Spring is finally arriving in North America, and the end of April means the beginning of the Farmers Market season in a city near you.
If you have even the faintest love of food, it’s hard to not be inspired by a Farmers Market. A good Market has rows of booths representing locally owned farms, bakeries, butchers, and even vineyards. The exact contents of each booth vary from region to region, and it’s not always the cheapest place to buy ingredients (although it can be for certain items).
Instead what you go to a Farmers Market to find is unusual ingredients and high-quality local produce that was literally in the ground the day before. You go for the atmosphere, to be part of a crowd that loves fresh food. You go for the buskers playing music and the cute dogs happily sniffing the air and that amazing authentic tortilla place on the end of the row that is giving out free samples.
If you haven’t been to a Farmers Market before (gasp!) here are a few tips:
1) Bring cash. A lot of the smaller booths don’t take cards, and they would prefer cash anyway for the lower processing fees.
2) Bring a tote bag to carry around your haul. Keep in mind that some of the produce will be dirty or can stain (beets, I’m talking to you) so you don’t need anything fancy.
3) Plan to go back again soon! The offerings at the Market will change throughout the growing season. Here in the Pacific Northwest we start out with strawberries and winter greens in mid-April, and end the summer with piles of fresh peaches and beets.
Yesterday was my first Market trip of this year and we came home with an impressive haul: pea shoots, garlic greens, tarragon, fresh clams, half a dozen duck eggs and a dozen chicken eggs, and full-sour dills and spicy kimchi from my favorite local fermentation pickler.
I was inspired to make a clam and corn chowder with a little help from the supermarket, and it turned out great. My recipe is below but what I want to know is: what inspires you at the Farmers Market?
Clam and Corn Chowder
feeds 4 as the main course
2lbs of fresh clams
4 ears of corn
3 strips of bacon — the smokier the better
half a yellow onion
a large shallot
1lb of new potatoes
2 tablespoons of butter
1/2 cup of water
1 bottle of clam juice
1 cup white wine
1 can diced clams
1 cup of buttermilk
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons of corn starch
a big handful of fresh tarragon
pinches of dried thyme, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, salt, black pepper
- Boil some water in a large pot. Throw the cleaned ears of corn in for about 5 minutes, then remove and run under cold water. Set them aside to cool. Clean out the large pot for later use.
- Get chopping! Chop the potatoes into bite-sized pieces and finely mince the onion and shallot. Use a knife or scissors to cut the tarragon into pieces.
- Cut the bacon into small strips length-wise, about half an inch wide. Throw them into the large pot on medium-high heat. Cook the bacon until it starts to render, but not too crispy.
- Add a tablespoon of the butter, the onion, the shallot, the tarragon, and the dried spices. Stir and cook until clear, about three minutes.
- Add the potatoes, clam juice, can of clams, and wine. Bring the mixture to a boil.
- In your measuring cup, add the corn starch to the water and mix until blended. Add it to the boiling pot.
- Wait until the potatoes are mostly cooked, about five minutes. You can use this time to cut the kernels off of the corn cobs.
- Add the fresh clams. Leave the pot uncovered and still boiling.
- After about four minutes, add the corn. Wait another four minutes. (Note: Do not eat any clams that have not opened after 8 minutes of cooking.)
- Take the pot off of the hot element and wait until it is no longer boiling but still very hot.
- Add the final tablespoon of butter, the buttermilk, and the heavy cream. Stir everything together and let it sit for a minute or two to heat up.
- Serve! Put out a dish for the clam shells and serve with sourdough bread and a glass of leftover white wine.