Sunday, May 01, 2016

Headhouse Returns for 10th Season

Barry Savoie of his eponymous organic farm helps customer on opening day at Headhouse
Radishes at Blooming Glen Farm
The Food Trust's Yael Lehmann snipped the ribbon to open the 10th season of the organization's farmers' market under the shambles at Headhouse Square.

A healthy contingent of 24 vendors -- including six that were actually selling fresh produce you could actually bring home and eat -- showed up under the constant rain. Additional vendors are expected next week. Crowds were sparse (at least during the market's first half-hour when I visited) but eager to take advantage of the offerings.

Asparagus, one of the quintessential vegetables of spring, could be found at two stalls, A.T. Buzby and Three Springs. Buzby also offered hoop house tomatos, while Ben Wenk of Three Springs mostly featured storage apples and prepared items, including ketchup as well as canned fruit, jams and preserves.

Blooming Glen was back with two kinds of ravishing radishes (traditional red globe and French breakfast), along with arugala, leaf spinach, green garlic and a few other items. Queen Farm had its usual assortment of oyster mushrooms and at least six varieties of greens.

Weaver's Way, the northwest Philadelphia food coop which operates two small-scale farms, was big on greens, too. Like Queen Farm they also offered colorful lilac flowers. Savoie Organic Farm had some cabbage, but otherwise only offered seedlings of tomato and vegetable plants for sale, as did Happy Cat Farm.

One new merchant this year: High Street, offering bread products from it esteemed bakery. Wild Flour Bakery was back in its usual spot. (Ric's baked goods are expected back next week.)

Sue Miller of Birch Run Hills Farm with her cheeses (and veal and pork products) returned, as did Hillacres Pride, offering cheese and other dairy products as well as meats. And Shellbark Hollow returned with its capric dairy offerings.

Other vendors at  the season's first market: Bennett Compost, Good Spoon (soups), Griggstown Farm (poultry, pies), Green Aisle Grocery (jarred foods), John + Kira Chocolates, LaDivisa (charuterie), Longview Floweres, Market Day Canele (sweet and savory baked goods), Paradox Vineyard (wine), Philly Fair Trade Coffee Roasters, Shore Catch (fish), and Spring Hill Farm (maple syrup).

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Signs of Spring

Photo © Robert Libkind 2016
I thought asparagus was at least a few more weeks away, but it appeared at two stalls at the Reading Terminal Market today, along with two other sure signs of spring: morels and ramps.

Over at Iovine Brothers Produce, pencil-thin asparagus from Mexico stood side-by-side with heftier (but by no means excessively large or woody) stalks from Sun Valley Orchards in Swedesboro, N.J. Tough choice: 2,300 miles from Mexico or 30 miles from Swedesboro? The Fair Food Farmstand also had asparagus today from a producer on the other side of the Delaware.

Expect to see lots more asparagus in the next few weeks. I hope they hold out for the opening of Headhouse Square and other farmers' markets in early May.

Iovine's morels no doubt came from a greater distance that the Swedesboro asparagus. I didn't ask, but my guess is the Pacific Northwest. Still, the plastic and tray wrapped fungi hadn't dried out, and there was only one soft spot showing signs of deterioration. Hardly locally foraged like I used to get from the late Sam Consylman or found at the Dane County Farms Market in Wisconsin, but they'll work.

I passed by the ramps at Iovine's (too expensive) but quickly grabbed a $4.95 bag of them at Fair Food: excellent quality and at about half the price.

I didn't get a chance to visit the Rittenhouse Square Farmers' Market today, but its weekly newsletter said to expect local fiddleheads and watercress in addition to ramps.

I'll be using the asparagus, morels and ramps to replicate a dish first enjoyed nearly 20 years ago at L'Etoile, the shining star of the restaurant renaissance in Madison, Wisconsin. There, asparagus, mushrooms and shallots were scattered about a plate centered by a ring of savory custard and adorned with a light butter sauce. I'll go the same route tonight, wih both morels and oyster mushrooms in the mix and ramps replacing the shallots. A crusty baguette and a glass or two of chilled Alsatian Riesling will complete the meal.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Remembering Michael Holahan

Mike and Julie with William, James and Isabella
Mike Holahan's death last week, at age 57, leaves a void for his family – his partner in life and business Julie, daughter Isabella and sons William and James – as well as shoppers and fellow merchants at the Reading Terminal Market, and the Philadelphia food community.

I won't repeat the facts of Michael's life, including how he started the Pennsylvania General Store and his leadership of the Reading Terminal Market Merchant Association. You can read them in his Philadelphia Inquirer obituary and at the funeral home's website.

Instead, I'll simply recount two parts of his life (with some video help): one I only learned about after his death, the other one I lived with him.

What I didn't know was how committed Michael was to his church and religion. But I should have, for it was an extension of his love for his family. I learned of this when, seeking directions to attend his funeral, I visited the website of Michael's church, Gloria Dei, and found among the list of sermon videos one Michael delivered on March 13, just three days before he died. It shows the side Michael I knew -- funny, friendly, thoughtful and lightly showing his knowledge of food production -- and the side of Michael that I didn't know, committed to making a better world through his faith. This 20-minute video captures the man:

Another Michael is the one I first met more than 25 years ago, a man passionate about food and the people who bring it to our tables. This was when he started the Saturday Morning Breakfast Club, a gathering of foodies on that day which attracted anywhere from a half-dozen to three dozen participants.

Our topics were wide ranging, and frequently featured guest speakers, both merchants and outside experts.

One of the more memorable sessions was for Valentine's Day. Mike had arranged for the pastry chef from Deux Cheminées to discuss how to make chocolate truffles. Unfortunately the pastry chef had emergency dental surgery, so the restaurant's proprietor, Fritz Blank took his place, bringing along a friend who was attending the Philadelphia national convention of the Association of American Scientists, who Fritz knew through his former career as a microbiologist. The friend was Harold McGee, the author of On Food and Cooking. McGee brought along samples of cocoa beans both fresh and in various stages of processing and explained the science of making chocolate. So as not to disappoint the many ladies who attending in hopes of making truffles, Fritz gave them the recipe.

The Saturday Morning Breakfast Club also served as an introduction to the people of the market, including its managers (Marci Rogovin when the club started, then Paul Steinke when he came on board), and merchants. Ann Karlen stopped by to talk about the Fair Food Farmstand before it opened. Luminaries from the Philadelphia food community also visited to share their stories and expertise, including Jack Asher of Asher's Chocolates (Mike sold a food invention of his, Keystone Crunch, to Asher). Indeed, the regional history of chocolate manufacture was one of Mike's passions: you can read an earlier entry on this blog about a talk he gave on the subject here.

I don't have any video of our sessions at the Saturday Morning Breakfast Club, but when Mike was president of the Reading Terminal Market Merchants Association they briefly put together series called "Cooking IQ". Here's one where Mike interviews Tom Nicolosi of DiNic's on how he cooks his meat, and shows the inquisitive foodie that was Michael:

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Sam Consylman, forager extraordinaire, 1941-2016

Sam Consyman after pulling onions in his Lancaster garden. Photo by Robert Libkind.
Sam Consylman, a retired auto radiator repairman whose passion was foraging, organic gardening of both common and unusual produce and teaching younger generations about growing and gathering food, died Feb. 26. Sam, who won a round against colon cancer nearly 20 years ago, was 74.

I met Sam when Earl Livengood operated his produce stall at center court in the Reading Terminal Market. Sam was a friend of Earl and helped out at various farmers' markets. But Sam also supplied Earl with choice morsels he found in forests and lowlands: wild berries, greens and, most delectable of all, morels.

At his Lancaster home Sam had a small scale gentleman's farm, with everything from root vegetables to fruit trees.

Sam Consylman at Fairmount Farmers Market.
Photo by Robert Libkind
Among the many things Sam taught me was the living definition of "dead ripe".

During a visit to his patch of green Sam led me to his small orchard and found a peach lying on the ground which, he told me, wasn't there a few hours go. Some ants had already found it, but Sam brushed them off, surgically removed the spot they had been working on, and handed it to me. It was incredibly juicy with a subtle but absolutely peachy flavor: the perfect peach. And dead ripe, having just fallen, naturally, off the tree.

Sam also loved rediscovering foods from other cultures and our past. I rarely saw him so excited as when he told me about his first crop of yacon, a South American tuber

He was gathered a native American food well-known in Appalachia: poke.

Each fall Sam would dig up pokeweed from his favorite Lancaster County foraging ground and store them buried in sand on two six-foot shelves in his basement, stacking them tightly to preserve moisure, and watering them daily to "mimic the same way they'd get moisure in the wild". By January they start to send out edible roots, which you can use like you would asparagus. The leaves, berries, taproot and older shoots are poisonous.

Although the garden took up much of his retirement time, Sam was hardly averse to meat. In addition to being an avid freshwater fisherman he regularly took to the field with his gun. He had agreements with some central Pennsylvania farmers to patrol their lands of pesky varmints, and the result was a regular supply of ground hog for his wife, Mary, to fry-up. He brought the chicken-fried rodent to Philadelphia to share with some of his farmers market customers. Quite tasty.

He shared his passions with young people. In addition to being a supporter of the Manor FFA (formerly known as the Future Farmers of America) in Millersville, Sam was also dedicated to at-risk youth, leading a series of Smart Angling fishing workshops for the Lancaster County Youth Intervention Center under the auspices of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.

A memorial gathering will be held at the New Danville Fire Company, 43 Marticville Road, Lancaster, on Friday, March 11 from 2 to 8 p.m. Contributions in his memory may be made to the Manor FFA, c/o Penn Manor High School, 100 E. Cottage Ave., Millersville PA 17551.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

All Lamb, All The Time

New sign boasts Border Springs in nation's only all-lamb butcher
No more lamb tacos for lunch or lamb hash for breakfast at the Reading Terminal Market.

Border Springs Farm has eliminated sandwiches and platters to eat within the market from its offerings. That makes it, in the nomenclature of the market's lease structure, a "purveyor" rather than a "blended purveyor/food court" merchant.

Owner Craig Rogers may be able to convert the change into a little break on his rent when his lease comes up for renewal, since the market gives a discount to "purveyors" when compared to its "food basket", "mercantile" or "food court" businesses, each with its own rent structure.

A few customers complained when they couldn't get their fix of lamb taco, according to Nick Macri, the former Southwark chef who manages the RTM operation. On Twitter, @foobooz remarked: " was a good spot for an excellent sandwich without the wait." Sure, but maybe that's why they don't offer sandwiches anymore. Not enough people bought them.

Since the overwhelming majority of customers come for the butcher operation, Macri isn't concerned. And he's happy to offer a broader line of prepared foods to take home as well as fresh lamb.

Lamb hash off the menu at Border Springs
What the change does accomplish is open up space for more room to create prepared foods, like the new lines of meatballs, vacuum packs of formed and sliced gyro meat, and lamb liver terrine in Border Spring's refrigerated display cases.

Selling uncooked meat has always been the biggest part of Border Springs' business since it opened at the market in May 2013. Rogers, whose lamb farm is located in southwestern Virginia near the Blue Ridge Mountains, had already established a wholesale business in Philadelphia, hauling his lamb north to local restaurants, including Zahav. By opening the stall at the market Rogers not only created a base of operations for his wholesale business, but an outlet for lesser cuts —like necks and breasts — that he couldn't otherwise sell.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

'Great' Designation for RTM

Of the 30 "Great Places in America" for 2014 selected by the American Planners Association (APA), only one has a roof over it: Philadelphia's Reading Terminal Market.

Except for the RTM, all the other "places" are public parks, streets, neighborhoods, scenic vistas and other outdoor entities.

Even the incoming president of the planner's group was unaware of the RTM's uniqueness as the only interior space among this year's "great places".

At this morning's celebratory news conference at the market's center court, Carol Rhea, president-elect of the APA, had to check with a staff aide when I asked her to confirm the RTM was the only interior space on this year's list.

Rhea praised the "authenticity" of the market. "You won't see a Spataro's at the airport," she told me after the event.

Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Alan Greenberger and Brent Cossrow, vice chair of the Reading Terminal Market Corporation also spoke at the ceremony led by Paul Steinke, market general manager.

The APA designated 10 public spaces, 10 streets and 10 neighborhoods for its 2014 awards. Sharing the public space honors with the Reading Terminal are: Bayliss Park In Council Bluffs, Iowa; Cliff Walk In Newport, Rhode Island; Delaware Park In Buffalo, New York; Great Plains Trails Network In Lincoln, Nebraska; Lake Mirror Park In Lakeland, Florida; Lithia Park In Ashland, Oregon; Point State Park In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Rainier Vista In Seattle, Washington; and The Lawn At The University Of Virginia In Charlottesville, Virginia.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Not Quite Goodbye

I've got a new gig as lead writer of the Jewish Exponent's new food blog and occasional contributor to the Philadelphia weekly newspaper's print and digital editions.

That means my postings here on Robert's Market Report will be less frequent than in the past, which for this blog dates back to June 2006.

Although my posts here at Robert's Market Report will be considerably less frequent, I'll do my best to keep you informed on major doings at local farmers' markets and the Reading Terminal Market through my Twitter feed: @robertsmarket.

When the subject demands more than Twitter's 140-character limit, I'll Tweet a link to a longer post here.

In the meantime, take a look my first effort for the Jewish Exponent. Although it's scheduled for publication in next week's print edition, it's available on-line now: a preview of Michael Solomonov's latest restaurant, Abe Fisher:

Corned Pork Belly at a Jewish Restaurant?

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Thin Crowds for Peak Produce

Beets from North Star
When is the summer produce peak? Right now. Mid-August is when tomatos and corn are at their best, peaches are bountiful and beautiful, summer squash vines droop under the weight of fruit, and farmers harvest peppers by the truckload. Plus, we've still got some blueberries, blackberries are in full flavor, and late summer apples are ready for picking.

The irony is that on a mid-August Sunday, fewer people are in town to take advantage of the bonanza at farmers market like the one today at Headhouse Square. Certainly the market wasn't empty, but the crowds are thinner than in June or even early July. Everyone's at the shore or the Poconos or standing on line waiting to get into the Louvre.

But that's okay. That means there's more for you and me to gather on our weekly trip to the farmers' market.

Making its seasonal debut today at Headhouse was North Star Orchards, which specializes in apples and pears, but had plenty of vegetables, too, including gargantuan red and orange beets. Plus three varieties of apples.

Here are some more photos of finds at today's Headhouse Farmers' Market:

Ripe bell peppers from A.T. Buzby
Also from Buzby, Sicilia and common eggplants
Melon man from Tom Culton
Cherry tomatoes from Savoie Farm
Tomatillos from Blooming Glen Farm

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Summer Bounty

If tomatoes are abundant, it must be summer. Here's a basket of beauties from Blooming Glen at Sunday's Headhouse Square Farmers' Market.

Saturn Peaches

 Saturn peaches, a.k.a. donut peaches, area in season along with the standard varieties. These were being sold Sunday for $5/quart by Three Springs Fruit Farm at the Headhouse Farmers' Market.

Peppers Galore

Sweet frying peppers from Blooming Glen
Jalapenos from Blooming Glen
Peppers in all their tasty and colorful variety are flooding farmers markets. Whether sweet bells or frying, long hots, cubanelles, poblanos or jalapenos, there's a lot of ways to use them in the kitchen.
Sweet frying peppers from Savoie Farms
Poblanos are the go-to pepper for chile relleños, even if you bake the cheese-stuffed peppers rather than batter and deep-fry, a messy (though worthwhile) proposition.

For scallop or any other ceviche, dice a jalapeño or two as a garnish. I served it yesterday accopanied by slices of avocado and dusted with cilantro.

Sweet bell peppers of any color take well to roasting or grilling. And they're great in gazpacho.

Got a steak on the grill? Fry up some sweet frying peppers with garlic and/or onion to go on top.
Bell Peppers from Tom Culton

More Than Cupcakes at Flying Monkey

When Elizabeth Halen took over Flying Monkey Bakery at the Reading Terminal Market nearly four years ago, the stall was most known for its cupcakes.

Cupcakes remain a fad, if a bit fading, and Flying Monkey still sells a bunch of them. But the Center Court patisserie offers a whole lot more.

In addition to whoopie pies in various flavors, bar cookies and brownies, I'm an easy mark for the crumb cakes Elizabeth makes, particularly the fruit-accented versions, like the blackberry one pictured here. With its sour cream tang, this cake is an "adult" dessert.

Much more sweet and decadent, though, is Elizabeth's riff on the classic German buttercake, a.k.a. butterkuchen. Though there's certainly plenty of sugar it's considerably less off-putting than the St. Louis version, which is lovingly referred to by denizens of that city as "gooey" buttercake. The Philadelphia version, and Elizabeth's, is another "adiult" dessert.

Friday, July 11, 2014

פאַרמערס מאַרק אין ראָדעף שלום

Congregation Rodeph Shalom
Those are Hebrew characters in the title, but the language is Yiddish. Translation: Farmers' Market at Rodeph Shalom.

The Food Trust's newest farmers' market will have its official opening this Sunday. (Last Sunday was the "soft" opening.) The market at Congregation Rodeph Shalom, on the east side of North Broad between Green and Mount Vernon, will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Rodeph Shalom is the oldest Ashkenazic Jewish congregation in the western hemisphere, but the opening day ceremonies will be decidedly ecumenical. Among the participants will be the pastor and choir of Mother Zoar United Methodist Church, which traces its history to 1794, a year before Rodeph Shalom's founding. The two congregations are located within three blocks of each other.

Though not as large at The Food Trust's Sunday Headhouse Market, the Rodeph Shalom market will offer prototypical noshes for a Sunday brunch: smoked fish and bagels. In addition to the Smear It food truck (bagels, cream cheese and other spreads), the market will feature as one of its vendors Neopol Savory Smokery, a Baltimore-based maker of hot smoked salmon, gravlax, and other smoked fishes. Other vendors are scheduled to include Drum's Produce (vegetables) from Bloomsburg and Frecon Farms (cider, fruit) from Boyertown.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Peaches, Apricots Bloom at Fairmount Market

Beechwood's apricots
Sour cherries from Beechwood
Beechwood Orchards brought a truckload of the season's first peaches to the farmers' market at Fairmount and 22nd Street this afternoon. Most were yellows of the "Sentry" variety, but they also had a crate of "Red May" peaches.

Another first-of-the-season stone fruit making its debut at Beechwood's stall: apricots. In addition to lettuces and a few other veggies, Beechwood also featured sweet red cherries ($8.50/quart, $4.75/pint), white cherries ($5/pint), sour cherries ($7/pint), black and red raspberries ($4.50/half-pint), and blueberrries ($2.50/half-pint, $4.75/pint). Peaches were $2.50/pound, apricots $4.50/pint. They also had some early variety plums at $4.50/pint.

As I've noted repeatedly over the last few weeks, the best buys in local produce can be found at L. Halteman Country Foods at the Reading Terminal Market, where today's fruit offerings included blueberries ($4.19/pint, $5.49/quart), black raspberries ($3.99/half-pint), and sweet red cherries ($3.99/pint, $5.19/quart). If you need larger quanities for pies, ice creams, etc., Halteman's is where to shop.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Gooseberries and Currants

Two related fruits -- gooseberries and currants -- made their seasonal debuts at the Headhouse Farmers' Market today.

They represent the two main edible fruits within the genus ribes. (The dried currants you buy in a box for adding to baked goods isn't a currant at all: it's a species of grape.) Three Springs Fruit Farm offered gooseberries in two colors (top photo) and currants in three (photo at right) at today's market.

Gooseberries, particularly early season specimens, are best in jams, preserves and baked applications, becoming sweeter later in the season when they're more suitable for fresh eating. The red, pink and black currants can be used interchangeably in jams, preserves and baking, though the pink variety would be less attractive, to my thinking. The currants, in particular, are astringent so except when used to accompany savory dishes, they usually require sugar. In coming weeks we may see some jostaberries from Beechwood Orchards. They are a cross of currants with both American and European varieties of gooseberry.

Since I'm a sucker for most things Scandinavian, thanks to the Nordic heritage of She Who Must Be Obeyed, I may pick up some of the black currants next weekend to make Rødgrød, a pudding serverd with cream. The Danish classic requires cooking in some water, straining to remove the seeds, then bringing the juice and sugar to a boil, turning down the heat to a simmer to add either cornstarch or potato starch until it becomes a nice syrup. After chilling in individual serving bowls they are to be served with heavy cream, plain or whipped.

Summer Profusion Commences

Melons, peaches, eggplan, tomatoes and corn are about the only summer produce not available in profusion at Headhouse Square Farmers' Market toda.  A.T. Buzby did have an early crop of corn available for the second week in a row. A number of farmers have started to sell tomatos, but only in limited quantity; Queens Farm's have been tasty.

Buzby's colored carrots were enticing (top) as well as the overflowing baskets of summer squashes paired with summer red new potatoes (left) at Blooming Glen's welcoming stall.

Blooming Glen also featured kirby cucumbers (below), ideal for pickling but perfectly fine used in salads or just about any cucumber application you can imagine.

Cherries Jubilee, For Now

Sour cherries from Three Springs Fruit Farm at Headhouse Square Farmers' Market

Sweet cherries from Three Springs
Ben Wenk, orchardist extraordinaire at Three Springs Fruit Farm in Adams County, warned it may only last a week, but the sour cherry season was in full glory at today's Headhouse Square Farmers' Market.

Wenk was selling gorgeous quarts of the tart baking cherries for $5, which is as inexpensive as I've seen them in a couple of years, at least. A few stalls down in the Shambles Dave Garretson of Beechwood Orchards, also an Adams County fruit belt orchardist, had them for $7. Based on what both growers told me earlier this month, I was expecting a very short supply of sour cherries, and higher prices, perhaps as much as $10/quart.

Red sweet cherries were also available from both growers, $4.75/pint at Beechwood, $6 at Three Springs. White (yellow) cherries sold for $5/pint at Beechwood, $6 at Three Springs.

Both growers were selling red raspberries for $4.50-$5 a half pint. Across the Shambles, Tom Culton had the studier black raspberry for $7/pint.

I came home with four quarts of sour cherries, two pints of red sweet cherries, one pint of Rainiers (white/yellows), one-half pint of red raspberries and two pints of black raspberries. Plus more tomatoes from Queens Farm and shelled English peas from Culton.

I'm going to be busy the rest of the afternoon:
  • The peas will once again become a cold salad with ranch dressing, the tomatoes will go on sandwiches and in salads.
  • The red raspberries will be eaten macerated atop ice cream or perhaps mixed into yogurt.
  • The black raspberries will be macerated with sugar, then pressed through a tamis and join up with heavy cream, a couple tablespoons of vodka and a bit of Karo in my ice cream machine. Once done I'll swirl in mini chocolate chips before "ripening" the ice cream in the freezer.
  • Half the sour cherries will become sorbet, the other half a cobbler

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Cherries a tad less dear

Fruit at Kauffman's Lancaster County Produce, Reading Terminal Market
Cherries remain dear, but at least the price is heading down. Last week Kauffman's Lancaster County Produce at the Reading Terminal market asked $9.99 for a pound of sweet cherries; today it's two bucks cheaper. A pound of cherries will fill up about a one and one-third pints. Ben Kauffman also had some early sour cherries at $8.99/pound and blues at $4.95/pint.

Over at the Fair Food Farmstand there was a sign proclaiming sour cherries for $7.49/quart, but all had been swooped up by 9:30 a.m. Fair Food's sweet cherries were $5.49/pint. So its prices, when converted to pounds, were in line with Kauffman's.

As I said in a previous post, and many others, the best deals on local fruits can frequently be found at L. Halteman Country Foods. Today's prices: strawberries $4.99 quart or $3.19/pint, vs. $5.95/pint at Kauffmans.

Black raspberries are making their debut this week, $4.19 for half a pint at Halteman's, $4.95 at Kauffman's.

The downward trend in lime prices continued today. They're now 6 /$1 at Iovine Brothers Produce, which also had avocados at a buck apiece, but don't wait to use them: the avocados are on the edge ove over-ripe. Perfect for guac.

Taste of Norway appeared to be doing good business in center court with its smoked salmon sale (two eight-ounce packs for $10). Half of the proceeds will go to the market's pilot program in nutrition education for children.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Salmon Deal Supports Nutrition Education

Pssst. Wanna buy some good but inexpensive smoked salmon? From Norway? And do you want to help kids learn about good nutrition, too?

If so, stop by the Reading Terminal Market's center court Saturday, where Taste of Norway will be donating half of the proceeds of the day's sales to the market's pilot program to teach kids about good eating. The program is funded with two grants, $30,000 from the Aetna Foundation and $15,000 from the Leo and Peggy Pierce Family Foundation.

First the details on the salmon deal.

Taste of Norway will be selling half-pound packs of smoked Norwegian salmon for $8 or, better yet, two for $10. The product sells online for $20 a half-pound, though you can buy cheaper Chilean farm-raised smoked salmon for about $23/pound. Still, at $10 for a full pound it's a true bargain (besides, the Norwegian farm-raised salmon is a better product, both in terms of environmental aquaculture and flavor).

Taste of Norway is a Philadelphia-based importer organized by Erik Torp, Norway's honorary consul here. Much of the Norwegian smoked salmon you'll find in supermarkets is farmed in Norway, but smoked, processed and sliced in Poland; Taste of Norway's product is completely raised and processed in Norway. The company's first foray into the market was the operation of a day stall in late 2012.

The market's pilot program will begin next month with 80 youngsters aged 9 to 12 from the city's recreation programs participating in five classes to learn about nutrition. They'll be taught by Angela Scipio, an experienced nutrition teacher in the Philadelphia school district who will be using a state certified curricula. If the summer program is successful, the market plans to extend it year-round.

The youngsters will be divided into groups of 20 for the program, which will include sessions on each of the day's three meals, food safety, and shopping.

Cherries, Blueberries, Raspberries Arrive

Beechwood Orchards
On the first Headhouse Farmers Market after summer solstice produce stalls were full with cherries, blueberries and even a few raspberries.

The sweet cherries were a bit of a surprise, given that this year's crop will be lean. Prices hovered around $8.50 a quart (at the Reading Terminal Market, Ben Kauffman's Lancaster County Produce was asking $9.99).

Although the red cherries tasted bright, sweet and fresh, they weren't 60 percent better than the $2.99/pound commercial Washington State Bings purchased later in the week at the Cherry Hill Wegman's. While the store-bought fruit wasn't quite as intense in flavor, it was close enough and just as sweet; the individual fruits were also larger, though that's a tertiary consideration as far as I'm concerned. The sweet cherry, it appears, is one of those fruits that can be shipped cross-country, when properly packaged, successfully.

The local orchardists say the sour cherry crop is also slim and hence will be pricey, too, when it shows up in another week or so. Dave Garretson of Beechwood Orchards said he has a too few early variety sour cherries to make harvesting worthwhile, but expects to bring in mid-season Montmorency pie cherries when they're ripe. Beechwood also offered Rainier sweet cherries last Sunday, priced slightly higher than the sweet reds.

Queens Farm tomatos
Wanna buy some superfruit? Well, blueberries are back, $4.75/pint at Beechwood. Three Springs Fruit Farm had them, too, along with the season's first red raspberries. I've been enjoying the blues in yogurt for breakfast this week. Ben Wenk of Three Springs expects good crop of raspberries this year, especially the black variety. He cultivates both but said the wild raspberry patches he's seen are full of fruit.

The early tomato crop from Queens Farm remains tasty. Although pricey at $3.60/pound for its mixed heirloom varieties, they are a pure taste of summer.

Just in time for gin and tonic season, limes continue their downward price trend. Over at the Reading Terminal Market this week Iovine Brothers Produce has been selling nice-sized and heavy fruits at 20 cents a piece, a far cry from the buck (or more) apiece limes commanded in early spring.

Another crop making its seasonal debut at Headhouse Sunday: sweet corn. South Jersey farmer A.T. Buzby was selling its at 75 cents an ear.

Last Sunday may have been the last we'll see of English peas and strawberries, but there's a chance some farmers in cooler climes may have them. I took the $5 pint of sweet and fresh shelled peas purchased from Tom Culton and turned them (after the briefest boiling and then shocking in ice water) into a salad with some diced and well-fried Irish bacon, thinly sliced shallot rings, shredded gruyere cheese and homemade ranch dressing.

Here's a quick tour of some of the more photogenic produce seen at Headhouse last Sunday:

Summer yellow cukes from Savoie Organic Farm
Radishes in two colors from, iirc, Weaver's Way
Chard from Blooming Glen Farm

Red onions from Tom Culton