Sunday, May 06, 2012

Seasonal Farmers' Markets Open

Though a few farmers' markets remain open all year -- Rittenhouse Square, Clark Park and Fitler Square -- most are spring-to-fall affairs. The first of the dozens of Philadelphia's seasonal markets made their 2012 debuts in the last few days.

The market at Fairmount and 22nd Street opened Thursday with four vendors: Livengood Family Produce, Wild Flour Bakery, Sunnyside Goat Dairy, and Countryside Bakery and Farm.

A total of 33 producers and growers attended today's opening of the city's largest farmers' market at Headhouse Square. (You can find the full list of vendors at the Food Trust Headhouse Farmers Market web site.)

Farm to City, the region's other major sponsor of farmers markets, opened some of its seasonal venues last week, too: the Tuesday version of Rittenhhouse, the Wednesday University Square market at 36th and Walnut, and the Saturday Bryn Mawr market. More of its markets will open next week, including the Tuesday afternoon South & Passyunk market on May 15.

You can also find a full list of The Food Trust's 2012 Philadelphia markets here and its suburban markets here. Farm to City's schedule can be found here.

The new vendors this season at Headhouse include Cranberry Creek Farm from the Poconos for goat cheese and vegetables; Green Aisle Grocery, the East Passyunk Avenue retailer which is selling preserves and nut butters at the market; Lucky Old Souls, a burger truck; and Spring Hill Farm, which sells maple syrup from its trees north of Scranton.

Another new vendor is Tandi's Naturals, operated by Tandi and John Peter, selling local soaps and related products. That's not a new product line for farmers' markets, but Tandi's main selling point is the local angle. Many of the artisan soaps sold at farmers markets, while made by local artisans, are manufactured from components brought cross-country or even from the other side of the world: coconut oil, palm oil and olive oil). Instead, Tandi uses beef tallow from Dwayne Livengood's organically-raised cattle and rendered in the same manner by John. Tandi will be glad to explain why beef tallow is a superior base for soaps than the vegetable oils. If you stop by you might recognize John: he used to help out Dwayne and his father Earl at their family farm, as well as at local farmers' markets, but now works for a Lancaster County flower grower when he isn't doing the heavy lifting for Tandi. They also sell the products at the Saturday Rittenhouse Square market.

A few regulars from past seasons were among the missing. Beechwood Orchards skipped this week, but should start attending within a couple of weeks. North Star Orchards usually doesn't take space until the apple and pear harvest begins, usually in late July or early August. Young's Garden, which sold both cut flowers and plants for backyard gardens and provided one of the anchors at the Lombard Street entry, won't be coming back.

A.T. Buzby, as usual, was the first vendor with strawberries at Headhouse. I didn't catch the price, but they were gone by shortly after 12 noon. Countryside had them at $2.50 a half-pint at Fairmount Thursday, and Benuel Kauffman was selling local berries at the Reading Terminal Market Saturday for $4.95 a pint, iirc.

The warm weather this spring advanced the appearance of both asparagus and strawberries, but local produce is largely limited to what you'd expect: early greens and onions, radishes, etc. Tom Culton had over-wintered leeks as well as cardoons, an Italian relative of the artichoke (even though it looks like celery) that needs to be cooked to be enjoyed. Blooming Glen had a nice selection of early lettuces, spring onions, radishes and greens. Over at Queen Farm, in addition to the usualy selection of mushrooms and selected Asian greens, I scored some lilacs, the flowers providing SWMBO's favorite spring fragrance.

I enjoyed my usual lox on a bially breakfast at home, so I had no room for the burgers from Lucky Old Souls food truck, but the smell of those oniony patties was quite alluring. Next time!

My purchases this week were fairly limited, owing to some invitations to dine out with others this weekend. But Thursday I picked up asparagus and baby endive from Livengood's and a goat cheese Swiss from Sunnyside (as well as strawberries from Countryside). The asparagus joined the morels I obtained in Wisconsin to accompany a crustless quiche made with Sunnyside's cheese: with a simply-dressed salad from the endive it all made a perfect early spring supper.

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