Thursday, August 11, 2016

Webb City Sentinel market column - 8/12/16



It is watermelon season and we are loaded with melons. The hot weather brings at least one delightful result, the melons are delicious. The okra loves the heat too, but it’s not in me to wax rhapsodic about okra.

As it happens National Watermelon Day was last week so I am armed with an abundance of information and recipes related to watermelon. For example, from Consumer Reports (and why they are reporting on watermelon I have no idea)”the nutrient watermelon is most know for is not a vitamin or mineral… but a phytonutrient called lycopene – a powerful antioxidant that gives the fruit’s flesh its characteristic pink hue. ‘Like all phytonutrients, lycopene appears to protect against some cancers, such as prostate cancer and breast cancer’, says Dr. Lisa Sasson, nutrition professor at New York University.’”  She adds that there are many recipes for using watermelon, fresh or cooked, and I’ve included a couple below, but what she says next hits home:  “It’s a short season, so go out and enjoy.”

We’ve been loading the kids plates with fresh cold watermelon at the Free Kids Meal. What could be better on these hot days?  It’s over 90% water, cold and tastes great. Our last Kids Meal of the year is this Tuesday. The menu is hamburgers, watermelon (what a surprise), jellybean tomatoes and milk. I want to take a moment to thank all the volunteers who helped serve the meals this summer. It was a lot of meals – by Tuesday it will be up to over 3,800. Special thanks go to our professional cooks – Syerra Conklin, Josephine (Jo) Provance, and Theresa White, as well as our able assistant KB Hardesty. And to our volunteers who were at the market serving kids almost every week – Braxton Melton, Paul Jackson and Annette Elam. Where would we have been without the amazing Ann Foos who recruited whole crews for us on many days and the wonderful Keller Williams team who filled all the volunteer positions on two of the hottest days of the summer. Or the Brashears boys (above) who took such pleasure in handing out milk to their peers. And to those of you who helped once or several times, we couldn’t have done it without you!
 
We plan to do the meals next year – and serve even more. We hope that area churches and organizations will follow Keller Williams lead and sign up for two or more days during the summer. If it would be a great project for you, stop by the information table and give us your contact information. We’ll let you know when we start scheduling next year.

We’re looking forward to another lovely Saturday market. Since it was rained out last Saturday, the streetcar will be running from 9 to noon. The rides are free and they leave from the depot west of the market.

Cooking for a Cause benefits the students of Eastmoreland Elementary in Joplin (especially the kids with autism). For less than $5 you get a biscuit and gravy (with one free refill), two sausages, two farm fresh eggs cooked to order, slices of market tomatoes, and coffee or juice. Special bonus – since we are closing down the kids meal and have extra chocolate milk, the first 99 people who want a carton of milk, with or without breakfast can have one for free!
 
Scott Eastman takes the market stage. Music and meal run from 9 to 11.

Chef JR Amos, the executive chef of Mercy Hospital, will conduct a cooking class at the market Saturday. This is his second class at the market this year. They are organized by Arvest Bank, who pays the chef and the chef then donates his payment to the kids meal. Win-Win for the market!

He’ll be preparing honey mojito fruit salad, sweet street corn salad, mixed summer vegetable, multicolored cheesy potato crisp and lemon herb de provence breast of chicken. Unlike our regular demonstration, we set up benches for folks. Last time he had a couple of ladies who watched it from beginning to end and lots and lots of others who sat in for a recipe or two.

Tuesday Rob Pommert will play and Stewart’s Bakery will serve supper. MU Extension will demo a tasty dish.

Thursday William Adkins plays and Stewart’s Bakery will serve lunch. School may have started but we will still have lots of fresh produce and good things for you to enjoy.

Here are those melon recipes I promised. This Martha Stewart recipe is recommended by Sam Knudtson, a market regular:

Easy Melon Sorbet 

All you need are a few fresh melons and a food processor. First, cube a melon and freeze it in a food-storage bag. When you're ready to make sorbet, place frozen melon in the food processor, and puree. You may need to add water to smooth. Add sugar to taste, and puree again. Serve immediately, or store in the freezer in an airtight container up to 2 weeks.

MU Extension made this recipe from their app Seasonal and Simple at the market yesterday. It was tasty and refreshing: 

Melon Salsa

2 cups melon, seeded and chopped
1 cup cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
1/4 cup onion, red or white, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro or mint, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeding and finely chopped
1/4 cup lime or lemon juice
1 tablespoon sugar, white or brown

In a medium size bowl, stir together all ingredients. Taste and season with more juice or sugar, if needed. Cover and chill for at least 30 minutes. Serve with grilled or broiled chicken or fish.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Webb City Sentinel market column - 8-5-16



The market tomorrow is not to be missed!  It’s National Farmers Market Week so we have a drawing to celebrate. The winner wins a fun farmers market-themed crate given to us by a kind customer and $25 in market tokens to fill the crate up. 

 Pate’s Orchard is bringing in another double load of peaches, even more than last Saturday. The streetcar is giving free rides - All aboard at the depot west of the market!  Robertson Family Farm is bringing honey!  Oakwoods Farm will have their pepper roaster at the market for the first time this year. And the Granny Chicks are playing!

It’s hard to beat that line up, especially when you add that Cooking for a Cause benefits the Friends of the Webb City Library. Breakfast and music run from 9 to 11. The market and streetcar run from 9 to noon. The drawing is at 11:30 and you don’t have to be present to win.

I think it’s pretty common knowledge that roasted vegetables are wonderfully flavorful. Unfortunately at the very time we have the most vegetables, it’s way too hot to be using the oven. Starting tomorrow and into the fall, you can get that roasting done at the market, at least for peppers. Oakwoods is happy to roast any of the hot and sweet peppers they grow for you. They will even, for a small fee, roast peppers bought from other vendors at the market or peppers from your garden. And don’t think they’re going to bake in one of the market ovens. The pepper roaster is a wire cage turned over a row of propane-fueled flames. It’s quick and the result is scrumptious flavor with a hint of smoke. Delicious – and the peppers freeze well so you can enjoy them all year.

Now is the time of year to enjoy the wide variety of peppers at the market. It’s also a great time to load up on okra which loves hot weather. I’ve seen hundreds of okra plants on farm inspections this year, but nowhere more than on Roffmann Farm. I teased Pete Roffmann Tuesday that he is the market’s okra king, just as I call Owen Detweiler our melon king. Of course, Amish modesty forbids him acknowledging any title like king but he sure admits to loving to grow melons. It’s his favorite crop – watermelon, cantaloupe, canary melon. He’s had some trouble with his watermelon this year and is toying with growing them in an enormous high tunnel next year. The rains hampered his planting schedule   as well as the harvest schedule and he wants more control. On the other hand his cantaloupe crop this year has been amazingly abundant – and delicious. We have several other farmers that do a lot of excellent melons – especially Harmony Hill, plus Fairhaven and Brakers to name just a few, but no one at the market loves growing melons like Owen.

The streetcar will run again on Tuesday from 4 to 6:30 in honor of us expecting lots of kids for supper. The Free Kids Meal runs from 4:30 to 6:30 and will be a hot dog, market fruit and veggies and milk. Stewart’s Bakery will have a couple of good choices for folks over 18 to enjoy. Rob Pommert will play.

On Thursday the kids meal is from 11 to 1 and will be a submarine sandwich, market veggies and fruit and milk. Scott Eastman will play and Extension will do a cooking demo. 

A week from Thursday, August 18, at 1 pm at the market kitchen, we have a special class scheduled – 101 Ways to Enjoy Squash!  Our vendor Mende Staggs of Apple Road Farms will teach delicious ways to enjoy both summer and winter squash, as well as storage techniques for winter squash. (Did you know the winter squash is already at the market – check out the selection at Fairhaven and Green’s Greenhouse.)  The class will be 1.5 hours and the cost is $10. Participants should bring at least 3 to 4 medium summer squash – zucchini, patty pan or yellow, as well as some plastic
containers in which to take their creations home, plus a knife and cutting board. The cost is $10. The class is limited to 20 people and reservations can be made at the information table at the market or by calling 417 483-8139.

Now I have a confession to make. Though tomorrow is a market not to be missed, I will miss it. I am in Denver visiting my little grandson Wyatt. I try to see him at least once a month and this was my last chance until October. (Yes, he is precious. At seven months he continues to be the smilingest baby I’ve ever met.)  You may note that I am missing my September visit. That’s because in two weeks I leave for over a month to help my daughter Cora and her family move from Australia to (wait for it) Mongolia. That should be an adventure. But believe it or not, even when I’m enjoying the rare and real pleasure of being with my children and grandchildren I still miss the market. There’s just something about the congeniality, the bustle, the music, the beauty of the produce that I miss. I wonder if you feel the same?  Share your thoughts on the topic. Please send me via facebook message or email – eileennichols@sbcglobal.net – your own thoughts about the market. Why you come. Memorable moments. What you value. Your hopes for the market’s future?  I will use your comments, insights and stories to create the market columns for September before I leave. When I spent time in Australia I just wrote from there using a laptop to connect with my office computer just as I’m doing right now from Denver. But I’m not going to count on being able to do that in Mongolia. I’ll let you know in October whether I underestimated the Mongolian internet capacities.

Enjoy the market for me while I’m gone.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Webb City Sentinel column - 7-29-16



John Pate tells me their orchard is loaded with big beautiful peaches. They will have two loads at tomorrow’s market of those beautiful peaches so we should have plenty – no need to stand in line tomorrow - but some people will anyway. I think people get used to coming early when the crop first starts coming in but in limited quantities.

We’ve got boxes and boxes of canning tomatoes and so many cantaloupe and watermelon that they won’t fit into the farmers’ trucks. They have hitch up long trailers to haul them to market. On the other hand, the blackberries are just about finished and the sweet corn is between plantings so there won’t be a lot of either tomorrow. Such is the reality of eating seasonally. The best way to enjoy the fruits (and veggies) of the season is to remain open and flexible and savor the season. Have the green beans sold out?  Try long beans. Blackberries sold out, gorge on melon. Can’t find lettuce for a salad?  Why not a tomato, cucumber and melon salad?  I’ve included the recipe for that below. Extension demonstrated yesterday at the market. It’s just right for hot weather.

Exposing kids to new produce has been one of the most satisfying aspects of the free kids’ meal. Yesterday they enjoyed jellybean tomatoes, a new cherry-type tomato grown this year by Fredrickson Farm. They were a big hit. A few weeks ago they tried lunchbox peppers, a colorful sweet pepper we got from E & O Produce. Soon parents arrived in the pavilion to buy some for home after their children gobbled them up. We hope that every one of the many hundreds of children eating with us this summer have discovered a new favorite fruit or veggie to enjoy for a lifetime. You’ll find plenty of old, and new, favorites at the market tomorrow.

The Friends of Camp Mintahama are serving breakfast tomorrow. They will use their profits to continue improving the local camp that has provided outdoor learning and many fond memories for girl scouts over the years. JR and Corky will play bluegrass. Both music and meal run from 9 to 11 while the market on Saturdays runs from 9 to noon.

On Tuesday, the Kids Meal is sloppy Joes, cantaloupe, watermelon and more of those tasty jellybean tomatoes, and milk. Stewart’s Bakery will have a couple of tasty choices for the adults. The Pommerts will play.

On Thursday, the Kids Meal is features nachos. We haven’t chosen the fruit and veggies yet. The Kids Meal takes advantage of what is in abundance so we’ll wait to see wait next week brings. 

Granny Shaffers will have catfish and potatoes and Stewart’s Bakery will have a couple of meal choices. Cliff Walker will play.  (below - some market regulars enjoying a meal at the market)

Experts from University of Missouri and Lincoln University Extension will be at the market Thursday to give advice on all things horticultural, whether for a veggie or flower garden or farm. They can also help with landscaping issues. If you have a disease or pest problem, bring a sample in a clear sealed plastic bag.
A week from tomorrow is the first Saturday of the month so the streetcar will be giving free rides, weather permitting.

Here’s that recipe I promised.

Watermelon, Cucumber and Tomato Salad

Ingredients

2 cups watermelon, seeded and diced
4 small tomatoes, each cut into 8 pieces
1 cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, slivered

Instructions

In a colander, drain the watermelon, tomatoes and cucumber. Place in bowl and toss with the olive oil and basil.

You’ll find this recipe and more in the University of Missouri Extension’s Seasonal and Simple. It is available on-line and as an app and it’s all about savoring the season. See you at the market!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Webb City Sentinel market column - 7-22-16



Yesterday when the streetcar was running, the Joplin Globe came by to do a story on the streetcar’s 100th anniversary. The Globe put a slide show on facebook of some of the riders with Abe Norvell on the cover. Abe is in town with his mother Katelyn visiting his grandparents Alan and Kathy Casella. I figured he would win the longest distance award because Abe and his mom are from Sioux Falls, South Dakota. But no, in going through the slides I came across a photo of Patrick Walls with his son Nathan who are in town visiting Nathan's grandmother, Mary Jane Walls James. (Patrick is pointing out landmarks to Nathan in the Globe photo)  Patrick and Nathan live in Kenya. So Nathan, you win the longest distance award for this week!

Another distance story - De Hunt, our Saturday volunteer cart driver, is attentive and engaging as he shuttles customers (and their purchases) from parking to pavilion and back. Last Saturday ne noticed a customer’s car had Texas license plates and commented on it casually. “Visiting family?”  “No,” the customer replied. “I drive up just for the market every five weeks.”  Even more surprising, she drives through much of Texas to do it. She lives near San Antonio. My, De, there must be more to that story.

This week she sure didn’t come up for cool weather. What a scorcher it’s been. Thankfully it looks like the worst is behind us for now. Weather-wise, it’s been a screwy summer for farming. Our farmers near and north of Webb City have been dealing with downpours that have made it hard to get in the fields to plant and cultivate. Our farmers to the south have had the opposite problem – barely a drop of rain. Weather is one of the real challenges of farming.

We’re looking forward to another bountiful week at the market despite the crazy growing conditions. The summer crops are in full force – cantaloupe, watermelon, zucchini, cucumbers, eggplant, squash, onions, and tons more. Now is the time to buy canning tomatoes. I saw 20-pound boxes yesterday for between $10 and $12.50. Now that’s a deal.

Tomorrow we welcome back Red Bridge. This high energy duo and sometimes trio will have your feet tapping to their bluegrass and gospel.

Cooking for a Cause benefits the Boys and Girls Club. Breakfast and music run from 9 to 11 while the market is open from 9 to noon on Saturdays. 

On Tuesday, Stewart’s Bakery will serve supper. The Free Kids Supper will be nachos with market veggies and fruit. Rob Pommert will play.

On Thursday the streetcar will give free rides from 11 to 1. All aboard at the depot west of the market! The Free Kids Meal will be a hamburger and market fruits and veggies. Stewart’s Bakery and M & M Bistro will serve lunch.

The Kids Meal continues to be a feast for the eyes and the tummy. (photo - chicken salad and market cantaloupe, lunchbox peppers and cherry tomatoes were served Thursday)  What a great job our head cook Syerra Conklin does with the help of her assistant cooks, Theresa White and Jo Provance. KB Hardesty, a senior at Webb City High, joined the team this week after serving as a volunteer for most of the summer.  

Our professional team is ably assisted by a bevy of volunteers, including Braxton Melton, a student at the Webb City Junior High (the photo is of him on his first day). He handed out milk on his first day of volunteering, then quickly graduated to filling plates and now has a top responsibility as the greeter and head counter. Braxton always brings his honor society volunteer sheet for me to sign. Honor society members are required to do a certain number of volunteer hours every year. When I asked Braxton for the sheet yesterday he replied that he’d already done all the required hours and now he was volunteering just because he enjoyed it. What a kid!  Let’s clone him.

Just as we have customers who come a long distance, we have programs that gather attention from a long distance. I received a call last week from the USDA.  They are featuring the market’s Free Kids Meals as one of their national success stories. It will be featured in a variety of USDA publications as well as in power point presentations by their staff. We’ll also be featured as one of three model programs nationwide in the annual Summer Meal guide of the Food Research and Action Council, an anti-hunger non-profit that works closely with USDA advocating and educating about programs to fight hunger.

It’s nice to get the national attention, but we remain focused on being local. Local food, local farmers, local community, local causes, local kids. And even though a friend of mine would dearly love for us to have a Webb City residents-only shopping day, no matter where you’re from, you’re part of the family when you are at the market.