The fall chill is settling in up north in Michigan. Today was a cold misty rainy day for the final outdoor Sara Hardy Farmers Market in Traverse City. Despite the cold and rain, the market was still filled with vendors with an abundance of products and a crowd of shoppers enjoying the beautiful fall crops along with other products from baked goods, to honey and maple syrup, cheese and butter and homemade soaps and beauty products. With so much to offer it is sad to see the market come to an end, but we take solace in knowing that many of the vendors will be moving to the indoor market on Saturdays at the Grand Traverse Commons.
I love the fall crops. Today in my 9 Bean Rows CSA bag I found potatoes, onions, broccoli, acorn squash and carrots along with the usual greens, eggs and bread. I also picked up some cherry tomatoes sweet enough to compete with the Halloween candy. Another vendor at the Sara Hardy Farmers Market had a great deal on MacIntosh apples for the last market so I bought a peck of apples. I am looking forward to making and canning some applesauce. Even when I get to North Carolina I will still be able to enjoy the taste of these deliciously sweet and tangy Michigan apples! Continue reading
Finally after a long hot summer in Austin, I am back up north in Michigan. Oh, how good it is to be home! I arrive here with a slight tug on my heart from my life I have left after twenty some years in Texas. It is time to move on to new adventures but it is with more than a little regret that I face this change. For a place I never expected to live and then never planned to stay, Texas has shaped my life in a myriad of ways. I came to Dallas a small town mother of a baby and left Austin a city woman and mother of two grown daughters.
Food provides an enduring connection to Texas, perhaps more so than most areas of the country. As with so much in Texas, the food is big and bold. We love our distinct Texas barbecue with that luscious brisket, the smokier and fatter the better. Our Tex-Mex can be had outside the borders but it is never the same without that Texas accent from the cook or server or the locally grown ingredients. College girls’s biggest regret about the move is that she won’t be able to come home to Texas for her barbecue or Tex-Mex. Needless to say we ate at Micklethwaite in Austin several times when she was home in August. If you want lasting memories, it should only be of the best! And breakfast tacos, oh my! The thought of breakfast tacos not being available at almost every corner is almost too much to bear! To cope, I will be a regular reader of The Homesick Texan blog. Fortunately, I saw Lisa Fain last year at the Texas Book Festival in Austin and bought both of her cookbooks. Little did I know I would soon be joining her as a homesick Texan-at least in terms of the food! Continue reading
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.
With a week of warm weather in the low eighties and a couple of nice rain showers, my last trip to the farmers market in the Austin area before heading north to Michigan promised to be productive. After an early walk with the pups, I managed to get to the Cedar Park Farmers Market soon after opening time. What a day! Although the sky was overcast, rain was not in the forecast. So with a great growing week and good weather for the market all of the regular vendors were at the market loaded with crops. The strawberries were abundant, along with artichokes, zucchini, tomatoes and even kohlrabi which I haven’t seen in the grocery stores in weeks. Today, for me, it was all about the strawberries. I knew I had to make some strawberry jam this spring.
Several years ago, I decided I needed to try making strawberry jam. For some reason, in my mind, making jams and jellies or really anything that goes in a jar had to be really difficult. Off I went to the store to buy the jars I needed to make the jam. And the jars sat in my pantry. We packed up and moved to Austin. The jars came along. And the jars sat in my pantry. Finally, last summer when I was in Interlochen, I decided to make apple butter. Apparently, having my own fruit tree was the motivation I needed to get going. Apples are abundant in north Michigan and our sad little tree was no exception. Well, I made the apple butter. It tasted good but had a rather unappealing color. Next, it was peaches. More jam and more success. Finally, this spring I got those long neglected jars out of the pantry and now have strawberry jam!
It turns out what had intimidated my for so long was really no big deal. All through the winter I went back to Interlochen every time I spread some of that apple butter on my toast. The peach jam brings back the late summer days of eating peaches morning, noon and night. This strawberry jam will put me back in spring when we head north and go back to those chilly days waiting for the warmth to return. Continue reading
Now that spring is here it is time to really start getting excited abut the wonderful array of crops that will soon be appearing at the farmers markets. One fun way to be certain of experiencing what our farmers have to offer is buying a CSA share. To buy a share, you pay in advance for an entire season of goods. Each farmer sets the length of season and determines what will be in each weekly share. In addition to vegetables, some farmers offer eggs, meat or baked goods. CSA Farms of Northwest Michigan provides information on a several farms in the Traverse City area that offer CSAs.
Last summer was my first time to purchase a CSA. I chose 9 Bean Rows as my farm source. As a huge fan of their restaurant in Suttons Bay, I was already familiar with them. Their “Cream of the Crop” share also offered a dozen eggs and a loaf of bread each week. Every Saturday morning I wandered in to Traverse City to go to the Sara Hardy Farmers Market to pick up my CSA, check out what other farmers and merchants had to offer and chat with my farmers market friends. My first stop was always 9 Bean Rows stand to find out what goodies were in my bag. As an advanced warning, be careful of the croissants. Those beautiful little pastries are devious. I go there with every intention of just getting my veggies, but always one (well, usually several) manage to find their way home with me.
It was fun to give up control of my selection of produce. Each week my meals revolved around what crop was most bountiful at the time. Every now and then, I would get something I had no idea what to do with. Or in the case of kale, almost every week. I now can find a way to use kale breakfast, lunch and dinner! That first week I got the giant red kohlrabi, I was stumped. This vegetable simply was not on my radar. I had seen it before, but always green and always much smaller. After verifying that it was in fact kohlrabi I had to figure out what to do with it. Hint, cut it into match stick pieces and eat on a salad dressed in a simple vinaigrette.
Check out the available CSA offerings and sign up for a share that suits your needs. Support a local farmer and enjoy the weekly surprises in your bag!
To celebrate the wonderful farmers market fresh foods, cooking for family and friends and enjoying life at home, I am going to focus on cooking with farm fresh foods, spending time with my family and the quiet life at home. My summer life in Grand Traverse County Michigan is centered around the amazing foods from the farmers markets and the local wineries and a couple of cideries for good measure. After twenty plus years in Texas-first Dallas and the last few years in Austin, I am looking forward to making Raleigh, North Carolina my new home.
Saturday mornings I can be found at the Sara Hardy Farmer’s Market in Traverse City in the summer and fall. During the winter and spring I will be at the Cary or Raleigh North Carolina farmers market. Each week I am amazed at the selection of produce offered by the local farmers. Along with the farmers, there are various sweet treats on offer from fresh baked breads to delicate croissants to honey and maple syrup. It is fun to talk to the vendors and other shoppers to get all sorts of ideas for using these beautiful products from the ordinary to the less known.