Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Webb City Sentinel Column 7-20-12

Choices – there’s lots of them at the market. Not only choices in selecting the vendor you patronize and in which type of product you buy, but choices in varieties. It’s cantaloupe season at the market and there are at least three varieties available – the perennial favorite – Athena, and two new melons, Sophie’s Choice and a French melon. I’ve only tried the latter so far, but it was delicious. In fact, my husband Phil said it was as close to a perfect melon as he’d ever tasted.

Choice is one of the market’s strengths because those three melons represent the offerings of just two farms out of several growing melons. Of course, we have even more choices when it comes to tomatoes. I think there were over 20 varieties when I last counted, from cherries to 2 pound giants, and from hybrids to heirlooms. (Love this photo that volunteer Rick Ford took of one of our customers selecting tomatoes)

We’ve been seeing lots of canners – tomatoes, bell peppers, zucchini – going out of the market. Last week, Fairhaven offered Brandywine Pinks for canning. Now, that’s a rare opportunity to get an heirloom at bulk rates. I’ve been told that the Pinks make a wonderful juice.

Canners are typically less than perfect produce, what you might call ugly, but perfect in freshness and in taste. And, as one of my farmers said to me in June, the more abundant the harvest, the better the canners get. Currently the harvest is extremely abundant so you can expect some good-looking canners.

All this is a nice change from last year when the harvest was so lean that our farmers didn’t have any surplus, and frankly, pretty much everything was ugly. That made it tough to succeed with our food preservation education program funded by Jarden, the makers of Ball and Kerr. We had the requisite number of canning demonstrations, but nothing for folks to can.

This year, after receiving the grant again, we’ve doubled our demonstrations and the interest created among our customers has resulted in lots of sales for our farmers, as well as a lot of local produce being put up for winter use. My favorite canning story thus far was from a customer who stopped by to say that his mentally challenged son had thoroughly enjoyed putting up pickles this summer after learning how at the market. I expect he’ll enjoy serving and eating them this winter even more.

Tomorrow, Susan Pittman, one of our market nutritionists, will demonstrate peach freezer jam, both regular and sugar-free. It’s super easy and, with local peaches, bound to be delicious, but that you can check for yourself because she will have samples. Our market intern, Lindsay Rollins, will be testing pressure cooker gauges as well so bring your gauge if you would like it checked. The tester will be available at every market through September.

We’ll also have an information table from George Washington Carver National Monument. You may think only of peanuts when you think of Carver, but he was very strong on tomatoes as well, writing many pamphlets exploring a multitude of uses for tomatoes.

In his pamphlet, How to Grow the Tomato and 115 Ways to Prepare it for the Table, Professor Carver not only has the 115 recipes but also detailed instructions on growing and storing tomatoes. I’ve reprinted one of his recipes below. It doesn’t exactly fit our good-for-you recipe category, but I expect you could substitute Splenda for the sugar and reduce the calories considerably. Just remember that Splenda substitutes for sugar by the cup, not by the pound.


7 pounds green tomatoes
4 pounds sugar
1 pound of seeded raisins
3 quarts vinegar
Cinnamon, spice, ginger, and cloves to taste

Cut the tomatoes in 1/2 inch slices, and soak for 24 hours in a water bucket of cold water, in which is 3/4 of a pint of lime; then soak in cold water for two hours or until there is no taste of the lime. Drain thoroughly, add to the vinegar and spices, boil in the syrup two hours, seal in well sterilized glass jars.

Another special activity tomorrow is a demonstration hive from Amos Apiaries. The hive is sealed so there’s no risk of stings but the glass panels allow an intriguing look into the workings of bees.

The ever-popular Granny Chicks perform tomorrow. The breakfast, which is served until 11, benefits NALA, which teaches reading and math skills to adults and English to immigrants.

Today, Granny Shaffer’s at the Market serves chicken enchilada, beans and rice, dessert and drink for $6. It is a very substantial meal. The Sours play traditional music.

Tomorrow night we celebrate the market’s community mural. We begin at 7:30 with a very little bit of speechifying and then enjoy the music of Center Creek Bluegrass and look at those busy bees in the Amos demonstration hive again while we all munch on some market treats. Hazel’s Bakery is bringing cookies in honor of Bill McLaughlin. Bill is the only officially identifiable person in the mural, although it’s easy to spot others who were used as models by the artists.

Bill was the cookie baker at Hazel’s and husband to pie baker Kay. He was known for his ready smile and propensity for giving every child who came by their table a free cookie. That’s what he’s doing in the mural.

So come eat a cookie in Bill’s memory and celebrate the mural and the market. Art and the market go together like tomato and basil.