Farmers Market Challenge: Those Crackers

Why sampling matters. Try before you buy.

These market vendors sure do know how to upsell. Walking up and down Belmont Street, there was vendor after vendor holding out samples of scones, fresh-baked bread, crackers, hummus, applesauce, muffins, soup, even B.C. caught salmon. I did not plan on coming home with tapenade, or za’atar crackers, or locally churned peanut butter. And yet, those were my top purchases.

It all started with the crackers.

Samaya Delights had a variety of sweet and savoury samples lining its table, but it was the za’atar crackers I was most interested in. I did not know what za’atar was and started asking questions. Za’atar is a middle-eastern blend of spices that typically includes thyme, oregano and marjoram. I was intrigued. The lady told me I must try one, but not on its own, she said, it must be paired  with a spread of garlic-roasted hummus from Bob Ali.

Oh. My. Tummy. So yummy.

Za’atar crackers paired with Bob Ali hummus

I purchased the crackers, and all but ran to the Bob Ali Hummus table. There, we had 10 or more different samples of hummus and tapenade. There were heated flavours, sweet flavours, decadent flavours. I thought for sure I would be getting the garlic-roasted hummus, but once I tried the thai green coconut curry, a mix of sweet and heat, I was sold. And I did not stop there. My eyes drifted over to the lineup of tapenades. I do not believe I have ever had tapenade, so again, I started asking questions. The most pertinent: what can you eat it with?

Vegetables. Cheese. Sandwiches. Pretty much anything.

She had me at sandwiches. I love sandwiches. Big, bold, flavourful, overflowing sandwiches. Sandwiches so big they barely fit into your mouth for a bite. With the Kalamata tapenade in hand, I then rushed over to A Bread Affair. They were sampling brioche, so sweet and light, it was as though it melted in my mouth. Not the kind of bread I envisioned for the day’s lunch, however. Instead, I purchased the last loaf of Love Birds, a savoury bread full of sunflower, sesame and pumpkin seeds, that I had discovered the previous market.

Sammy Goodness featuring market-fresh Love Birds bread, Kalamata tapenade, and microgreens

Surely, a sandwich is not a sandwich without the greens. The only greens on site were pea shoots from Ossome Acres and the return of microgreens from Nutrigreens. This week I opted for the microgreens. I was not the only one. After a long winter that has wreaked havoc on our farmers’ crops, it was no surprise Nutrigreens had a lineup of customers all but drooling over the giant bowl of luscious green and purple tinged microgreens.

Microgreens: salad’s equivalent of van Gogh in a bag

I had hoped to accompany my sandwich with a small side salad featuring a handful of kale. Sadly, I may be waiting a couple more months. Unlike last year when we had kale, kalettes, and other hearty green crops through the entire winter, this unusually cold and tumultuous winter of ours has destroyed nearly all. Aaron Ossome of Ossome Acres told me the day prior he was out in the fields and did tend to a couple of his crops that had survived, but were unfortunately producing at minimal levels – not enough to bring in for sales.

In fact, we were even lucky to have his walnuts on display. Following the ice storm that battled the Fraser Valley a few weeks ago, Aaron’s trees suffered major damage, losing a third of their branches.

Market Loot:

Nutrigreens: • 1 bag microgreens : $5

Samaya Delights: • 1 bag za’atar crackers: $3

• 1 large turmeric anise muffin: $2

Ossome Acres: • 100 grams walnuts: $4

A Bread Affair: • 1 loaf Love Birds bread: $6

Artisans Natural Way: • 1 400 ml jar smooth peanut butter: $10

Bob Ali Hummus: • 1 container hummus: $6

• 1 container tapenade: $6

Total spent $42

A few more purchases made solely because of the sampling effect: a 400 ml jar of smooth peanut butter churned in Sechelt; a uniquely flavoured turmeric-anise muffin; and desires for canned salmon, which I did not try until I only had $4 left in the budget. It will surely be a contender for our next market outing.

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.

Katie Bartel is a really valued member of the Tenth to the Fraser community. Interested in joining our pool of writers? Please see these submission guidelines.

Tenth to the Fraser