The leaves are green! The birds are singing! The sun is bright and warm! Spring is shifting to summer and that means the farmers are coming out of the woodwork to share their goods at your local farmers’ markets! But hang on, tomatoes won’t be ready for weeks, what on earth is there to actually buy at these first markets, anyway?
Here’s a secret. Some of the best local, fresh products are available in spring, and spring alone. There are actually quite a few that simply do not exist later in the year! Have you been missing out?
We’ve taken some time to reflect on what we’ve seen and bought and enjoyed at these early markets over the past several years and are here to share the things that you should be sure to check out. You won’t be able to find all of these items at the markets in July, so don’t wait!
1. Garlic Scapes
Garlic scapes are the green tops of the wonderful garlic that most farmers popped into the ground in the fall. These tops provide a versatile ingredient that can bring garlic flavor and crisp texture to any dish. Best to dice small and treat like scallions, but can also be used creatively to wrap meats.
A lot of people will hear rhubarb and immediately think “strawberry rhubarb pie”. But rhubarb stands so well on its own. Skip the beries and try a straight rhubarb pie sometime, or use rhubarb to add an aromatic zing to your jams and jellies. Rhubarb also grows very well, so if you find that you enjoy cooking with it, go ahead and add it to the garden! It’s virtually zero maintenance and provides an excellent crop for us every year.
3. Prepared Foods
At many markets, there are also going to be bakers and other folks selling prepared foods for you to enjoy while you browse. If you’re lucky, some bakers will even make efforts to make the most of local, seasonal ingredients so you can really get the flavor of the season!
Prepared foods are a great way to discover some new bakers in the area, or maybe find a blend of jam that you’ll love to share with friends. And maple sugaring season is over, but that doesn’t mean the syrup is gone! All the local sugarmakers will have their stock ready to share at the markets with unique flavors and maybe even grades you won’t find at the grocery store.
PSSSST! If you are looking for some whole grain or gluten free treats, don’t forget that our homestead bakery Ashera Fine Baking will be at the Tamworth and North Conway farmerS’ markets here in NH again this year. Amy will be selling her seasonal, local ingredient treats, so stop by and say hello!
4. Locally raised and organic seedlings to add to your garden
Sometimes you forget to start seedlings, or don’t have enough time to focus on their daily care. Don’t give up on the garden entirely, and please, I beg you, resist a trip to the local big box home improvement stores for your vegetable nursery needs. Plenty of your local farmers are happy to help out with their beautiful, greenhouse raised seedlings that will give your garden a jump start to yield some great varieties. And as opposed to what you’ll find at the big box stores, you can trust that the farmer is raising varieties that are perfect for your local climate, since they grow it themselves!
If you are eating fresh asparagus at any other time of the year, you should think about where it came from and reconsider adding it to the menu. Support your local economy and enjoy this special, tasty crop at its prime! Local asparagus cooks better, tastes better, and has much better texture.