(First published October, 2012)
A fall chill was in the air, and by “chill” I mean it was windy and cold. I hadn’t been into town to visit the Bellingham Farmers Market for several weeks, so I was looking forward to seeing the produce vendors and what they were offering.
First stop was Terra Verde (Everson) where most of the excitement was focused on their fresh ginger root. Farmers Amy and Skuter Fontaine introduced local ginger as a surprise product last year (2011), and this year’s roots were bigger and better than ever! I bought a large root so I could freeze it for winter use. I remove the stems and break apart any lobes that are touching each other so I can brush the dirt out from between them, and then simply put the unpeeled ginger root into a freezer bag. That’s all there is to it. To use it in a recipe, I pull a piece out of the bag and grate it while it’s frozen–very simple. Ginger will be a handy ingredient during holiday cooking.
Next I headed to the Broadleaf Farm (Everson) booth. They had some perfectly proportioned pie pumpkins. I had company coming for lunch the next day and wanted to serve my Savory Stuffed Pumpkin recipe. The recipe is baked and served in a whole pumpkin shell, so I wanted a pumpkin that was symmetrical and would be stable sitting on a cookie sheet in the oven. Pie pumpkins (or sweet pumpkin) are different varieties than pumpkins grown for carving into jack-o-lanterns. Pie pumpkins usually are smaller, and have a much sweeter flavor and a smoother, less stringy texture. The one I purchased from Broadleaf was rich and creamy. Here’s a handy tip for getting the seeds and stringy lining out of a pumpkin quickly: use a sharp, curved grapefruit knife to scrape the inner surface. Makes short work of the task! If you have time, don’t forget to roast the seeds!
Alm Hill Farm (Everson) had both mild and spicy salad mixes still available, so I got a mix of both. Shiitake mushrooms a Cascadia Mushrooms (Bellingham) were too beautiful to pass up. Fresh fennel from Rabbit Fields Farm (Everson) was destined to become part of a crisp, cool Daikon Fennel Slaw. Sumas River Farm (Sumas) had what first looked like blueberries, but turned out to be luscious, juicy Fredonia grapes. Each purple grape was like a little sac of intense grape-ness which provided a bright burst of sweet taste. Fredonias have a small, crunchy seed in the center. Some people spit them out, but they are small enough to just eat, too.
Evergreen Station had their large, perfectly white daikon radishes which never cease to impress me every year at this time. They also had some nice large beets, so I brought some home to make Quick Pickled Beets and Eggs (it’s one of my favorite recipes).
Nooksack 9 (Everson) was where I found the treasure of the day. They had butterscotch melons, a deeply flavored variety of cantaloupe. Cantaloupe is something I’ve missed since moving to western Washington state years ago. When growing up in Nevada, each year we got fresh cantaloupe grown in Fallon. Most of the world probably doesn’t think of Fallon, Nevada, when they think of cantaloupe, but I can tell you from experience that cantaloupe grown in Fallon has an exquisite flavor and texture. I hadn’t seen any cantaloupe for sale at the Farmers Market before, so I pounced with enthusiasm. The melon smelled wonderful, and the flavor did not disappoint. It became the inspiration for this Fruit Ball Delight recipe. Spectacular!
While browsing the Market, a group organized by Community to Community staged a “tortilla action” aimed at encouraging people to sign a petition supporting ballot Initiative 522. I-522 would require the labeling of foods containing GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) in the state of Washington. Dozens of countries around the world have already banned or severely restricted GMO food development and distribution, as recent studies have linked GMO food with various kinds of serious health disorders. In the US, though, GMO products are common (about 70% of grocery store foods) and are not required to be identified on the product label. Nearly every food which contains corn or corn derivatives (such as corn oil or corn syrup) and most soy products contain GMOs. This particularly affects families of Mexican or Latin American origin whose diets center on corn tortillas. For more information, see: yeson522.com
Exciting news! The Bellingham Farmers Market will be staying open year round for the first time this year (2012). The Market will be open weekly until Dec. 22, 2012, for your holiday local food needs, and then will be open one Saturday per month in January, February, and March 2013. I hope everyone will support our small local farms by dressing warm and showing up on January 19th, February 16 and March 16, 2013. I know several farmers have been experimenting with late ripening varieties in their greenhouses and hoop houses, so it will be interesting to see what’s available throughout the winter.