Farmers Market Challenge: Winter Edition

Katie's back, challenging the notion that you can't shop all year round at the farmers market.

I realized as soon as I stepped foot on the market grounds, the $40 challenge would be facing an added challenge this season. The winter market is not the same as the summer market – there’s more preserves and baked goods, less veggies, and all but no fruits on display. The greens are limited, and root vegetables aplenty.

Note, the other adult of the house tends to turn his nose up at the root veg. Shocking, I know.

Tis the season for being frugal with the wallet, and creative in the kitchen.

I had anxiously awaited the rebirth of the market during the long four weeks it was on break as it transitioned from summer to winter. I missed my greens. Like, really missed them. The spicy flavours of the mustard greens, mixed with the chewiness of kale, and the lemon-infused purslane, all but filled my dreams! Without, I was again relegated to dumping dressings on our salads to bring up some iota of flavour with the blandness of the store-bought spinach leaves.

The first winter salad
The first winter salad

The first bite back of that winter-infused, market-fresh salad had sugar plums dancing in my belly and angels praising hallelujah on my tastebuds.

But, unlike the summer market, the variety at first glance is lacking. The bundles of mustard greens are gone, and in their stead, we have bags of mixed greens, arugula, and butter lettuce, along with a selection of kales and microgreens. The bags are not as voluminous as they were in the summer; it’s the last of the greens until the greenhouse crops kick in, much to my salad-loving dismay.

Yet, look a little closer, and you may be as thrilled as I was to discover there are greens everywhere: turnip tops, carrot tops, rainbow chard leaves, oh that pretty chard. And the best part, it’s two for one.

I love two for one!!!

Market Loot:

Ripple Creek Organics

  • 1 bunch rainbow chard $3
  • 1 bunch kale $3

Sweet Earth Organics

  • 1 red onion $2
  • 1 bunch turnips $3
  • 1 bunch rainbow carrots $3.50
  • 1 bag mixed greens $4
  • 1 bag arugula $4
  • 1 bunch tatsoi greens $3
  • 1 leek $1.50 ($3/lb, rounded down from $1.65 because farmers don’t like nickels and dimes)

Ossome Acres

  • 1 celeriac $2.50
  • 50 grams sunflower, pea shoots, and wheat grass mix $2.50

Muy Rico

  • 1 container pico de gallo $5

Baguette & Co.

  • 1 French baguette $3

Total spent was $40 on the dot.

fm161201collage

You will notice the presence of turnips and carrots on that list. You may recall the aforementioned note about the husband not liking root vegetables. Well, when my boy saw the rainbow-coloured carrots, he had to have them, and when I heard the tops could be used alternatively in pesto, I had to have them. Mario was dubious; he really does not like carrots. We tried the tops in our salad: I thought a little mixed with other greens was complimentary; he, however, thought them too bitter. We were both, however, pleasantly surprised with the carrot-top pesto. We’ve made pesto previously, using typical ingredients, but something about this pesto, I can’t exactly pinpoint what exactly, really sent the flavour through the roof. It was so good, I was dipping my finger into the pesto bowl after dinner had already been devoured. We used the pesto in a pesto chicken dish with sun-dried tomatoes and asparagus one night, and also on salmon fillets two nights later. It has also been scheduled for yet another appearance on the dinner circuit for next week.

It was that good.fm161201pesto

This pesto was unreal.
This pesto was unreal.

I was also intrigued by the turnip tops. I have only ever seen the turnip root, not the stalks, it never occurred to me they would have stalks, and when I saw the stalks, it never occurred to me they could be used in salads. But really, it makes sense doesn’t it. They’re a bit chewier than your typical greens, and have a slightly spicy nature to them. Added to the varietal greens, along with the arugula, the chard leaves, carrot tops, sunflower and pea shoots, and our salads were bursting with a smorgasbord of flavour!

I also roasted a turnip for a side dish one night, and added turnips to one of my lunch salads. But I wanted to somehow incorporate them into a recipe that my boys could enjoy as well. That was a going to be a tough sell. The boys in my family want nothing to do with turnips, not even cheese-doused turnips. I needed to come up with a recipe that would make them palatable (read: hidden) for all to enjoy. On a whim, I picked up a celeriac. I had never seen this before. I had no idea what it was. Truthfully, I probably should have clued in it was of the celery family, what with its name and all, but nope, I needed confirmation from Ossome Acres. When I got home I fired up Pinterest and searched out recipe after recipe before finding a soup recipe that, with a few alterations, incorporated both the celeriac and turnip, as well as the leek.

Turnip salad was a winner!
Turnip salad was a winner! Recipe
Soup Success!
Soup Success! Recipe

Note: While the recipe does not call for turnips, we added them for enhanced flavour. It also does not purée the mix, but if you like creamy, thick soups, puréed is the way to go. If you are lactose intolerant, however, I would highly recommend using another source other than milk. (Cough-cough).

The last purchase made was a French baguette from Baguette & Co. I had heard Bernard speaking to customers in his customary French dialect, and was instantly drawn to him. I have a love for languages, a love for Europe, and a love for European bakes. There was a lineup, but it was not a worry; listening to him was like being in the thick of the Champs Élysées. When we were up, I learned he was from Lyon, France, located on the border of Belgium, north of Paris. We spoke of my family in Belgium, and of his “poor” English. He fed us delectable palmier samples. I did not want to stop the conversation. When we got home, and heated the baguette up to accompany our dinner that night, memories of Paris filled my heart. The freshness, the crispness of the shell, the chewy inside, the yeasty aroma, the connections made at street markets – it is incredible what food can do.

Baguette: Très bon
Baguette: Très bon

Take it from me folks, do not be intimidated by the winter market’s offerings. There is lots to be discovered, and it’s a great motivator for trying new foods, new recipes, and meeting new people.

Let’s get creative.

RCFM’s winter market runs the first and third Saturday of the month from November to April and is on Belmont Street in Uptown New West from 11-3.

Katie Bartel

Katie is a former journalist and student, and is a type 1 insulin-dependent diabetic into running 5ks, 10ks, half marathons, and marathons. She blogs about her experiences at Princess of Pavement.

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