Eating fresh from the farmers market

The High Peaks Farmers Market is located at Riverside Park in Saranac Lake. (Provided photo — Yvona Fast)

At the first farmers market this season, I bought fresh baby bok choy, scallions and last fall’s stored carrots. I also bought bread, yogurt, soap and laundry detergent.

The farmer’s market offers a lot to fill your senses: Musical entertainment, fresh bread and pastries, sheep milk yogurt, paintings, pottery, rugs from local sheep wool, wood crafts and jewelry, fresh flowers, fragrant pillows, balsam fir massage oil and aromatherapy, locally-made soap — including laundry detergent and hand lotions — ointments, artisanal cheese, local meat and sausage, and taste sensations from local restaurants and farms. You can talk to local growers, learn about products you’re less familiar with, and taste before you buy.

In addition to good fresh food, I look forward to meeting people at the market. I know many of the farmers who sell at our market, and I have missed seeing them all winter! It is the place to meet friends and chat. By offering the opportunity to interact with neighbors, friends and farmers, markets help revitalize community life. According to a research study of the Project of Public Places, folks average 15-20 social interactions on an average day at the market, versus just 1 or 2 at the supermarket.

Spending time as a family at the market teaches your kids to appreciate food and community. Kids are curious — they will find lots of cool things to see, smell, taste and touch at the market! Many stands have foods available to taste. Seeing all the different foods and talking to the farmers can encourage even picky eaters to try new foods. Farmers are proud of what they do, and many will take time to answer their questions. Interacting with the farmers helps them learn where food comes from and how it’s grown.

At the market, children can run around and interact with people outdoors, in the fresh air. Your kids can meet other kids, other families, talk to farmers. Older kids can learn the importance of farmers markets and local, fresh food. The farmers market provides an opportunity to teach your kids what real healthy food is: Fresh, wholesome ingredients that you purchase to cook at home, rather than ready-made packages with bogus health claims. Buying most of your food from local sustainable farmers reinforces this message.

Bok Choy Stir Fry (Provided photo — Yvona Fast)

Spending time together at the market helps you to bond as a family. Play games with little kids, like finding foods in different colors or shapes. Older kids can do a scavenger hunt for different items. Have them find produce that begins with the same letter as their name, or vegetables that are only seasonal, or not available at the supermarket. Have them list veggies by categories — roots, leaves, stems or fruit. Your kids will remember these trips as fun family outings.

When you get home, cook a meal together with the food you purchased at the market. Cooking together is another family bonding activity. And kids learn basic cooking skills so they will know how food is prepared, and won’t have to depend on restaurants and processed, boxed meals when they grow up. If they buy some of their foods, they will be eager to prepare them.

Farmers markets help promote good nutrition and healthy habits by providing access to fresh fruits and vegetables. When children grow up enjoying and expecting fresh local produce, they develop habits that will influence food choices long into adulthood.

So what can you expect to find at early season markets? Royal asparagus and humble rhubarb are the first stalks of spring that come to mind. These early perennials that survive cold Adirondack winters are ready for picking earlier than other veggies. Herbs like parsley, mint, oregano and chives are also available. Fast-growing greens include lettuce, spinach and bok choy. Some farmers have last year’s stored crops, like beets, carrots, onions and potatoes.

To my surprise, my local farmstand even had a few tomatoes. I don’t think I’ve ever had garden-fresh tomatoes this early. Tomatoes are one vegetable I don’t buy at the supermarket during the winter; they just don’t taste good to me. Garden-fresh summer tomatoes are another vegetable altogether, full of flavor and nutrients.

Bok Choy Stir Fry


1/3 to 1/2 pound chicken breast

2 tablespoons tamari

1/3 cup white wine

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 carrot

4 ounces mushrooms

3 large scallions

1 clove garlic

2 heads baby bok choy

Cooked rice or other grain, for serving


Cut up chicken breast. Place it in a small bowl with tamari and wine; coat all pieces and marinate in the refrigerator 1 hour or longer.

Cook 1/2 cup rice, millet, or other grain of your choice. Or pasta.

Heat oil in skillet to medium. Chop mushrooms and carrots, and add. Slice scallions, and stir in. Mince garlic and add. Cook about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

When carrots are almost tender, add the chicken. Cook, stirring, for 3-5 minutes. Slice bok choy and add. Pour in what’s left of the marinade from the chicken. Cover and cook 5 minutes until everything is tender.

Serves 3 to 4.

Baked Rhubarb

This easy, fast dessert takes just a few minutes to assemble.


8 slices bread (3-4 cups)

2 cups sliced rhubarb (2-

3 stalks)

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup butter


Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut up the bread to make about four cups of bread cubes. Stale wheat bread works well for this. In a bowl, toss bread cubes and sliced rhubarb with sugar until coated. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat, pour over, and stir to combine. Turn into a prepared 9 x 9 baking dish; add a tablespoon of water or juice to each corner. Bake for 45 minutes, until golden brown and slightly crisp. You may wish to add a little more sugar, according to your taste, or try this with a sugar substitute.

Asparagus Torta


1 pound asparagus

3 eggs

1/4 cup milk

1 cup shredded Swiss cheese or mild cheddar

1 cup bread crumbs


Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Wash asparagus; snap off root ends. Steam or cook in salted water under barely tender, about 3-7 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 one-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, until eggs are set and top is brown. Cool 5 – 10 minutes and cut into wedges or squares to serve.

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: Writing and cooking. She can be found at www.yvonafast.com and reached at yvonawrite@yahoo.com or on X: @yvonawrites.


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