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‘Tis the season for farmers markets

Saranac Lake Farmers Market (Provided photo — Yvona Fast)

It’s almost summer! Memorial Day is behind us, and school will be out soon. Summer tourists are flocking to enjoy our lakes and mountains. Farm stands and farmers markets are open, selling the season’s freshest produce. Last week they were even selling strawberries — though they ran out pretty fast!

The pandemic is on the wane — and the market is almost back to normal. Yes, there is hand sanitizer, and there are posted signs asking you to keep a 6-foot distance. But the music is back, and you’re no longer required to go only in one direction — so the lines at vendors’ booths are much shorter. While the winter Park-It provided local farm products for pick-up, now you can browse and make selections yourself.

Buying at the farmer’s market connects us to our community. While you shop, meet friends and chat with farmers about their farms and their wares, music by area musicians fills your ears. By talking to local growers, you can ask questions about products you’re not familiar with. Buying local supports our region’s economy, and saves resources such as gasoline used for trucking.

Fresh, local products have superior flavor. Produce shipped cross-country in refrigerated trucks loses both taste and nutrition by the time it reaches the supermarket.

From spinach to salad greens, Swiss chard to bok choy, radishes to beets, there are lots of veggies for you to choose! And so many other goodies too! There is fine wine, artisan cheese, fresh baked goods, maple syrup, frozen pasta, farm-raised meat, paintings, pottery, jewelry, herbal products and even seedlings to plant in your garden. New vendors this year include Polish delights from locally made kielbasa and kabanosy to pierogi, and the ArtWorks booth where local artists sell their products, too.

Vote with your feet and your dollars to support farmers in our area. Plan your week’s menu around seasonal, local produce at your market. Supporting your farmers’ market is good for your body, your soul and the community.

Asparagus Torta

Ingredients:

1 pound asparagus

3 eggs

1/4 cup milk

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1 cup bread crumbs

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Wash asparagus; snap off root ends. Steam or cook in salted water under barely tender, about 3 to 7 minutes (depends on thickness of spears). Cool.

While asparagus cooks, beat eggs with milk; stir in grated cheese and 2/3 cup of the bread crumbs.

Slice cooled asparagus into 1-inch lengths and mix into the eggs. Oil or butter a 2-quart casserole dish, and pour in contents. (You can also use a prepared pie shell.) Top with remaining bread crumbs. Bake about 45 minutes at 350 degrees, until eggs are set and top is brown. Cool 5 to 10 minutes and cut into wedges or squares to serve.

Braised Greens with Beans and Ham

Braised greens make simple, light fare for busy summer days. Both greens and garlic have heart-healthy, immune boosting properties.

Ingredients:

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 onion

2 cloves garlic

4 ounces mushrooms, optional

1 pound fresh summer greens (about 8 cups, shredded) such as beet greens, radish tops, Swiss chard, spinach, caliloo, bok choy

2 Tablespoons apple juice

2 Tablespoons wine

1/4 cup chicken or vegetable broth

1 can butter beans, drained

1 cup finely diced cooked ham, optional salt and freshly grated black pepper, to taste

1 Tablespoon garlic wine vinegar

2 Tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 lemon, cut into wedges

Directions:

Prepare the greens by washing thoroughly in several changes of water, and chopping coarsely. Keep separated, since some take longer to cook than others. There is no need to dry them off, as the water will evaporate during cooking.

Heat oil in a large skillet. Peel onion and add; cook 2 to 3 minutes. Chop mushrooms and add, if using. Peel and crush the garlic, add to the skillet, and cook about one minute. Stir in the kale, if using; it takes the longest to cook. Cover and cook about 7 minutes. Add the beet greens, if using; stir to coat with garlic and oil, moisten with a little of the broth and apple juice, and cook five minutes more. Now add the more tender greens like radish tops, caliloo, spinach and chard, along with the wine and the remaining apple juice and broth. Stir. Cover and cook about five or 10 minutes, testing the greens for doneness. Stir in the beans and ham, season to taste, sprinkle with vinegar and cheese, and cook another three or four minutes to heat through and blend the flavors. Dress with lemon wedges and additional Parmesan, if desired. Serve with fresh crusty bread or over cooked pasta, and add a light fruit dessert.

Serves 4.

Market Salad

Ingredients:

2 cups shredded lettuce

2 cups fresh baby spinach

1 cup beet greens

2 scallions

6 radishes

1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

1 Tablespoon sour cream

1 Tablespoon plain yogurt

2 teaspoons buttermilk or milk

2 eggs, hardboiled and grated

1/3 cup finely chopped cooked ham (optional)

Directions:

Wash greens thoroughly in several changes of water. Cut off the root ends of the scallions and radishes; remove the radish greens and reserve for another dish. Slice radishes and scallions thinly. Hard boil the egg, peel, and grate or dice finely. Finely chop the ham.

In salad bowl, combine lettuce, spinach, beet greens, scallions radishes. Sprinkle lightly with salt. In small bowl, combine sour cream, yogurt and milk; blend well with a fork, and fold into the greens. Stir in eggs and ham.

Author of the award-winning cookbook “Garden Gourmet: Fresh & Fabulous Meals from your Garden, CSA or Farmers’ Market,” Yvona Fast lives in Lake Clear and has two passions: cooking and writing. She can be found at www.yvonafast.com and reached at yvonawrite@yahoo.com or on Facebook at Words Are My World.

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