Monday, August 23, 2010

Bellingham and Coupeville--Small Farmers' Markets with Big Flavors

The Wednesday Bellingham farmers' market runs from June through September from 12-5pm behind Village Books in Fairhaven. The grass lends a refreshing touch and the ambiance of strolling from stall to stall under glass covered shelters give the market a charming flavor. People hang out on the lawn or steps and dogs on leashes are welcome so I could bring my kitchen assistant next time. He'd love this market with the slow and relaxing atmosphere.
No tamales at this market so I stopped for a slice of summer vegetable pizza with zucchini, peppers and onions.
Tomatoes, corn, peppers and onions were out on tables. I'm crazy for corn so I loaded up at this place. It's fun to see the different flowers at markets and here amaranth (those floppy magenta cone-shaped blooms) were all over the place.
Prices were all very similar to Seattle prices, with peppers and berries being a bit on the high side. A half pint of blueberries at this market was $4. The displays were beautiful and mostly the produce looked so luscious, it was worth the price. Check out these beautiful peppers.
I'll be at the Bellingham Wednesday Market and Village Books on September 1. At 2pm I'll be at the market under a tent on the stage signing books and talking about Northwest produce and what to do with it. I'll have plenty of easy recipe ideas for you to try at home. At 7pm join me in Village Books to hear how this unique cookbook book got started ,and learn the latest farm story updates from The Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook.

This past Saturday I visited the Coupeville farmers' market. It's open from 10am to 2pm and I think it runs from June through November. It was hard to tear myself away from my favorite market where I can get peaches,blueberies and tomatoes from my favorite farmers, but I was offered an opportunity to sell my cookbook at the Coupeville farmers' market so I took it.

One thing I noticed right away was the rural feel of this market. It's in an open field and though there was plenty of room for crowds because the tents are situated so far across from each other, the the crowds never materialized. Someone told me that it was the last weekend for the country fair and many people had gone there and another larger farmers' market is a little farther south so perhaps more people go there.

This was about as busy as it got--and the distance between rows gave me the feeling of a small person in a giant suit of clothes. If you yelled I don't think the people across from you could hear you at all. But while I was there, I called my friend Patty who said the U-District market was crazy busy (like it always is in August), so I was glad to have the opportunity to slow down for one weekend.
Though local tomatoes were in short supply here (that long, damp spring again), a farm vendor near me was from Toppenish, southeast of Yakima. They were selling tomatoes, potatoes, onions and green beans at great prices and these colorful peppers kept twirling in the wind so I had to take a picture.
As I strolled around the market I saw this farm sign and had to stop and chat with Sheila Case, a fourth generation farmer whose great-grandparents started her farm. "My daughter will be the 5th generation," she told me proudly. This is a farm with lots stories to tell.

I got some of these fresh red onions from Sheila. Who can resist when they're this pretty? Fresh onions make just about any dish sparkle in the summer.
This tractor in the middle of the market was attached to two farm vendor tables. I walked over to talk to the farmers about Rockwell beans. So many people stopped by my market table and mentioned that Rockwell beans are unique to Whidbey Island, so I had to get the story. The farmers told me the Rockwell beans weren't quite ready yet, but would be available next month for sure.

Edible Seattle ran a baked bean recipe that noted Rockwell beans originated in Coupeville,but it isn't really certain whether Elisha G. Rockwell brought the beans to the Island or they originated there. ElishaRockwell was growing the unique beans in 1890 and farmers on Whidbey Island have been growing them ever since.
I bought some Dragon's Tongue, yellow wax and romano beans and who could resist this beautiful garlic? The Coupeville market may be small town and not as many people showed up but the food was great and I came home with delicious fresh beans, beautiful summer squash, perfect pepperss, sweet onions, garlic and basil--the perfect balance of flavors and colors for a summer meal.

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