I call myself the Farmers Market Vegan. I allege to passionately support the local organic farmers of Madison. I claim to patronize all the restaurants that source locally grown products. I highlight each supposedly family-farmed carrot, tomato, and broccoli floret that contributes to my daily meals. But have you actually ever read a blog post about my excursions to the farmers market? For all you know, I might be a hairy, fat, lazy bum hypnotized by my own computer screen pretending to create healthy vegan recipes, review Madison restaurants, and visit the farmers market. Luckily, you can lay every pent-up anxiety you’ve sensed from my suspicious blog to rest because…I’m finally posting about my weekly shopping adventures at the farmers market!
In all honesty, I fulfill all my fruit and vegetable purchases at two of Madison’s farmers markets: the Dane County Farmers Market held every Saturday on Capitol Square, and the Hilldale Farmers Market on Wednesdays. With the exception of bananas and avocados, I stroll straight through the produce section at the Willy Street Coop with a sense of infinite superiority over their, pff, California-grown artichokes and the like, admiring the two canvas tote bags stuffed to the brim with market-fresh goodies waiting patiently for unloading in my car (I kid, the coop actually sells many local fruits and veggies, contributing to my adoring gratitude towards the hippie grocery store).
But I digress. Rain or shine, my mother and I drive downtown for the market every Saturday…and today, the weather opted for rain.
Crossing our fingers that the sky would continue to grace us with only a light drizzle, we headed for my seasonal outdoor grocery store as per usual.
Our first stand: Driftless Organics where I picked up my weekly leafy greens quota in the form of two beautiful bunches of purple kale and a pound of impeccably thin haricots verts green beans.
Not but two stalls down Pinckney Street from Driftless, the northerners from Door County Fruit Market boasted the first peaches of the season and assured me that after two days of ripening, they would reach their peak flavor and juiciness. Sigh. I predict a loooong two days.
Another fruit new to the farmers market scene, honeycrisp apples from Ten Eyck Orchard inspired an exuberant gasp and the frantic tapping of my mother’s shoulder. “Mom, mom, mom, look! HONEYCRISPS ARE BACK!” Yeah, I like me some honeycrisp apples.
Continuing down Pinckney, the first capitol block of four, we found the incredibly kind vendors of JenEhr Family Farm, one of whom shares my love of San Francisco. They offered up some beautiful mustard greens, but the two giant bundles of kale already in my bag protested (greens can be very cliquey). Instead, I chose a lovely leek—another first of the season.
As if my family needed any more fruit in the house, my mother conveniently forgot the apples and peaches in our canvas bags after eyeing the plump, shimmery purple grapes at Carandale Farm. Tiny fruits unbeknownst to even my experienced ingredient repetoire called Aronia and Sea Berries sparked my interest, but I decided to wait for another day when fruit wasn’t already tumbling out of our fast-filling bags.
Similar to my honeycrisp excitement, I literally jumped up and down at the sight of blue potatoes (completely serious: my feet actually left the ground multiple times. People stared. I didn’t care—I had blue potatoes). Envisioning a miso-sesame dressed salad of haricots verts, blue potatoes, and shallots for a near-future dinner, I grabbed a pound of my favorite blue potatoes and a bag of red shallots from Ridgeland Harvest.
Turning onto the Mifflin block of the market, we first stopped at Harmony Valley Farm, drawn to the wafting scent of cantaloupe (okay, more fruit. But cantaloupe! Cantaloupe, I tell you! We had to make an exception for the king of melon-kind). I also picked up a pound of my favorite salad mix. (Yes, I really do eat a pound of salad greens. It doesn’t even last me halfway through the week.)
Passed by the carts creating a wall of aromatic herbs…
At Green Barn Farm Market, I picked up another bag of the famous broccoli I’ve referred to as “succulent” multiple times now. And for $1.00? What a steal! I almost want to inform them that customers such as myself would happily pay more…or not.
Transitioning to the last block of Mifflin Street introduced a talented farmer with consistently beautiful produce and one of my favorite personalities at the market, Josh Lubenau of the Plahnt Farm. Soft spoken, bespectacled, and knowledgeable of all things vegetable, this young man never fails to sell me an early spring bag of fava beans, a bright green bag of lettuce, or a box of bright magenta beets like today. I plan on roasting them with balsamic vinegar and tossing them with the Harmony Valley salad mix and toasted walnuts—inspiration from my neighbor Dana.
And now, perhaps my most anticipated stand at the farmers market, the climax of every Saturday morning, the moment for which I struggle to restrain my salivation while perusing the less devilishly tantalizing vendors…
Picture featured on Finding Vegan.
Need I say more? Yes? Sigh, fine. I suppose something this mind-numbingly delicious merits an explanation. The purely genius minds at Cress Spring Bakery have concocted a vegan breakfast bar that I’m fairly certain the ancient Greek gods preferred to call “ambrosia.” Fit for my high health standards, this bar contains all organic oats, whole barley, whole rye, sunflower oil, sesame seeds, cinnamon, and a touch of sea salt plus a mixture of fruit that rotates with market availability. In the fall, expect pears and apples. With springtime comes rhubarb and strawberries, followed soon by raspberries. By summer, blueberries reach their pinnacle and pair with peaches— a winning combination that graced my all-time favorite baked good this morning.
On the Carroll Street stretch, we stuffed a bag with the juciest, most flavorful heirloom tomatoes at the market from Snug Haven, which also features a hilarious man named Bill Warner. Their farm receives the highest honor (in my opinion) of supplying tomatoes to Frontera Grill in Chicago, home to Top Chef Master Rick Bayless—a culinary superstar and one of my chef heroes. Unfortunately, I busied myself with holding the umbrella to ward off the sudden downpour and couldn’t snap a photo of the bright yellow, red, and green zebra-striped tomatoes one-handed.
After filing behind the growing crowd onto Main Street, our last leg, we made one final stop at Sutter’s Ridge Farm to pick up two pints of blood red raspberries (on sale for $4!), from an adorable little girl who chose the two sweetest-looking, deepest-colored berry boxes of the bunch. Go little kids!
Ah. Don’t you just love returning home with a mess of summer produce from the farmers market to infiltrate your refrigerator?
Comment Provoking Questions: How often do you patronize your local farmers market? Who are your favorite vendors? For which fruits and veggies do you jump up and down when you see them available at the market?
Until next time, Ali.