Farmers Market Challenge – Unexpected Absence

What do you do when you walk into a world of veggies only to discover there are no veggies?

That was the dilemma I faced last market day. For days I had excitedly anticipated carrots and kale, beets and squash filling my bags. We had been without the über fresh for over a month due to weather extremities; it had been far too long.

I got there early, right as the clock struck 11 a.m. I walked up and down the vender rows. I went inside the tent. I did a second run through. My eyes were surely deceiving me. The only vegetables they saw were potatoes, a beautiful buffet of potatoes, but only potatoes. That was it. Nothing more. After the second run-through, I started asking questions.

The ladies at Kiki’s Kitchen filled me in. The aforementioned weather extremities that had made market conditions too dangerous to proceed a couple weeks earlier, had also wreaked havoc on our farmers’ crops. Winter had come.

I could have walked away. I am sure some did walk away. But what is a challenge without the challenge?

This was an opportunity.

This is what farmers’ markets are all about.

They are unpredictable. They are at the whim of the weather. Nothing is guaranteed.

Except, of course, new discoveries.

Had the veggies been there: I would not have spent $12 on a bag of smoked chanterelles; I would not have stopped before the row of $10 homemade soups; I would not have indulged in that sample of award-winning honey. In my budget-minded books those were luxuries, not necessities. But had I not indulged, those new flavours would forever have been lost on me.

That would have been a shame.

Without the vegetables stealing my attention, this shopping adventure was all about splurging.

Market Loot:

Wheelhouse Seafoods: • 2 salmon burgers ($9)

Kiki’s Kitchen: • 1 jar ginger-beet soup, 2 servings ($10)

Your Wildest Foods • 1 bag of dried smoked chantrelle mushrooms, 6 servings ($12)

Honey Bee Zen • 1 500 ml jar wildflower honey ($9)

Total spent: $40

The salmon burgers and dried mushrooms were not new purchases. We had purchased the salmon in our first week of the summer challenge, and the mushrooms were purchased the first week of the winter challenge. Experienced forager Matt McAllister travels all over North America seeking his mushrooms; he had just got back from a trip to California where he had found “exotic” black trumpet mushrooms. But it was the smoky ones I was interested in. Previously I had tried his fire morels that had been foraged from areas devastated by fire. When you have had smoked mushrooms, it is real hard to go back. The smokiness is deep and dominant. I would recommend pairing them with a dish that is not already overly flavoured. We used ours in risotto and omelettes. We contemplated putting them into a stir fry, but we thought better of it figuring the mushrooms and soy sauce would be in an all out battle for flavour power.

The honey was for my four-year-old, who has been struggling the past month with a cold, turned flu, turned ear infection, turned lingering, hacking cough. As such, he’s been gobbling up our honey stores like crazy. At Honey Bee Zen, I sampled a few of the options, but it was the Harvest Moon that had me salivating for more. Turns out, plenty others too. This flavouring, which has placed first in B.C. the last four years running, was awarded third in its class at the American Beekeepers Federation’s annual Honey Show in Texas the week prior – where it was also auctioned off for $120!

I paid $9 for the same flavour and size.

The soup was all me. After a month of dealing with a sick child, my belly needed comfort, health and ease. Of the three soup vendors on site, I opted for Kiki’s Kitchen. I sampled the super greens and ginger-beet, and the ladies would have allowed me to keep going with the other flavours, but I needed to show restraint, if only for my budget. I was already blown away by the first two.

The super greens was creamy, with a definite, but not overwhelming vegetable note, and a pleasantly, surprising, heated kick at the end. Comparably, the ginger-beet was all ginger. For those who love ginger, this is your soup. Topped with a dusting of parmesan and a few slices of avocado – Oh. My. Yum. I do not know if I have ever had a pureéd soup so delicious. Lucky for me, Kiki and Paula felt they needed a boost of colour in their flavour options, which is how the ginger-beet came to be.

The quantity of my expenditures may not have filled my bags, but they sure did fill my belly.

Farmers Market Challenge: Winter Edition

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.

Farmers Market Challenge: The Best Laid Plans

Going into market day, I try to plan as much as possible. I research the website, price out as much as I can, and plan our meals and shopping list accordingly. We only have $40 to spend, I want to make sure we’re spending it wisely, getting everything we need, and hopefully a couple extras on the list, too.

Sometimes, however, plans just don’t go according to plan. Because the products at the farmers’ market are so reliant on weather and crops, you’re not guaranteed the same stuff week in and week out. What you loved last week may not be there the next week. Something new may be stacking those tables instead – throwing your plan completely off kilter. And that’s the adventure of it.

For us, purslane was the culprit this week. Continue reading “Farmers Market Challenge: The Best Laid Plans”

What Can You Get for $40?

DSCN1740What can you get for $40?

Some believe, when it comes to Farmer’s Markets, not much. Because the food isn’t mass produced on a level of say Safeway or Costco suppliers, surely the prices are a premium?

The Royal City Farmers’ Market is challenging that notion. They believe that with a little bit of resourcefulness, $40 can go a long way at the market.

Every Thursday, from now until the end of the summer market season, we’re going to put that belief to the test. I will be spending $40 to fill my fridge and pantry with market staples. I’ll write about the successes, and the failures. Continue reading “What Can You Get for $40?”

Tweetup the ‘least awkward meeting of total strangers I’ve ever been to’

This is a guest post by Marcy Koopmans, who recently moved to New Westminster. This is her take on our most recent Tweetup.

As Jocelyn mentioned in her post on Friday, a large part of what gives New West its sense of self is its sense of history.

Moving here, Wes and I were surprised and, I’ll be honest, a bit amused by what to us seems such an unusual preoccupation with the past. But perhaps this is only because we came from a city which one Twitter user called a “cultural wasteland.” (You’ll get no argument from me on that front.)

That previous city was not one that I chose to live in myself, even though I managed to stay there for 19 years. New West represents home to me in a more real sense because I chose it, because Wes and I chose it together.

That said, even though it has taken very little time for me to feel at home in my new city, as of last Thursday I still hadn’t really met anyone. Twitter has been a great gateway in that regard. Through it, Wes and I found out about the existence of Tenth to the Fraser, the resurrection of the Farmer’s Market, and the Tweetup to follow.

The Farmer’s Market represents a way of life that I think will become increasingly important to our society and way of life in the coming years due to factors such as the recession and the state of the environment. Its continued success will show that we can come together as a community and both provide each other with the things we need — fruit, veggies, almond bark — and support each other economically. All with less impact on the environment that buying food shipped half way around the world.

The Tweetup, while overwhelming for me in the number of new faces and names to remember, was about the least awkward meet up of mostly total strangers that I’ve ever been to.

Perhaps the level of comfort in the gathering was fueled by orange drop martinis, beer and hummus, but I think it also speaks to what New West is as a city. It’s a city both small and big — one of those true clichés that came up during the Tweet up — and one that both loves the past and embraces the diversity that comes with moving forward and embracing progress.

It’s been a long time since I have found myself in a group of strangers where I can talk about the trials of public transportation, education and vampires without meeting blank stares. That, to me, is what is so invigorating and exciting about living in New West: it seems to have something for everyone.

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Note: Thanks to everyone who attended the Tweetup, including:

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