thrived. I harvested 15 pounds of glittering yams from one plant alone!

It’s this dependence on the seasons, and the variety they bring, that turns a farmers’ market into an edible treasure hunt.

Here’s a weekly peek into my market basket. At a good market, what’s good at the market? I’m on a perpetual search for fresh, delicious finds, led by chats with producers, occasional taste tests and constant cooking with the bounty.

This post marks the first of many notes on highlights from the market.

Phoenixville Farmers’ Market
Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, USA

Saturday, November 3, 2012

This fall has been an incredible season for sweet potatoes. I was fearful that the largest ones would be the least flavorful, but they’ve proved me wrong. Weighing up to 4 or 5 pounds a piece, the giant yams are a super-sweet and an efficient choice in the kitchen.
Jacks Farm in Pottstown, PA

These giant candy onions bleed a milky juice when I slice into them, a boon to the caramelization process. They also store well, so I stock up when I find them.
Farmer Aaron Esch in Quarryville, PA

Some of the finest mushrooms in the world come from Pennsylvania, and Joe and Angela grow some best. This week, they brought four varieties, harvested that morning. Clockwise from the top left: Criminis, Shiitakes, Portobellos, Oysters.
Oley Valley Mushrooms in Oley, PA

I can’t get enough of Sue Miller’s raw milk cheese, and was excited to discover her newest, Clipper. It is a hard cheese aged for 8 months, with the sharpness of a cheddar and slight sweetness of gruyere. And check out the legs on that table. . .                                                                                 Birchrun Hills Farm in Birchrunville, PA

It was a great year for cabbage at our family’s CSA, Charlestown Farm. These leafy brassicas are particularly sweet this late in the season.
Charlestown Farm in Phoenixville, PA

The end to my farmers’ market haul is signaled when my bag comes to a breaking point. With a sigh, I have to leave new delicious finds behind, until next week. . .

A few favorite recipes:

Caramelized Onion Sage Tart: I’ve been making this recipe from Jerry Traunfeld’s cookbook, The Herb Farm, for years. With one bite, dinner guests refuse to leave without the recipe in hand!

Homemade Sweet Potato Fries: They’re one of my favorite quick and healthy snacks, and Cookie & Kate includes great photos for the best way to elegantly tackle a monster sweet potato. You won’t be able to return to normal fries.

Grilled Oyster Mushrooms: Joe from Oley Valley has always suggested grilling his oysters, and this recipe from Gourmet is foolproof. Let the mushrooms get crispy around the edges.

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