As spring turns to summer, local farmers’ markets begin bringing fresh produce directly to Tri-Village residents from Ohio farmers.
“It’s in the field in the morning and your hands in the afternoon,” says Upper Arlington Farmers’ Market Director Mac Kinney.
The variety and quantity of fresh fruits and vegetables available at farmers markets might seem overwhelming, but vendors at both the Grandview Heights and Upper Arlington farmers' markets offered some insight on what to look for at the markets and how to enjoy your picks.
Upper Arlington Farmers’ Market
The Upper Arlington Farmers’ Market opens May 16, and farmer Brian Helser of Paige's Produce,in Stoutsville near Circleville, has some simple advice about what to do with the produce you find there.
“You can steam them, stir-fry them or eat them raw,” Helser says, referring to his selection of produce including Chinese cabbage, radishes, green beans, zucchini and yellow squash. Helser advises veggie lovers to try every vegetable raw.
“I like all vegetables raw; to me it’s a more fresh taste,” he says. “You have to try sweet corn raw. I know it sounds gross, but it is fantastic.”
If you prefer your sweet corn cooked, Helser has a quick method.
“Sweet corn is great grilled. All you have to do is leave it in the husk and set it on the grill,” Helser says. Rotate the ear as it begins to cook until the entire husk is brown. When you open it up, the silk will fall off, removing the hassle of peeling it.
While Kevin Beavers doesn’t recommend you try his product raw, he does encourage market-goers to taste the difference of farm fresh beef. Beavers operates Darby Creek Beef, six miles south of Grove City, where he raises cows on grass, grain and hay and without growth hormones or steroids.
“I tell people, I grow beef the way Grandpa used to do it,” Beavers says.
Beavers brings different cuts of meats and “good ol’ American hamburgers” to the market. Also on hand: bacon, sausage and pork cuts from pigs that his neighbor raises.
“People say, ‘I’ve never tasted meat like this before,’ and I say, ‘Well, that’s because you’ve never had it fresh from the farm,’” Beavers says.
In addition to fresh produce and meat, you’ll find flowers, cheese and pumpkins at the market, which is held each Wednesday from 3-6 p.m. until Oct. 9 each Wednesday in the parking lot of the Upper Arlington Senior Center, 1945 Ridgeview Rd. On Aug. 14, the market holds Peak of the Pick, an event that includes food demonstrations, music and samples. For more information, visit www.uaoh.net.
“The Upper Arlington Farmers’ Market has everything you need,” Kinney says.
Grandview Avenue Farmers Market
The Grandview Avenue Farmers Market, which begins July 6, offers produce ranging from apples to zucchini, and every letter in between. Some vendors go even further, selling products beyond the traditional fruits and veggies.
Prairie Fields Farm, an Orient, Ohio-based business that has been selling products at the market since 2009, offers soaps and honey as well as produce.
Owner Rachel Najjar and her husband, Matthew, carry more than 20 varieties of beeswax soap, balms and herbal oils that Rachel has created in her kitchen. Najjar even grows the lavender that scents her most popular soap.
“Whatever I can grow to put in the soap, I do,” Najjar says.
All of these products – including their edible honey – come straight from the hive.
“All we do is remove the beeswax chunks from the honey. It’s unfiltered, and so it retains its enzymes and pollen – its health benefits,” Najjar says.
Her own recommendation for honey is a simple and classic one: a peanut butter and honey sandwich. She also suggests replacing white sugar with honey if you’d like to try a more natural sweetener in baking. Along with honey products, Najjar spins wool from the family’s sheep into yarn. She also makes jellies and jams from farm fruits.
But the most popular item Prairie Field sells is the heirloom tomato.
“We can’t keep heirloom tomatoes on the table,” Najjar says. “They have been around for generations. ... They are a pure string of tomatoes whose flavor and texture is better than altered tomato species. Heirloom tomatoes are a smorgasbord of color and variety, but the biggest difference is their history.”
Najjar understands how busy summertime gets, so she keeps her own meal recipes simple.
“There’s so much to do, but making good quality, wholesome food for the family isn’t that hard in the summer,” says Najjar.
Though Najjar isn’t Italian, her two favorite heirloom tomato recipes are. With just six ingredients, Najjar creates a simple Caprese salad. She combines tomatoes and fresh mozzarella with olive oil, lemon juice, basil and a touch of sea salt. For a more substantial meal, Najjar uses a food processor and a few other ingredients to make a fresh tomato pasta sauce.
“I just pulse down tomatoes with basil, onion, garlic, Parmiggiano-Reggiano, salt and pepper. Then I douse the sauce with hot pasta, and it is the best,” Najjar says.
Fellow grower and Grandview Avenue vendor Marcy Musson, co-organizer of the market, agrees with Najjar’s choice in produce.
“Tomatoes are my favorite. We grow 20 varieties. I can’t wait until they’re ready and I cry when they’re gone,” Musson says. She offers a method for utilizing fresh tomatoes all year long.
“I can tons and tons of tomatoes. All I need are canning jars, fresh vegetables, boiling water and my pressure canner. In the dead of winter, I can use these tomatoes in all my cooking,” Musson says.
The Grandview Avenue Farmers Market is open from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. each Saturday from July 6 through the end of October in the parking lot between Vino Vino and the U.S. Post Office on Grandview Avenue.
The market hosts special events, inviting guest chefs and restaurants to give demonstrations and hand out samples made from market produce. Along with fresh produce, market vendors offer fresh kettle corn and homemade soup, among other items. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/pages/grandview-avenue-farmers-market.
Morgan Montgomery is a contributing writer. Feedback welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.