Sunday, October 23, 2011

Back in Dane County

The stars are shining bright when I arrive shortly after the official 6 a.m. Saturday opening of the Dane County Farrmers Market in Madison, Wisconsin. This is America's Dairyland (the auto license plates say so), even under the state capitol dome, as the Chula Vista cheese truck attests.

After my initial walk around Capitol Square, where about a hundred vendors are setting up shop, and a leisurely cup of coffee in the Starbucks, dawn breaks and I repeat my farmers market circuit, this time going counter-clockwise around the big block, which is the required direction; go clockwise and you'll get polite stares from the other early shoppers.

All my previous visits to this market (probably the nation's largest true farmers market; you can't sell here unless you grow, raise or make it yourself) have been in early spring when meats, cheeses and baked goods predominate with only a scatteing of early spring crops. Today, however, boasted the last of summer and hearty fall fare. Four or five vendors offered late season raspberries, many others had tomatoes (some, though, finished under hoop houses), but there were plenty of winter squashes and apples, too.

The grower pictured above was selling a great variety of tomatoes, including heirlooms, all grown in the field without benefit of hoop houses. At less than a dollar a pound these beauties were bargains.

Apples, however were my main area of interest, since they were one of the few products I could bring back to the hotel and maybe even back home to Philadelphia.

Suncrisps from Pleasant Valley Orchard
Although more than half a dozen vendors sold apples, only half of them offered antiques. Taking the prize for variety was Pleasant Springs Orchard: Hubbardston Nonesuch, Tolman, Black Gilliflower, Hoople's Antique Gold, Richard's Red Delicious, Calville Blanc d'Hiver (a classic French dessert apple which I first tasted in upstate New York abut a dozen years ago), Wolf River (a Wisconsin native and widely grown here), Arkansas  Black, Northwestern Greening, Court Pendu Plat, Ashmead's Kernel, Show, Cortland, Golden Russet, Spitzenburg (better known as Esopus Spitzenburg), and Cornish Gilliflower.

Another vendor claimed 30 varieties,  including some lesser known commercial cultivars: Haralson, Regent, Sonata, Suncrisp (a yellow Cox Orange Pippin-Golden Delicious cross popular in the Midwest), Keepsake, Swiss Gourmet, Northern Spy, Blushing Golden, and Melrose.

For those with any interest in learning about these or any other variety, I commend the Cox Orange Pippin website, which hardly limits itself to my favorite variety.

My words can hardly do justice to the variety of produce I discovered this morning, so pictures (annotated with a just a little verbiage) follow. As always, click on a photo for an enlarged version.

The harvest of winter squashes just peaked

Mums, of course, dominated the flower stalls

Only one vendor offered still offered sweet corn, but a few more had plenty of popcorn

Beauty Heart radishes look like what is labeled a watermelon radish in Philadelphia

Celeriac and chiogga beets

Urban pumpkin patch

Want some winter squashes?

More winter squashes, and some winter greens

This season's garlic is nicely dried

Lots of peppers

If you eat like a bird...

Berkshire pork is hard to find, especially at these (relative) bargin prices

Local potatoes and radicchio, among other veggies

Cruciferous vegetables weren't lacking

One-stop shopping for vegetable soup

String beans, parsnips, carrots, daikon radishes

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