Tuesday, August 23, 2011

No Regrets: Going Overboard on the Treasures of Summer

This Romanesco from Whispering Winds Farm in Stanwood was one of the many treasures I picked up this past weekend. Overall, it was a great produce weekend and I loved every minute of it, but I went overboard and totally abandoned my budget. I feel the pangs of guilt still eating away, but I got caught up in the heat of the moment.

This is what happened.

I'd made plans to return to Hillsdale Farmers' Market this past weekend. I wanted to stock up. Fill my freezer with berries in one trip. I wanted Chester blackberries and this was the only weekend I could go.

On Thursday, I got a request for more of my books on Whidbey Island and Whispering Winds Farm, so that's what I did the Friday before I drove to Portland.

I took a ferry to Whidbey Island, delivered books and then made a side trip to Langley to The Chocolate Flower Farm--a store devoted to gardening and chocolate colored plants. I discovered this unique store the last time I was in Langley.

I bought a package of chocolate mint tea. It smells exactly like Frango Mints. If you're going to Whidbey Island, you should definitely check out this shop.

These funky shops are so classic in Langley.

Next stop of the day was Whispering Winds Farm in Stanwood where the dogs barked their greetings. Char and Doug's pay-as-you-go farm stand is open now and you really can't beat the affordable prices of organic produce from this farm. I got new potatoes, regular and elephant garlic, and the most beautiful Romanesco broccoli.

The onions in my garden didn't get this big.

Char wanted to show me something very cool. What is it? Look close and think Thanksgiving. (No not turkey, stuffing, potatoes or gravy.)

It's celery.

"Celery is grown in the dark or it turns bitter," Char said. Char and Doug cut pieces of plastic pipe and put them over all the celery plants to keep the sun off of them.

Who knew this much was involved in growing celery? You know celery must have us trained because if we didn't do some work, this domesticated plant would be seriously bitter and stringy. If you ever get bitter celery from the market, ask the farmer if he covers his celery.

I brought a load of vegetables home, but by the time I got home, the kale had wilted. I didn't give up on it. Instead, I washed it, tore it into small pieces and rubbed olive oil on them. Then I put the kale on baking sheets, sprinkled them with sea salt, set the oven at 350F. and made kale chips.

You have to watch it carefully; there's a fine line between chip and burned kale.

But every sheet of kale I put in the oven came out perfect. My Cooking Assistant thinks this simple snack is amazing. Kale chips are so good, you could possibly eat too much. It's funny to watch Finn crunch the chips.

After I made the chips, I noticed Gino (Mair Farm cat) seemed off. I won't go into it the icy details, but he had an abscess that broke. It was possibly inflicted by Spooky, the bully cat next door.

I took Gino to the vet who drained the abscess and put a tube in it. Everybody was glad when Mair Farm cat came home.

I left for the Hillsdale Market before the crack of dawn.

It was a perfect summer day. I love this view when farmers are still setting out produce and putting up price signs.

A double line formed at Ayers Creek Farm so as not to block another vendor's stand.

What are all these people waiting for?

Chester blackberries. Not even blueberries get this kind of attention at the market. I decided to get more of these than the usual blueberries for my freezer this year and it seems everybody else had the same idea.

I got some Elliot blueberries, too. Sweet with a great blueberry flavor, they're almost half the price of organic blueberries at markets here. Washington berry farmers got slammed with a long damp wet spring this season. And there's a new fruit fly to contend with- spotted wing drosophilia.

It's an Asian variety of fly that attacks the fruit in the green stage and makes it turn mushy when ripe. The berries in my own yard have it. I'm sad that I didn't believe it would happen to us and I neglected to set out some apple cider vinegar traps early in the season.

These berries from the market were perfect.

That isn't all I got.

Peppers have barely come in at Seattle markets. Check out these red and orange peppers and eggplant from Gathering Together Farm.

And the heirloom tomatoes--what a deal of a price for these treasures. Why the lower price?

Less farmers growing them? A shorter growing season? A trip over the mountains? Is Seattle more cosmopolitan? Do markets here require more fees? Who knows?

Sun Gold Farm is a sustainable farm near Corvallis, Oregon. At $2 a pound many more folks can afford to come to the table.

I would have gone for the green beans, but we've got beans in our garden right now. And I don't really go in for canning. I got plenty of everything else--celery, carrots, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, artichokes, melon, plums, figs, berries, greens, preserves, bagels and dog treats.

I loaded my trusty wagon up and it was the talk of the market. I could barely pull it to the car.

Back at home, my assistant found the carrots right away.

And he was enchanted by the plums and figs. They look like Brown Turkeys or Desert Kings. Figs are rare at markets in Washington.

Okay my berry fund is seriously overdrawn now. I'm back to the usual budget next week.

With all this fruit how could I be a loser? My sweet tooth is satisfied and my Cooking Assistant is so happy with my successful produce hunt. No judgments are passed when you return home with good food.

What food could entice you to drive three hours?


Joan said...

I'd drive 3 hours for as much fun as you had on a sunny saturday! farmer's markets are a treat!

Boo on the new blueberry fly...I've not heard of that yet...happily so far our berries are not affected. I'll be bummed if it get's into our bushes. how do the cider traps work?

Debra Daniels-Zeller said...

Good to know I'm not alone. The apple cider vinegar attracts the flies like fruit. It drowns them and maybe there are other organic solutions for them now.

Joan said...

what do you pour the cider into?

Debra Daniels-Zeller said...

Here's a picture of the traps--vinegar and a bit of dish soap in a cup. http://www.goodfruit.com/Good-Fruit-Grower/Web-2010/Spotted-wing-drosophila-in-tree-fruit/ I'm getting some of those containers today since many of my blueberries are still green.

Joan said...

thanks Debra, I'll check it out!

Debra Daniels-Zeller said...

I think we got the flies beause of the wild blackberries on the other side of our fence.