Finally! My return up north in Interlochen Michigan dovetails nicely with the return of the Sara Hardy Downtown Farmers Market in Traverse City. In fact, I have decided that my up north season should be defined by the start and end of this market.
Getting up Saturday morning, I was anxious to resume my weekly farmers market ritual. After the long cold winter the crops are just beginning to take off. Most of the farmers use hoop houses to grow greens and starts for more tender crops to extend the growing season. This early in the year, the produce offerings are primarily greens. Kale, lettuce and arugula were plentiful. I also found some lovely mild radishes. This is also the time for two of my favorite foods–ramps and asparagus.
The first asparagus appeared at the market last weekend. The abundance of the delicate green stalk was staggering. Several vendors had tables full of asparagus bundles. Needless to say, I bought a couple of one pound bunches. Since only college girl and I eat asparagus, two pounds should get us through the week. When I got home from the market, I immediately cleaned up a handful of stalks for lunch. The asparagus was so fresh and tender. All I did was rinse and remove the scales. Because it was so tender and freshly harvested, I didn’t need to trim the bottoms of the stalks. Removing the scales is a personal preference; I do it because my mother taught me to! Once I cleaned the stalks, I put them on a baking sheet, coated lightly with olive oil and a dusting of salt then roasted them in the oven at 400 for ten minutes. Simple and so delicious!
My other spring time favorite is ramps. I must confess, I didn’t know what ramps were until coming to Michigan last spring. Ramps are simply wild leeks which are foraged in the woods. With availability limited to only a few weeks each spring, I quickly learned to cherish this short time and savor the delicate onion flavor of the ramp. These little wild members of the allium family are incredibly versatile. As is often the case, the simplest recipes are often my favorite. I absolutely love an omelet with sautéed ramps. You just rinse the ramps and trim of the roots. Then slice the entire ramp from the white bulb to the green leaves. First sauté the whites in a little butter until softened the add the leave to wilt. When the ramps are softened add two beaten eggs and cook until soft set. Then add a small handful of grated Parmesan cheese before folding the omelette. The richness of the egg and the salty cheese compliment the delicate flavor of the ramp to perfection!
At the beginning of the season, the Sara Hardy Farmers Market is only open on Saturdays. In June, it also is open on Wednesdays. It is well worth it to get up on Saturday mornings to visit the farmers market. The vendors are fabulous, offering fresh produce at great prices along with knowledgeable advice on how to use their products. You can also pick up fresh breads and pastries, honey, maple syrup, flowers, plants and a variety of other locally produced products. The Traverse City area is fortunate to have such a wonderful market with such outstanding vendors.