Confession: we haven’t been cooking from scratch much in our house lately. A shift in my summer work hours threw our dinner times into a tailspin, and combined with all of my weekend jam projects + camping + special summer events + the heat wave, it seemed like I hadn’t cooked a real meal nor been to a farmers market in weeks.
That was, until this weekend. I hit three local farmers markets – the Minneapolis Farmers Market, the Mill City Farmers Market and the Kingfield Market – to see what’s in season now and to chow.
I feel for local farmers, farmers markets and food trucks here in Minnesota this season; the schizophrenic weather has dealt one blow after another. First, we had a long, unseasonably cool, wet spring, with rainy days inevitably falling on the weekends – the prime time for farmers markets. Then there have been brief spikes of massive heat waves with temps hovering around 100 degrees, interspersed with severe thunderstorms, high winds and unpredictable weather shifts from hour to hour.
This weather has made farming challenging, and bad weather on the weekends leads to fewer shoppers showing up at the markets. Then the vendors have to weather the elements themselves during the long market days. It’s got to be frustrating for them.
This weekend was no different. Just as I pulled in to the Minneapolis Farmers Market
early Saturday morning, the skies darkened and the winds kicked up. Air whooshed through the market, causing vendors to scramble to secure their tablecloths and the foods on display. It started pouring rain and the light grew dim, causing the overhead lights to kick on.
But the show must go on. The vendors seemed unfazed and kept on selling their foods. Since I was last at the market, cool season crops like spinach have disappeared and the more familiar summer vegetables are now available – zucchini, summer squash, tomatoes, potatoes, beets, carrots, cabbage, cauliflower, cucumbers, etc., along with local raspberries.
There were also numerous greens including Swiss chard, kale, collards, bok choy and Asian mustard greens, though some of them were looking a bit ragged. A vendor told me that her Swiss chard had been torn up by the hail we experienced during yet another severe thunderstorm earlier in the week.
I debated about picking up some greens or beets, two items I’m still working on liking. But I wasn’t up for a cooking challenge this week so I picked up the old standards. It’s so nice to have ingredients that you don’t have to puzzle over how to use. And when produce is at its peak, there’s little you need to do to make it shine. Time for dinner cruise control.
I picked up green beans, zucchini, squash, new potatoes, carrots, radishes, lettuces, garlic, chives, and a slew of meats from Bar 5 – flank steak for fajitas, beef bacon, whole cut-up chicken for grilled BBQ chicken, ground pork for Szechuan pork noodles and pork chops. We’ve been really happy with the quality of meat from Bar 5, and that’s why I keep going back to them.
I decided to swing by the Mill City Farmers Market
in downtown Minneapolis since it was so close by and Chef Shack plus Sunshine Harvest Farm were calling my name. My jaw dropped when I arrived to find the plaza almost empty – most of the vendors had packed up and left. Just because of the rain?
, I wondered.
Then I heard about what had happened
. Thirty minutes prior, as the storm rolled through, the winds suddenly whipped up. Some plaza stall canopies were blown off, tent poles were sent flying, produce was swept off display tables (and some tables were overturned), items were knocked to the ground
and shattered. Scary stuff. Fortunately nobody was hurt, but most plaza vendors left for the day after that happened.
But Chef Shack stuck it out, the shed vendors carried on, and wouldn’t you know it, within an hour or so, the sunshine was blazing bright and hot again. Go figure.
I had wanted to check whether Sunshine Harvest Farm carried a particular item and I knew they were at the Kingfield Farmers Market
in south Minneapolis on Sundays so I headed down there the next morning with my kids in tow. It was a brilliant sunny day, the kind that you wish every summer day could be.
My fridge was already stuffed to the gills with farmers market produce from the previous day, so we were more at the market for something good to eat. I’d never visited this market before, but I liked what I saw.
I couldn’t resist this pastry when I saw it at the Bogart Loves Bakery stand.
Once I had my pre-meal dessert, it was time for something healthier – a sandwich from Sun Street Breads
fit the bill. Stuffed full of fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, basil and feta cheese on a crusty baguette, it was the perfect thing to karmically cancel out my doughnut.
The kids chose a very balanced lunch for themselves from the Crema Cafe
stand – organic mango sorbet [fruit] for my daughter, and frozen hot chocolate ice cream [dairy] for my son. I guess you could argue that the sugar cone contributed nutritionally too [grain].
That night, we finally had a real meal, sourced from the farmers market haul.
Good eats this weekend!
Did you visit a farmers market this past weekend? What did you pick up, and what will you cook?