When farmer’s markets started to gain popularity 20 years ago, they quickly became a Saturday-morning staple for any self-respecting foodie. We met at the biggest and the best markets, filled our reusable bags to overflowing, then snacked on sugar-sweet sun gold cherry tomatoes or sticky gooseberries while we commiserated about the amazing dinner we had planned for that evening to use our finds.
The Saturday morning farmer’s market was as much a social outing — with a little swagger — as it was a shopping experience. And that still holds true to some degree, with many markets incorporating food trucks, cooking demos and live music to draw in the crowds.
But there’s been a shift as well. People looking to buy fresh, local, in-season produce are no longer married to the weekend markets in city centers. Central Ohio has markets almost every day of the week in almost every quadrant now. Shoppers can still get their Saturday-morning fix at Worthington or Clintonville, but they can also find something closer to home during the week.
I’m lucky to work in rural Knox County, so I can stop at the Farm on Kenyon Road almost any day. But I could also opt for the markets at Easton or New Albany on Thursdays, or send my husband to the Franklin Park Conservatory on Wednesdays or Bexley on Thursdays.
The point is we have more choices than ever when it comes to buying local produce in the summer, and that’s good. In years past, it was easy to eat the good stuff on the weekend, but by mid-week, I was restricted again to what the supermarkets sold. Now I can supplement my Saturday purchases with fruits and vegetables I pick up at other markets or stands during the week.
That means I shop a little differently, too. On Saturday, I still walk the market first, to see what looks good, then circle back around to make my purchases. During the week, I can shop a little quicker. The markets are usually smaller, and I know more clearly what I need.
I still enjoy the Saturday morning markets, but I don’t sweat it if I can’t make it. I have plenty of other chances to pick up great Ohio produce.
ROASTED BEETS WITH ORANGE VINAIGRETTE
Beets are a great weekend purchase, in part because they’ll last a week or longer if you don’t have a chance to cook them. But because they also take some time to cook, they’re a great veggie to cook on the weekend then toss into salads during the week.
1 or 2 bunches beets (any kind or color)
1/3 cup olive oil plus additional for drizzling
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Trim beets of greens and roots. Scrub under cold running water. Drizzle beets with olive oil. Arrange on a sheet of foil, then gather the foil loosely around the beets, enclosing completely, but leaving room for air to circulate. Place the foil packet in a shallow baking dish (like a pie pan).
Roast the beets until a sharp knife inserted in them goes in easily, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours, depending on the size. Cool slightly. Rub skins off beets. Cut in quarters (or eighths if beets are large).
Whisk orange juice, vinegar, mustard and salt and pepper in a small bowl until blended. Gradually whisk in olive oil. Place beets (still warm) in a medium bowl. Drizzle with vinaigrette. Toss to coat. Let stand at room temperature until cool. Serve or store in the refrigerator up to 4 days.
SAUTEED PEAS AND CARROTS
Remember those pea-and-carrot combos from the can or the freezer section? This side dish tastes nothing like that. Use peas as soon as you can after picking. They’ll taste much sweeter. If you can’t find garlic scapes, use green onions.
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons minced garlic scapes
1 cup sliced fresh carrots
1 cup fresh shelled peas
1/4 cup water
Salt and pepper to taste
Melt the butter in a heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic scapes and carrots. Saute 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the peas. Add the water. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Cover and cook until the carrots are just tender and the peas are bright green, about 5 minutes. Uncover and cook until the liquid evaporates, about 3 minutes longer. Adjust seasoning if necessary.