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.