Farm To Table Report – July/August 2018
Keep Your Cool with Seasonal Summer Produce at the markets
In the middle of summer, when the temperatures rise and your AC (or perhaps swamp cooler) dips, the idea of turning on the oven, standing over a simmering sauce pan, and even eating a hot meal can seem unbearable. Luckily, eating with the seasons has its perks – much of the produce that is available at the farmers market from May to October requires little to no effort before it’s edible and delicious. Eating seasonally can help keep your kitchen cool, your taste buds happy, and your belly satisfied.
The easiest and most obvious way to keep your kitchen cool in the summer is to forget about the oven altogether. Seasonal produce like tomatoes, cucumbers, summer squash, melons, onions, carrots, peppers, and stone fruit are delicious just as they are. You’ll find a plethora of such summer produce at Larry’s Veggies all summer long. Thanks to Larry Parks’ green thumb and a few acres of fertile land in Marana, his market stand will be stocked with crunchy okra, chiles, eggplant, peppers, vibrant stripy heirloom tomatoes, sweet juicy melons, and a few different varieties of squash this year.
For an easy lunch or light dinner, layer hummus and thick slices of heirloom tomato between two slices of rustic bread for an easy––yet intensely satisfying––sandwich. Blend raw tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, garlic, and peppers with a few other simple ingredients to make gazpacho in a matter of minutes. Or, tear up half a loaf of stale bread and add it to a bowl with diced tomatoes, basil, and sliced ripe peaches, then drizzle everything with olive oil and balsamic vinegar for a beautiful bowl of panzanella that pairs perfectly with chilled wine. At the beginning of July, when the monsoons still haven’t come and even the simplest no-cook meal seems like too much work, gently toss cubed and chilled melon with thinly sliced red onion, feta, fresh mint, lime juice, and a little olive oil to enjoy while you wait for the rain. Ripe, juicy summer produce can serve as an inspiration for many different meals throughout the warm months.
Cochise Family Farm, which recently expanded their farm to include a large greenhouse and a commercial kitchen, will also be a reliable source for fresh, local produce this summer. Farmer Katelyn Urso is preparing to eat her favorite summer fruit – sweet, juicy, white peaches that drip down your chin and arms as you eat them. Cochise Family Farms will begin selling their infamous peaches in July, and will continue selling them until peach season comes to an end in the early fall. In addition to peaches, you’ll find small (but sweet) strawberries, raspberries, golden raspberries, and blackberries at Cochise Family Farms’ market stand.
“We have squash and zucchini coming out of our ears,” Urso said, adding that Cochise Family Farms is selling more than just fruit this summer. In addition to an array of summer veggies, they’re offering bags of spiralized zucchini and delicious home-baked goods, like chocolate chip cookies and fruit pies made with their very own homegrown peaches and berries – perfect goodies for a summer gathering. The folks at Cochise Family Farm are also venturing into the world of canning and pickling and will soon be selling cans of Bavarian sauerkraut, pickled baby pattypan squash, and dill zucchini spears. Whether you want a bag full of fresh summer produce to inspire you in the kitchen or a handmade treat that’s waiting to be devoured, you’re sure to find something you love from Cochise Family Farm.
While the sweltering heat of July and August can make it difficult to believe that summer will ever come to an end, now is a great time to stock up on essentials––like garlic and onions––that can last you through the fall and winter. Our local farmers at In the Beginning Farm, Richcrest Farm, and Robb’s Family Farm spent May and June harvesting thousands of pounds of onions and garlic, and now is the perfect time to buy them by the basketful. You’ll find more common white-skinned garlic alongside baskets of heirloom varieties like purple-skinned Italian garlic and gargantuan heads of elephant garlic. Each variety has its own taste; some are spicy and zippy, while others are sweet and mild. Get your garlic fix when you try them all at the Tomato Basil and Garlic Festival at the Oro Valley and Rillito Park Farmers Markets on July 28th and 29th. A pantry stocked full of locally grown garlic is guaranteed make your meals taste wonderful all year long.
Have you heard the great news? Heirloom Farmers Markets is once again accepting Double Up Food Bucks at their Friday Trail Dust Town (Home of Pinnacle Peak) and Sunday Rillito Park Farmers Markets! The Double Up Food Bucks program (sponsored by Pinnacle Prevention) allows SNAP recipients to double their SNAP dollars when they use them to buy Arizona-grown fruits and vegetables. SNAP recipients who receive $20 each week, for example, can use that money to buy $40 of locally grown produce – benefitting both shoppers and local farmers. With double the dollars and a little bit of extra planning, you can make a week’s worth of healthy, delicious, and locally sourced meals.
Start by stocking your pantry with year-round items like onions, garlic, potatoes, rice, pasta, polenta, chicken or vegetable stock, beans, eggs, cooking oil, and vinegar. As the fruits and vegetables available at the market change with the seasons, these pantry staples will provide a great basis for many different hearty and delicious meals. The key to doing your shopping at the farmers market is to be flexible. Planning to shop at the farmers market can be more challenging than making a list for the grocery store, because you never truly know what (or how much) farmers will bring to the market that day. Use the seasonal produce shopping list on the Heirloom Farmers Market website to get an idea of what you might find at the market before you go.
Keep track of how you spend your doubled up food bucks, noting how much you’ve spent and how much you have left on a small piece of paper, as you make your way through the market. Many of the farms clearly label their prices with a chalkboard or individual signs on each produce bin. When you’re calculating how much you want to spend on any one thing, be sure to confirm whether it’s being sold by the unit or the pound. Keeping hand-written receipts will give you a better idea of farmers market prices throughout the year. Most importantly, go to the farmers market with an open mind and fill your reusable bags with fresh fruits and vegetables that will inspire good cooking at home.
When you return home with your findings, lay everything out on the counter and make a list of what’s there. Don’t forget that almost every part of a vegetable is edible – carrot tops can be used for pesto and salsa verde; the whites of green onions can be sautéed with carrots to make the base of a thick tomato sauce; and odds and ends of various vegetables can be saved in a container in the refrigerator until you have enough to make a pot of rich vegetable stock. Once you have a good idea of the fresh produce and dry goods you have on hand, spend 20 or 30 minutes planning how you’ll use it throughout the week. You might decide to use bright yellow summer squash, onions, and garlic to make fried rice topped with a fresh farm egg; bursting cherry tomatoes, tender eggplant, and sweet bell peppers to make roasted vegetables served over creamy polenta; and zucchini, heirloom corn, and jalapeños to make soft tortillas stuffed with calabacitas served alongside tender black beans. When you have a kitchen full of fresh vegetables grown less than 100 miles away, you don’t need much to make hearty and healthy meals that will keep you full all week long.
One of the best things about shopping at the farmers market is talking with the farmers who grow and harvest our food. Their knowledge regarding local growing conditions, heirloom seed varieties, and seasonal recipes is seemingly endless. If you’re inspired to stay connected with local farmers throughout the week, follow them on social media and sign up for their newsletters to get an inside look at what they’re building, planting, and harvesting back at the farm. Joe Marlow of SouthWinds Farm has a wonderful weekly newsletter that includes farm updates, a harvest list, a list of what’s in that week’s CSA share, and a seasonal recipe, along with beautiful photos from the farm. Connecting with your farmers online can keep you informed about which markets they’ll be selling at, what produce they’re bringing to the market each week, and what they plan to harvest in the coming months. Above all, who doesn’t love to look at photos of beautiful pastoral landscapes as they sit in their office chair on Monday morning?
Search for your favorite farms and farmers market vendors on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Google to get a closer look at how your local food is grown and made.