Saturday, April 29, 2006

at the farmers market

Today was my 1st farmers market visit this year, the North Union Market at Crocker Bassett. I'm particularly interested in the market this year because I'm doing the Eat Local Challenge, a movement to increase awareness about the perils of eating unseasonally and having our food trek around the globe to arrive on our plates weary and travel-stained (so to speak). I'm also going to be posting on a blog with other eat-local-challengers: more on that later.
I'd never been to the market this early in the year, and I was curious about what I'd find. What is there to eat in Ohio in May? There are some onionish things coming up in my yard, and some micro lettuce, but nothing much to put on a plate. Happily, the North Union farmers are more on the ball.

I bought the following
2 kinds of lettuce
2 loaves of bread (rye and some kind of multigrain)
a dozen eggs
cottage cheese (eggs and cottage cheese from an Amish farmer in a straw hat)
raw milk cheddar
a plastic bag of nettles (I don't know what to do with these yet)
a giant bunch of kale
Fuji apples
some bison sausage
a paper bag full of mushrooms
2 basil plants, one green, one green
and a chocolate-almond croissant
every single thing either grown or produced or baked or preserved in northeast Ohio: amazing.
I was most excited about the ramps (see left)--I'd read about them, but never had any before. They're a wild food, very seasonal (only early spring), supposedly very smelly, in the onion family. I'd read that they'd totally stink up your car on the way home, but neither my sister nor I noticed this. I've double-bagged them in the veg drawer--we'll see how aromatic they are tomorrow.
As often, D looked doubtful when I spread out this bounty. He worries that we won't be able to use everything when I buy a lot of stuff. He's already imagining the vegetables as slime in the bottom drawer of the fridge (and it's not like this has never happened), so I must prove him wrong.
Here's Sally of Summit Croissants--hers was the chocolate-almond croissant I bought (and almost immediately ate: mmm). I forgot to ask her why she'd named them Summit. Because they're from Summit county? they're the peak of croissants? Not sure, but they were excellent.

For more information about eating local, check out here or here.


Barbara said...

Lucette--you will really like ramps. I see you have the whole bulb--that is good. You use all of it, white and green parts, both.

Here is how to clean them, if you don't know. Rinse most of the mud off in running water, and then cut off the roots, while slicing off as little as the bulb as possible.

There is a membrane over the bulbs, protecting them--it is kind of like nature's condom. Take that off, and you will reveal the white, garnet and green of the ramp itself. Rinse again, and drain of water, and it is ready to use!

Don't clean them until you are ready to use them, as the roots and membrane help keep them nice and fresh.

You can use the bulbs like garlic, and you can use the leaves like scallion tops and sprinkle them raw on top of your cooked dishes for garnish. Or you can sprinkle them in potato salad, or in any kind of salad, or in devilled eggs.

I have quite a few ramp posts in my blog, so you can check them out--I grew up in West Virginia eating them every spring, so I will use them in everything. In fact, my first recipe for the Eat Local Challenge tomorrow will feature both green garlic and ramps!

Birdsong said...

Wow! I have never had ramps before, but we have been getting much of your finds in our CSA food box the past month, including green garlic, which I never find in the markets. In fact, I am swamped with greens. Be careful with those nettles!

Liz said...

That is a fabulous haul for May! I'm starting to feel more and more like I am at a severe disadvantage this month. Thank goodness for all the food I put up last summer!

I'm curious about the ramps... I've never had them and wouldn't know where/when to find them up here.

lucette said...

Barbara--thanks for the hints. I got a bit of advice from the ramps seller, but he didn't go into the cleaning. I'm going to try sauteing them first, to go with an omelet. But I'm looking forward to your recipe--the bunch I have seems gigantic.
Birdsong--Colette at Chocolate and Zucchini has a nettle soup recipe up which I'm going to try--she used rubber gloves!
Liz--I know that ramps grow in the woods in the Appalachians, but not much more. I probably ought to do some research.

Barbara said...

Liz, where are you?

Ramps grow in the Appalachians, in damp woodland creekbeds, or near upland springs. They come up in the early to mid-spring, depending on how far north you are: in New York or Maine (They grow as far north as Canada, in the Appalachian range), they come out considerably later than they do in West Virginia, where I am from.

We went foraging for them in Southern West Virginia in March and early April, and would bring back bushels of them from the woods.

You can identify them by their broad green spear-head shaped leaves, with underground stalks that start out garnet red and then go white, terminating in little white bulbs. You will know that you have ramps by the smell--they smell strongly of garlic and onion mixed together--you absolutely cannot mistake ramps for any other plant. (Some people think they look like lily-of-the-valley, which is poisonous--but I say, use your nose. If it doesn't smell strongly of garlic, it isn't a ramp!)

You may be able to find them at farmer's markets this time of year--there are sellers here in Southeastern Ohio right now, and as Lucette pointed out, in Cleveland.

So long as you are living within the Appalachian range, which goes from Georgia and Alabama all the way up to Canada (they also grow, I am told, in the woodlands of Wisconsin and Minnesota), then you will be able to find them.

Liz said...

Barbara ~ I'm in Maine, but nowhere near the mountains... much closer to the coast, which could be why I've never heard or seen ramps (but then again, I've only been living here for four years. There's a lot I don't know). I'm thinking I need to ask around, and save all your great info if I do find them.

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