Sunday, June 15, 2014

I Love June

Three Springs Fruit Farm at Headhouse
In April we see small, nearly-hidden harbingers of what's to come: fiddleheads, ramps, perhaps morels if we're lucky. Then in May the bounty starts with cool-weather crops like lettuces, greens, and, late in the month, our first fruit: strawberries.

Now that it's June the welcome crush of produce has commenced.

The strawberries are peaking and will remain in their full glory for at least another three or four weeks, getting us through the Independence Day weekend with cakes, ice cream, tarts and just mixed with yogurt or eaten plain. The quality has been excellent once we got beyond the early crop. The berries I picked up the last two weeks from Beechwood Orchards, both at the Headhouse and Fairmount farmers markets, have been excellent: red to the core, sweet, flavorful, juicy. Prices, however, have held steady at $7/quart from most vendors, with an occasional offer of $5.50. I have no doubt pints and quarts from vendors other than Beechwood are just as good. The Wenk family's Three Springs Fruit Farm, like Beechwood located in Pennsylvania's Fruit Belt in Adams County, north and west of Gettysburg, also was selling good-looking berries today at Headhouse. So was A.T. Buzby from South Jersey's Salem County, as well as smaller farmers. But as is almost always the case, the best deal on local berries is at the Reading Terminal Market, where L. Halteman Family Country Foods sells them for more than two bucks less a quart.

Chinese lettuce
Cool-weather lettuces are also plentiful. One of the most unusual is the Chinese lettuce sold by Queens Farm at Fairmount and Headhouse. The dense firm stalk can be stir-fried or added to soups, though I'm not a fan. What has been delicious from Queens Farm is its tomatoes. We're still a month away, at least, from the real tomato crop, but Ed Yin has brought in a taste of late summer before the solstice arrives. He starts out his heirloom varieties under plastic but in the ground, rather than a hothouse. Queens Farms is also the place to buy oyster mushrooms and Asian greens.

The prior Sunday I went mad buying sugar snaps and snow peas. I passed by one stall and grabbed a pint of sugar snaps and brought them back to the car. Then I headed back under the Headhouse shambles and found snow peas, forgetting all about the sugar snaps I just purchased, and bought a pint of those, too. I never bothered to cook any of them. Some were consumed out-of-hand, others dressed with either a vinaigrette or mayo-based dressing. I'm thankful our houseguests during the week helped me go through them. That allowed me to pick up a pint of yellow string beans from Tom Culton at today's Headhouse market, along with Chiogga beets.

Another late spring treat from a number of vendors: red new potatoes. I turned a pint from Culton to a simple potato salad, but they'd be great boiled or steamed to accompany a slab of salmon.

Culton's cornichons
Cucumbers have been showing up with some regularity, both the traditional "garden" variety and kirby cukes, ideal for pickling. Last week I bought a pound and a half of Culton's "cornichons", though they looked like kirbies to me. After three days in a simple salt brine (with fresh dill, lots of garlic and some coriander seeds) they were ready.

She Who Must Be Obeyed loves red radishes, and there were plenty to choose from today at Headhouse. I picked up a bright red, white and green bunch of French breakfast radishes from Savoie Farm today.

Hull peas, a.k.a. English peas, have also been available since last week, both in the hull and shelled. Culton was selling the latter like hotcakes today at Headhouse, and other vendors offered them, too. They'd be a great veg (and a New England classic) to go along with that salmon and potatoes, especially if you use lots of butter. For those who really enjoy shelling legumes, Culton and Queens farm are selling Fava beans.

Speaking of legumes, Iovine Brothers Produce at the Reading Terminal Market has had fresh chick peas (garbanzos) for a few weeks, $3.99/pound. Shell them and briefly boil them as you would English peas. I passed them by only because I had just defrosted a container of cooked dried chick peas I made a couple months ago. Kauffman's Lancaster County Produce also offers shelled peas.

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