Voices From The Market
We're reporting from the Bloomington Community Farmers Market today checking out what's for sale, talking to farmers and customers and enjoying this community event.
The parking lot next to the Showers Building is buzzing with more vendors and more customers than I've seen this early in the season. The person responsible for managing what goes down every Saturday morning is Market Master Robin Hobson. She estimates there are 4,000 customers and 60 vendors at the market today.
Thanks to a mild winter and an early spring, she's seeing things that she wouldn't normally see until a little bit later in the year, like strawberries and cucumbers.
Candace Finch of Finch's Brasserie is at the Heartland Family Farms table pouring over a very long grocery list. She is buying all sorts of herbs and vegetables to be used at the restaurant. The wild garlic will be used in their wild garlic butter, and the watercress will be served with wild striped bass and lobster stock risotto entrÃ©e.
Jim Lewis of Old Post Gardens (Vincennes, Indiana) is selling carrots. He planted them in the fall and let them over-winter. He says these carrots are tastier than the ones you can buy later in the season.
Kelsey Smith studies Nutritional Science at Indiana University. She purchased four butternut squashes, a couple bunches of kale, collard greens and green onions. Why so much food? She lives is the Bloomington Coop with 13 other people. They spend $50-$70 at the farmers market every week.
Find It, Don't Buy It
Not all edible treats are grown in gardens and on farms. Some of the most interesting food stuffs this time of year grow wild. Morel hunters, for instance, see the blooming of the redbud trees as an indication that their coveted mushrooms are now in season. But these beautiful pink flowers aren't just nice to look at: you can eat them. We're using them as a garnish for local yogurt, meringue cookies and local berries.
You can find morels at the market this time of year, too, but be prepared to shell out upwards of $35 per pound for them. Seasoned forager Brian Snider says this season has been unusual. He started finding morels on February 27. "It's never been this early," he says. "Peak season should be April 20-27 and it's going to be over (by then)."
Ramps are another springtime delicacy coveted by foragers. They are similarly tough to find in the wild, but according to Chef Bob Adkins, they are worth the trouble. We make three recipes using ramps: pickled, pesto'd and packaged.