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)

Farmers Market Challenge: The Importance of Lists

Seven weeks into the Farmer’s Market Challenge, we’d fallen into an easy and familiar routine; call up the list of vendors on the market’s website on Wednesday evening and craft a meal and shopping plan for the coming week.

It was time to shake things up a bit.

Katie had a meeting with one of her instructors at Douglas College and late Thursday afternoon was the best available time. But that’s Market Time! she exclaimed.

Not to worry, I replied. I’ll do it. After all, I do the cooking, and the bulk of the grocery shopping. Continue reading “Farmers Market Challenge: The Importance of Lists”