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.