Farmers Market Challenge: Winter Edition

Snow, ice and sub-zero temperatures help put the winter into the Royal City Winter Farmer's Market on Saturday.
Snow, ice and sub-zero temperatures help put the winter into the Royal City Winter Farmer’s Market on Saturday.

Snow and ice put the winter back into Saturday’s final Winter Farmer’s Market of 2016. But Jason, at Gary’s Kettle Corn, wasn’t feeling the frosty temperatures.

In fact, he was so comfortable he was wearing just a t-shirt as he hovered over the propane burners heating the 80-quart kettle where the kernels are popped full of sweet and salty flavour.

“I definitely have the warmest spot on the block,” he chuckled as his shivering assistant served a customer just outside their booth’s heat zone.

A t-shirt is all Jason needs to stay warm as he works the giant kettle at Garry's Kettle Corn.
A t-shirt is all Jason needs to stay warm as he works the giant kettle at Garry’s Kettle Corn.

Since moving uptown and outside last year, the Royal City Winter Farmer’s Market has been anything but wintery. Oh sure, there’s been plenty of rainy and cold market days, but Saturday’s setting of snow and ice was a first for many of the vendors. And they were doing everything they could think of to stay warm.

Like Tara at Roasters Hot Sauce; she was thinking about enjoying a hot toddy in her warm apartment to take the icy edge off that her six layers of shirts and sweaters couldn’t.

The hot sauces at Roasters may warm the insides, but Tara is relying on six layers and Hot Pockets to keep her outsides toasty at Saturday's chilly Winter Farmer's Market.
The hot sauces at Roasters may warm the insides, but Tara is relying on six layers and Hot Pockets to keep her outsides toasty at Saturday’s chilly Winter Farmer’s Market.

Layering is the key, said Michelle and Kathryn at Kiki’s Kitchen. They each topped a half-dozen layers of undershirts and cashmere with matching orange puffy jackets. Experience helps too, said Kathryn. She’s originally from Montreal so she spent plenty of time having a good time in the snow and cold.

Matching puffy orange jackets and a propane space heater keep Michelle and Kathryn toasty in the Kiki Kitchen kiosk.
Matching puffy orange jackets and a propane space heater keep Michelle and Kathryn toasty in the Kiki Kitchen kiosk.

“You’ve got to dance around, keep moving,” she said as the pair bopped around a propane space heater at the back of their booth.

Over at A Bread Affair, Cierra’s dancing was more like rocking back and forth from foot to foot. But her kiosk is closest to the Tim Horton’s so she was able to steal away for a hot coffee and a few moments of thawing out whenever traffic slowed.

“This is better than rain,” she said, optimistically.

Cierra, of A Bread Affair, is bundled up to her eyeballs.
Cierra, of A Bread Affair, is bundled up to her eyeballs.

Many of the vendors had the cold well in hand. They had chemical warming packets stuffed into gloves and socks.

Chemical warming packets are the key to staying warm at Saturday's Winter Farmers Market say many of the vendors.
Chemical warming packets are the key to staying warm at Saturday’s Winter Farmers Market say many of the vendors.

“I love that we’re all in this together,” said Amanda at Honey Bee Zen.

Amanda tries to stay warm at ther Honey Bee Zen kiosk.
Amanda tries to stay warm at ther Honey Bee Zen kiosk.

But for Aaron at Ossome Acres, the frigid temperatures presented a new and unexpected challenge.

“We have to keep our eggs in the coolers to keep them from freezing,” he said.

Aaron pours a steaming mug of tea to stay warm in the Ossome Acres booth.
Aaron pours a steaming mug of tea to stay warm in the Ossome Acres booth.

This week’s $40 haul was all about indulgence. After all, ’tis the season:

• 2 pieces of strudel, 2 Schrippen buns and 3 poppyseed buns from Gesundheit Bakery – $10

• box of mixed cookies, that will be used as a Christmas gift, from Sweet Thea Bakery – $10 (These market fixtures have hit a bit of a financial speed bump, so they’ve started a gofundme page to help them weather the storm and ensure they can keep baking)

• tuna loin from our favourite fish guy, Ron, at Wild West Coast Seafood – $20

The next Royal City Winter Farmer’s Market will be January 7. So enjoy the holiday, and the treats from this week’s chilly market!

A rack of hand-knit sweaters is an enticement to shoppers trying to stay warm at Saturday's chilly Royal City Winter Farmer's Market.
A rack of hand-knit sweaters is an enticement to shoppers trying to stay warm at Saturday’s chilly Royal City Winter Farmer’s Market.

Farmers Market Challenge: Winter Edition

It's funny how Winter Market Season always seems to coincide with Rainy Season.
It’s funny how Winter Market Season always seems to coincide with Rainy Season.

We’re back!

Just like your favourite TV show, the Farmer’s Market Challenge has been renewed for another season.

Except this is the winter market, which should make for some bold new adventures in comfort cooking in the months ahead.

While the summer market at Tipperary Park is all about tender salad greens, crisp red peppers, sweet, juicy berries and hanging out with your neighbours under the shade trees, the winter market is root vegetables and ducking out of the rain.

Oh yes, the rain.

If there’s moisture falling from the leaden sky, it must be time for winter marketing. Nothing a little Gore-Tex can’t handle.

The renewal of the Market Challenge was a bit unexpected. In fact, it was just happenstance that brought us to the market in the first place. So we were a bit unprepared; no meal plan, no list, no recipes that required specific ingredients, no shopping strategy.

Instead we relied on instinct.

A quick scouting mission up and down Belmont Street revealed the return of some summertime favourites like Ossome Acres and Wild West Coast Seafoods. And there’s some new vendors, like Sweet Earth Farms.

Salad greens, our weekly staple during the summer Market Challenge, were sparse. But Ripple Creek came through with a hefty bag of super mixed greens and a handsome bunch of leafy, purple-veined Russian kale. Add a bag of organic arugula and a head of organic butter lettuce from Sweet Earth Farms, as well as some tender pea shoots from Ossome, and we were confident the flavour would return to our nightly dinner salads.

Stocking our salad spinner was the easy part.

But this is supposed to be a Market Challenge, which means breaking from comfortable routines, learning new things, taking our marketing in surprising new directions.

Fresh pine mushrooms foraged from a hemlock forest in the eastern Fraser Valley by Matt McAllister of Your Wildest Foods.
Fresh pine mushrooms foraged from a hemlock forest in the eastern Fraser Valley by Matt McAllister of Your Wildest Foods.

Enter Your Wildest Foods. Or as we came to call him every time we passed by his stall during the summer market, “Mushroom Guy.” Then, we had every intention to sample his wares. But frankly, we had no idea how to use his array of exotic dried mushrooms. And, they were expensive.

But this time, in the spirit of renewed adventure, we stopped. Next to the usual pouches of dried funghi, Matt McAllister (aka “Mushroom Guy”) had heaped baskets full of fresh, bulbous chanterelles, porcini and pine ’shrooms, all of which he’d foraged himself in the forests of the eastern Fraser Valley.

The season was slow to start, said McAllister, but was now proving bountiful.

Picking wild mushrooms is slow, careful laborious work; hence their hefty price.

But the payoff is pungent, earthy funghi that can be used in so many ways.

McAllister recommended the pine mushrooms, perfect for light grilling to bring out their full smokey flavour, basted lightly with olive oil and sprinkled with some dried rosemary.

Our’s ended up in three dishes: a topping on grilled pizza; a garnish on a garden salad; and mixed into spaghettini with olive oil and parmesan. All were boosted to new, flavourful heights.

This week’s haul:

Ripple Creek Farm: Kale $3; salad greens super mix $7

Ossome Acres: pea shoots $4; rainbow chard $3

Your Wildest Foods: three pine mushrooms $13

Sweet Earth Organics: arugula $4; butter lettuce $3.50

Samaya Delights: tumeric anise muffin $2 (a treat for our very patient son; he loved it)