Thursday, July 29, 2010

Weird & Wonderful

Gardening can produce the wonderful - and sometimes the weird. Jim Hefley from south of Joplin discovered a gigantic cucumber hiding in his garden this week. He doesn't know the variety - a neighbor gave him the seeds - but it's sure the biggest cucumber that I've ever seen.

BTW, his tomato plants are big too - in a deliciously edible way.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Webb City Sentinel column - 7-30-10

We welcome back old friends today (Friday). Long-time growers, Doris Sweeton and Sandy Qualls from Columbus, Kansas, will be at the market for the first time this year. They’ll have green beans and sweet corn – and they always have beautiful produce. You’ll find them on the west side near the south end. (That's John Pate admiring the green beans of Doris and Sandy a couple of seasons ago.)

Doris said she was amazed they had corn. That’s because Sandy, her brother, has had quite a time getting a corn crop in. Four years ago, Sandy planted a beautiful field of corn and decided to go all natural, using placing corn oil on the tassels, which is supposed to prevent worms. Well, we’ll never know about the worms because he didn’t harvest a single ear. Apparently, the oil tasted just like butter to the deer and they took a bite out of every ear.

The next year Sandy put up a very high fence around the entire field, but a very sad sight met our eyes when we made our spring inspection. We could see the rows that had been planted, a few sparse plants and lots and lots of bird tracks. The crows had eaten 90% of the planted seed.

So you can appreciated Doris’ surprise that Sandy finally has a successful crop. After all that work and waiting, I am looking forward to trying it.

Another familiar face today is Frank Runyon who specializes in watermelon and cantaloupes. We’ve been short on both so Frank’s truckload of melons will be very welcome. You’ll find Frank in the center of the pavilion on the west side.

We also have a new face today in the form of a local non-profit – MDA (the Muscular Dystrophy Association). They have a bake sale next to the information table.
You may say – but that the space that belongs to Hazel’s Bakery! And up until today, that was true, but we’re sad to say that Kay and Bill McLaughlin of Hazel’s Bakery have retired as of last week. We’re going to miss them for many reasons, not only for their pies, cakes, fruit breads and cookies, but also for their kindness, generosity and sound advice. Kay first started selling at the market some ten years ago, initially selling mainly plants and a few baked goods. It wasn’t long before customer demand turned her into a professional baker and she put in a certified kitchen becoming one of our most popular vendors.

Next Friday, August 6, we’ve asked Bill and Kay to return to the market between 11 and 1 to say goodbye. Please plan to stop by. I’m sure cards would be especially appreciated. Kay said she plans to put together all the pictures and news articles about her market experience in a scrapbook and cards from customers would be a great addition.

We know that we can’t fill the gap left by Hazel’s Bakery, but we plan to host bake sales on Fridays, possibly until next season. Any nonprofits that would like to participate (& have high quality safe products) can all me at 483-8139 to schedule. This winter, we’ll look for a new professional Friday baker, operating out of a kitchen inspected by the health department. As with all our bakers, we’ll hold “auditions” to find the one that is just right for our market customers.

So what’s happening today? Bill Adkins is playing. Lunch is all-you-can-eat chili with the fixin’s, a fresh fruit cup and drink for $6. The last time the Reeds served the fresh fruit cup several of us ate way more than our fair share, especially Katie Fredrickson, of Fredrickson Farms. Katie ate so many of the fruit cups that Trish Reeds is just bringing a tub of fruit for Katey today. Katey is a living breathing testimony for eating fresh. That child loves her veggies and fruits and can often be seen eating pretty much any kind of produce the market has to offer raw.

Tomorrow breakfast is served by the Friends of the Library until 11 and the Red Bridge Trio returns to the market for two hours of dynamite bluegrass.

Saturday is also our annual Tomato Day. We’ve added smallest ripe tomato back to our Fun category due to popular demand. So if you have a tiny ripe tomato, bring it to the market between 8:30 and 9 tomorrow – but make sure it’s really small. Last year’s winner was about the size of a little fingernail. (At right, the large and the small winners from our first contest many years ago.)

Other Fun categories are heaviest tomato and weirdest tomato. Props are allowed for the latter. Last year Fairhaven won with a tomato that looked like a face – enhanced with a little straw hat.

The Quality categories require two tomatoes for the Best Red and the Other Color contests and six tomatoes in the Best Small (cherry or grape) contest. Our judges this year are Mike Wiggins of Granny Shaffers, Chef Scott Teal of the Holiday Inn and Gwen Hunt, a longtime market customer with flawless taste (I get brownie points for that, right, Gwen? - even though it is absolutely true.)

For those of us who are tasters, not gardeners, there will be samples of a variety of tomatoes from our growers as well as samples of a new bruschetta recipe. Recipes of that and several other tomato dishes are at the market, but if you’d like a head start:

Balsamic Vinegar Bruschetta

1 garlic clove, chopped
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
Pinch salt
Pinch pepper
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 cup Roma tomatoes, chopped
¼ cup fresh basil, chopped
grated Parmesan cheese
Redings Mill artisan bread
olive oil

In a bowl, combine the tomatoes, garlic, basil, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper and lemon juice. Mix together and then refrigerate for about two hours.
Slice the bread into wedges, rub with garlic and brush with olive oil. Toast until slightly brown.

Top the slices with the tomato and balsamic mixture. Sprinkle a pinch of grated Parmesan cheese on top.

Tuesday, NALA (Neighborhood Adult Literacy Action) will serve Cooking for a Cause and receive all the profits. They are a wonderful organization that trains volunteers and organizes tutoring for adults learning to read and for immigrants learning English.

There’s always something new and tasty showing up at the market, so come check out what’s in season.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Tomato Contests

The annual Tomato Contests are Saturday, July 31.

The categories are: Best Quality Red Tomato, Best Quality Other Color Tomato and Best Quality Small (cherry or pear) Tomato. In the fun category, there will be a prize for the heaviest tomato and the weirdest tomato.

Winners of the quality categories receive $25 in market tokens. Fun categories win $15 in tokens. Our thanks to Granny Shaffers for underwriting the prizes again this year. The winners will be on display at the market from 10:30 to 11:30 on the 31st.

For details:

contest details

contest entry form

Webb City Sentinel Column - 7-23-10

Who knew some 800 people would brave the fierce heat on Tuesday for their fresh fruits and veggies? And we’re glad they, or should I write you, did because our farmers have sure been braving the heat to harvest. So far the heat hasn’t affected production, though if it continues long we may see a reduction in some crops. Tomatoes, for example, will not set in high heat conditions. That means, they’ll flower but not produce fruit. All of which means that we need to have our Tomato Day pronto just in case the weather doesn’t break.

Our annual Tomato Day will be a week from tomorrow, July 31. We’ll have sampling of a variety of tomatoes and several tomato contests. Contest entry forms are available at the information table and can be downloaded off the market’s blog – The categories are: Best Quality Red Tomato, Best Quality Other Color Tomato and Best Quality Small (cherry or pear) Tomato. In the fun category, there will be a prize for the heaviest tomato and the weirdest tomato. Winners of the quality categories receive $25 in market tokens. Fun categories win $15 in tokens. Our thanks to Granny Shaffers for underwriting the prizes again this year. The winners will be on display at the market from 10:30 to 11:30 on the 31st.

Tomorrow’s market is loaded with fun. The streetcar is up and running again and will give free rides from 9:30 to 11. The Ninth Hour Quartet will perform between 9:30 and 11:30 and during their intermission, Joplin Little Theater will present highlights from their upcoming musical show High Society. The Webb City Police Explorers Club will serve breakfast from 9 to 11.

You may be noticing a trend here – that we schedule special events on Saturdays during high season. The reason is simple. With so many vendors, so much produce and so many customers at the Friday market, we’re full! Plus, we like to schedule the extra fun when everybody can come, including folks who work 9 to 5 on weekdays and families. Not that our Friday customers are going wanting. Today lunch will be a BLT sandwich, spinach salad, cake and a drink for $6. Webb City’s own Gospel Strings will play. And there will be loads of produce. Friday is still our biggest day in terms of numbers of vendors and amount of produce.

I got to inaugurate the new KSN-TV studio kitchen Thursday. You may remember that the station was destroyed by their broadcast tower a year ago during the inland hurricane in May. They’ve rebuilt better and bigger and I’m honored to join Carol Parker for her first segment in the new kitchen set.

Tami Fredrickson put together a special recipe for me to demonstrate on air that uses many of the vegetables in season right now. This recipe can top chicken while baking, be a side salad or be combined with pasta for a main dish.

Tomato Cucumber and Onion Salad

1 large cucumber
1 small onion
1 large tomato
1 medium bell pepper
salt and pepper to taste
Zesty Italian dressing

Dice cucumber, tomato, onion and bell pepper. Add zesty Italian dressing with a splash of wine vinegar to coat the vegetables. Salt and pepper to taste.
If combined with spiral pasta, this recipe can be made the night before and refrigerated, but do not cut and add the tomato until right before serving to preserve the tomato’s flavor and texture. Tomatoes are chill-sensitive. Many of our growers have a cold room or shed to keep their produce in top shape between harvest and sale. We always check the temperature when we visit to make sure tomatoes are stored at a temperature above 54 degrees so they reach the market at their best. So if you want great tomatoes – keep them out of the fridge. Once they’re cut, of course, they’ll have to be refrigerated. With the market buried in tomatoes, why not use the whole tomato and start over with a new one for the next meal?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Cool summer recipe

Pasta with a taste of summer (add any veggies you enjoy raw)

1 lb rotini pasta
2 lbs plum tomatoes or roma tomatoes, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup olive oil
fresh basil leaf, chopped,to taste (I use about 1/3 cup)
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese (fresh is best)

Mix together the tomatoes, garlic, salt, pepper, olive oil, and basil. Refrigerate 2 hours. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions, and rinse under cold water; drain.

Mix pasta with tomato mixture until well-combined. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Serve with additional Parmesan, if desired.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


The week of the Fourth of the July, the market dedicated its Tuesday and Saturday benefit meals to Crosslines, our regional food and clothing pantry. With the help of volunteers from Central United Methodist Church in Webb City and many kind customers we raised $750 for Crosslines.

I thought you would be interested to know a few facts about the organization. In April, May and June, Crosslines provided food to 1,949 families and clothing to 2,589 families. They assisted with utilities for 81 families and rent for 14 families. In June, Crosslines received 22,788 pounds of donated food from community partners like Sams, Panera and the growers of the market.

Items they are currently in need of:

back-to-school items - Kleenex, hand sanitizer, school supplies from the Joplin or Webb City school list

Kitchen items such as gently used plates, mugs, bowls, glasses, hand operated can openers, toasters, pots, pans, crock pots, electric skillets, fans and microwaves.

Gently used clothing.

If you'd like to donate to or volunteer at Crosslines, contact them at 782-8183. Or you can bring items for donation to the market, and we'll be sure they get to the right place.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Webb City Sentinel column - 7/16/10

Note to bloggers - Hazel's Bakery will not be at the market on Friday - Bill is still under the weather - but we expect our other bakers - including Black Forest (photo on right)

What could be nicer on a hot Missouri day than an icy fruit smoothie? Bethany Lewis’ Stella Dolce is back at the market after a two year absence. Bethany took time off to start a family – and refine her product. She returned Tuesday to rave reviews with six fruit-filled flavors. Each smoothie is 100% fruit and fruit juice and made to order. And each has at least five grams of fiber and a full day’s requirement for fruit. The choices are strawberry fields forever, banana berry, fusion frenzy (you’d never guess from the taste but this one has a full serving of veggies), mango, island blend and tropical berry.

Stella Dolce will be at the market on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Look for Bethany on the northwest side of the pavilion.

With our excellent supply of blackberries right now, you may want to try making a smoothie at home. Here’s a simple recipe from Southern Living magazine:

1 cup fat-free milk
1 pint low-fat frozen vanilla yogurt, softened
1 medium banana, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup fresh blackberries

Process all ingredients in a blender until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides. Serve immediately. Makes four cups.

Speaking of drinks, we expect Marlee’s Creamery to back on their every market schedule next Tuesday. Family concerns (the death of Lisa’s father, Marvin VanGilder, noted newsman and historian) kept them away from the market this week.

I am still away as I write and so can’t give you the menu for today’s meal, but I’m sure it will be lovely. The music today is by the Granny Chicks who always put on a great show.

Tomorrow the Neato Brothers play and the Master Naturalists host breakfast – sausage, biscuits and gravy, and eggs to order served until 11. Speaking of breakfast, you may have noticed the quality of our sausage has improved since last year. That is thanks to Mike Wiggins at Granny Shaffers. I asked him this spring for a good sausage source because, after all, Granny Shaffers is famous for their breakfast. And he offered to sell sausage at his cost to us. Now how many “competitors” would do that? Mike has been extremely generous to the market. He also recommended Wordens Meat several years ago when we were looking for a hamburger supplier for Cooking for a Cause and he sponsors our annual tomato contests. Mike supports many worthy local causes, but his fondness of tomatoes gives us a natural connection.

On the topic of tomatoes – we’re loaded with hybrids and the first heirlooms are coming in. Our annual tomato contest will be announced next week after I consult with our growers as to the best date. We’ll have best red, best other color, biggest and weirdest categories, so start babying those tomatoes (as if you weren’t already doing that!).

You might keep an eye out for the streetcar tomorrow. Lee Englert & son are installing a needed part in the morning and, if all goes well, they’ll take it for a spin a few times, with passengers welcome.

I should be back at the market on Tuesday. My friend and college roommate, Susan Warfield Brennan, died Sunday, one hand held by her husband John, the other held by me. I am so thankful for the privilege her family extended by letting me care for her in her last days and so thankful to the friends and family in Webb City who filled in for me, allowing me to be away. My wish is that each of you is blessed with such friendships. Friends can be found world-wide, but I have found Webb City to be an especially fertile field for friendships.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Webb City Sentinel column - 7-9-10

It’s fruit season at the market (& it's always flower season - that's a photo of flowers at the Lee stand). Marilyn and I each had our first Red Haven peach this week, a pleasure that others can soon enjoy (as long as they’re at the market during the first hour). John Pate knows that Red Haven is my very favorite variety so he brought me the first one – ah, the perks of volunteering at the market.

We still have plenty of blackberries, but that will be ending in a week or so don’t miss them. The first of the raspberries arrived at the market this week. And with cooperation from the weather, we’ll start seeing melons soon.

Though we don’t think of tomatoes as a fruit, they are and the field tomatoes are finally here. We are loaded with tomatoes. If you are a canner, the next six weeks are a great time to buy tomatoes in quantity. Just check with the growers to see if they will sell in bulk. Often they have seconds that are fine for canning or salsa. Seconds are “ugly” tomatoes – tomatoes that have a blemish or odd shape, but with skin and flavor intact.

There is an exception to that seconds definition, and that is heirloom tomatoes. Heirlooms just naturally come in odd shapes so you may very well find an oddly shaped German Giant or a Brandywine Pink that is still a top quality tomato. In fact, whatever the shape, it’s hard to find an heirloom that I’d don’t like. They tend to ripen a bit later than the hybrid so it will likely be a couple of weeks before heirlooms are abundant at the market.

A word to the wise about corn – demand is exceeding supply, so be at market in the first hour if you want corn this week. Fairhaven and Broken Wire have both been bringing corn.

We’re looking for some additional volunteers at the market. We need a couple of knowledgeable gardeners who will work with our students when they harvest on garden day. Two students harvest each Tuesday and Saturday, meeting at the garden about 1 1/2 hours before market. Since I’m busy setting up at market at that time, they currently have no on-site guidance as to harvesting. So if you are available from 9 to 10:30 on Tuesday or 7:30 to 8:30 on Saturday to guide the children in harvesting squash, cucumbers, egg plant and tomatoes, please give me a call at 483-8139 or stop by the information table.

On Tuesday, Alice Pantoja was first in line buying two bouquets from the children. She gave them a twenty dollar bill and the kids handed her back sixteen. Alice, who always accessorizes with a bright smile, told the children “No, you need to count back the change to me. Here, I’ll show you.” And, sure enough, the children counted back change for the rest of the market. One more skill learned.

Another volunteer job at the market is driving the market cart. We are fortunate to have three cart drivers now but there are days when none can be at the market – and if that day is a Friday it can cause a problem. We’d like to have a few more folks trained to call on when needed.

Lunch today (Friday) is ham steak, au gratin potatoes, green beans, dessert and drink for $6. The Plainsfolk play between 11 and 1.

Tomorrow(Saturday), Big Brothers, Big Sisters serves breakfast till 11. We are delighted to have Center Creek Bluegrass return to the market Saturday after an absence of several years. The streetcar had been scheduled to run, but the crew has run into mechanical problems so we’ll probably have to reschedule.

Tuesday PEO serves Cooking for a Cause. The profits will go to their scholarship program for women attending college. Rob Pommert plays from 11 to 1.

Finally, I’d like to say a word of thanks to the many good people I am lucky to call friends. With little notice I have come to the east coast to help care for my college roommate who is terminally ill. From the market volunteers who stepped in to cover for me, to long time vendor (and nurse) Barbara Pate who assured me that a kind, firm hand on the shoulder is sometimes the best medicine, to the friends and family who are covering my other responsibilities, thank you. Your kindness means a lot to me.

Have a great time at the market this week – it’s high season!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Webb City Sentinel Column - 7-2-10

Farm visits are continuing. Marilyn and I were over at Hillside Farm near Carthage yesterday. Hillside will be selling today for the first time this season. You may remember them for their specialty, garlic. Craig Hansen, the grower, said his garlic career started with a farm tour in Austin, Texas in 1995. A cook on the tour was waxing rhapsodic about his personal garlic supply and Craig talked him into parting with two cloves of this great garlic. The garlic Craig and his wife Kendra sell today traces a direct line to those two cloves, which he has carefully planted and divided over the years.

(Photo is from visit to Agee gardens yesterday - blackberries)

Yesterday I was at Hector Troyer’s checking out his high tunnel tomatoes. His tunnel is just loaded and he should have hundreds of pounds of tomatoes at the market today. I have received differing opinions on high tunnel tomatoes vs. field tomatoes. Some farmers swear by the former while others declare field tomatoes to be superior. Hector thinks it’s a matter of plant maturity. He’s not impressed with the flavor of the first field or high tunnel tomatoes. He prefers the later harvests of both. Perhaps we should do a taste test because next week the market will have the fruit of the fully mature high tunnel tomato plants as well as of the new field tomato plants. (or am I just trying to get you to buy twice as many tomatoes?)

Last week Marilyn and I went by Madewell Meats. Steve has about 150 hogs right now. Most were enjoying the shade of the woods, but several were in the fields or relaxing under sheds near the house. Those that weren’t rooting around were piled up like giant puppies in the shade. No confined spaces for these piggies, they are living well on the farm.

We’re expecting sweet corn today (Friday) and tomorrow (Saturday) from Wells Farm and Fairhaven. At the Wells stand you will find corn that has not been sprayed (and there will likely be a worm on the end of that corn). At Fairhaven you will find sprayed corn, which is much less likely to have worm damage. We’ll have a table and trash can in the center of the pavilion so you can strip your corn right at the market if you want make sure your corn is as expected. If it’s not, it will be replaced or refunded by the grower.

We’ve got plentiful supplies of many summer crops like blackberries, bell peppers, potatoes, cucumbers, squash and zucchini. Fredrickson Farms sent me this zucchini recipe recommended by a customer, which they found to be delicious:

Zucchini Cobbler
Recipe courtesy of Beverly

5 cups Zucchini - peeled, seeded, and chopped
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg (fresh ground is best)
4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 1/2 cups butter, chilled
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat a 9X13 inch baking dish with cooking spray.

2. Place zucchini and lemon juice in a medium saucepan. Cook, covered, over medium-low heat, and set aside.

3. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour and 1 1/2 cups sugar. Cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir 1/2 cup crumb mixture into zucchini mixture. Press half the remaining crumb mixture into the prepared pan. Spread zucchini evenly over crust. Crumble remaining crumb mixture over zucchini, and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon cinnamon.

Tami says this recipe tastes just like apple cobbler and is great with ice cream. For this and other recipes, just stop by the Fredrickson stand near the market’s central entrance.

Lunch today is barbecued beef sandwich, chips, oriental cole slaw, Oreo truffle and drink for $6. For light eaters and vegetarians there will be a luncheon salad for $4. Jack and Lee Ann Sours play.

Tomorrow breakfast is served until 11. All profits from breakfast go to Crosslines, our regional food and clothing pantry. Workers are provided by Central United Methodist Church. The church also provided workers for last Tuesday’s Cooking for a Cause and raised $348 for Crosslines. SwingGrass plays from 9:30 to 11:30. You won’t want to miss them. They have so much fun playing that you can’t help having a good time.

Next Tuesday, the Audubon Center serves lunch and Rob Pommert plays.