Sunday, March 9, 2008

Farmers Markets--Not Just for Summer!

Growing up, I remember waiting each summer for the fresh corn to arrive at the local farm stand. My father was insistent that corn from the grocery store was sub-par, and he only bought from one particular farm stand which he felt had the best corn. "Butter and Sugar" was the variety we favored----and the farms in Schoharie County did it best. The season was limited, so we literally ate corn with dinner at least 4 times per was that good.

Everything at the farm stand seemed to just taste better. I have a vivid memory of the best strawberry I ever ate, purchased at a farm stand. Small and bright red, it was pure sweetness. I also remember the first time I ate a tomato fresh off the vine---- not even in the same hemisphere of taste as the tasteless mush sold in the grocery stores. Needless to say, I developed a affinity for farm stands, farmers markets, and the local farmers who devote their lives to producing food.

Living in coastal Connecticut, the farm stands aren't part of the scenery like they were in the rural upstate New York of my childhood. However, particularly in recent years, farmers markets have become more prevalent in this area. In 2006, the folks at Wholesome Wave (spearheaded by Michel Nischan,chef at The Dressing Room Restaurant) began the very popular Westport Farmers Market on Thursdays and Sundays during the summer and fall growing season. This year, the market expanded to include a Winter Market, which is held Saturdays at the Fairfield Theatre Company. "A farmers market in winter?" you ask. You may not find berries and tomatoes, but you will still leave with a armful of goodness.

On a recent Saturday, I was able to buy potatoes from Riverbank Farm of Oxford, organic salad greens from Starlight Gardens of Durham, organic fresh herbs from Two Guys From Woodbridge (even though their farm is in Hamden), and honey from Andrew's Local Honey of Norwalk. An added incentive was that John Barricelli of SoNo Bakery was there selling his fantastic breads and pastries, saving me the trip to South Norwalk. They also have a person selling teas, artisinal cheeses, and fresh seafood. You may not find the same bounty available during the main growing season, you definitely can buy everything you need for a very nice dinner party.

As spring approaches, all the farmers will begin sowing their seeds for the summer and fall harvest, and we can look forward to plentiful farmers markets beginning in early June.

Winter Market Rosemary Potatoes
Serves 6

This recipe comes from my friend Elena, who lives in Italy. I lived with Elena while studying in Siena and she made these delicious pototoes one of the first nights I was there. You can get everything you need to make these potatoes at the Winter Market.

3 lbs potatoes, peeled and cut into ¾ inch cubes
3-4 Tablespoons olive oil
3 sprigs (or 2 Tablespoons) fresh rosemary, minced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper

9x13 baking dish

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Place all ingredients in baking dish and toss to combine (be sure the potatoes are completely coated with oil).
Bake for 45 minutes, or until potatoes are fork-tender.
Serve hot.

Area Farmers Market Info
Winter Market, Fairfield Theatre Company, 70 Sanford Street. Saturdays January- April, 10am-1pm. Go to for vendor list.

Westport Farmers Market, Westport Country Playhouse, 20 Powers Court, Westport, Thursdays, June-November (Sunday market to be determined). Go to for updated info.

Greenfield Hill Farmers Market, 1950 Bronson Road, Fairfield, Saturdays, June-October, 12:30pm-4pm. Call Trish at 259-8786 (Greenfield Hill Liquors) for more info.

Great Websites About "Eating Local" and Local Farmers Markets (New Haven based organization -- local farmers markets) (Find farmers markets in any area) (Lots of fantastic info)
Farmers Market photo by Bernard Mattus, my father-in-law.

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