Thursday, September 11, 2014

Webb City Sentinel market column - 9-12-14

Fall is in the air and fall crops are pouring into the market. We still have plenty of summer crops, but now we have winter squash like spaghetti, acorn and butternut, the lettuces are reappearing, as is the boc choy and other greens, and the pumpkins and decorative gourds are wonderful. 

You’ve probably noticed Owen Detweiler at E & O Produce in the north part of the pavilion. He and his wife Edith are new growers with us this year, though they’re not new growers. Previously they had only sold through the Lamar Farmers Market and the Lamar Produce Auction. Owen, as I have mentioned before, loves growing melons. I think he must just love growing big round produce because he is bringing a wonderful collection of pumpkins, large and small, and decorative gourds of all shapes and colors. You will not want to miss his stand on Saturday. (Owen normally comes on Tuesdays and Saturdays.)  

Saturday is also the day to load up on sweet potatoes and jams and jellies because that’s when Fairhaven will be at the market this week.

Which is not to say that we won’t have plenty of choices today as well. We’ll have at least eight farms at the market today and probably ten tomorrow.

For years Friday was our biggest market of the week and the market vendors most sought to attend. When we started the Saturday market some seven years ago, it was a mighty small market, both in terms of customers and vendors and in produce. One Saturday that first year we closed with about two turnips in the place!

My, how the times have changed. I knew that Saturdays would grow. Saturday is, after all, the most popular market day nationwide. Last year Friday and Saturday ran about even in terms of sales and customers. This year, Saturday has taken the lead, a substantial lead.

We always drop a market day during October, and then go to one day a week starting in November. Last year we dropped Tuesday in October and, for the first time, dropped Friday in November. This year the farmers said that Saturday has become such a big day that they cannot supply enough produce on Saturday if they sell on Friday. So come October, we are dropping Friday and keeping Tuesday and Saturday. That schedule should be much, much better for the farmers who need to space their two harvests out during the week rather than trying to harvest two days in a row. We hope our Friday customers will join us either on Saturday or Tuesday, or both. The October schedule should result in two markets a week loaded with produce.

The Kids Community Garden is pretty much finished for the year. We still have sweet potatoes to dig and cover crops to sow but there is not nearly enough to keep 30 children busy for an hour, so during the fall we focus on fresh produce, what it is, how to prepare it, what it tastes like. This week, it was boc choy and butternut squash, but we started out with Orange Crisp watermelon. Each child received a slice and instructions to close their eyes when they tried the first bite. “It tastes like watermelon!!”  That’s because it IS watermelon, orange watermelon. 

I went through the motions of preparing the boc choy but it was too windy to actually cook it. Hopefully that, and the recipe, was enough for the kids to take home the very ample supply provided by market gardeners and try it with their families. I also went through the motions of preparing the butternut squash, but since that can be baked ahead of time, they did get to sample it. There was a very eager cluster of students around the box of butternut when it was time to divide up the produce. The recipe for both the boc choy and the butternut squash are available at the information table at the market.

Today at the market the Plainsfolk are playing and M & M Bistro will serve beef/lamb pita wraps, as well as chicken pita wraps.
Tomorrow we celebrate Arts in the Park. There will be children’s arts activities from 9 to noon courtesy of the Spiva Art Center and Wildcat Glades. WildHeart, emmy-award-winning musicians - they focus on kids, the environment and animals -  performs at 9, 10, and 11 (right). Drew Pommert plays at 9:30 and 10:30 and the cast of JLT in Concert perform at 11:30.

Cooking for a Cause supports Lafayette House, our regional domestic violence shelter. Volunteers will serve biscuits and gravy, sausage, eggs cooked to order and coffee and juice until 11.
Tuesday, Rob Pommert plays. Carmine’s Wood Fired Pizza makes pizza to order.

I want to close with a conversation I overheard at the garden Wednesday. A young man called his mother to say he was ready to be picked up and to say “Let’s have stuffed peppers for dinner – I have five bell peppers!  And let’s try boc choy, too. I have boc choy and I know how to cook it!” 
There’s plenty of boc choy at the market and we can show you how to cook it, too!