Farmers Open Doors for Spring Business, Get Ready for Asparagus
Locavore Jessica Walsh returns to the area farms for a preview and tips for the season to come, eager to put behind her the seemingly endless winter. "Now let's get cooking!"
Finally, after a winter that just didn’t want to let go, we are seeing those sure signs of spring. The daffodils are out, there are buds on the trees, and yesterday I didn’t even need a coat. Spring has always been a favorite time of year, but my locavore ways have brought a new sense of excitement and anticipation to the springtime. I am already mentally preparing for another season of local, fresh produce.
Last week, we received sprouts and green onions in our weekly share from Simmons Farm, an exciting hint at the abundance of vegetables that will soon be gracing our weekly bag of goodies. And on Friday, Sweet Berry Farm officially opened for the season; I couldn’t help but scoot out there at 8 a.m. just to smell the baked goods and see what was on offer for the coming weeks.
It was wonderful to see that even at that early hour on the first day of the season there were folks strolling through the store, offering enthusiastic greetings to owners Jan and Michelle Eckhart that often began with a “we were counting the days!” or “thank goodness you’re open!” When I asked one Middletown regular, Yvonne Hobbs, if she was excited about opening day, she exclaimed, “Of course I’m excited! I have been waiting for this day all winter!”
Easter specials & first crops
This is the first year the market has been open for Easter, and Steve Cory, Head Chef and owner of Cory’s Kitchen at Sweet Berry Farm, assured me that their first Easter catering menu will not disappoint.
“We will offer a roast lamb and baked ham, with side options including oven-roasted potatoes with rosemary, our famous baked macaroni & cheese, creamed spinach and gingered carrots.”
Cory also promises an array of quiche and plenty of desserts, including cheesecakes, pies, a chocolate raspberry cake and carrot cake. “And there are always a few surprises,” adds Cory with a smile.
If you are interested in Sweet Berry Farm’s Easter Catering Menu, give the farm a call at 401.847.3912, or stop by for menu ideas.
Sweet Berry also has some gorgeous flowers, chocolates and other Easter treats available through next weekend.
While the farm's market has plenty of produce available right now, the first Sweet Berry-grown crop of the season will be asparagus; Michelle says they are just peaking out of the ground now and will be available in the store sometime toward the end of the month. Rhubarb follows shortly thereafter.
Pick-your-own enthusiasts can look forward to June, when strawberries will be ripe.
Embracing the season
Now is a great time to prepare to get the most out of our local harvest all season long.
Consider a CSA. Simmons Farm still has a few shares left in their Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. The summer CSA program begins May 30, and runs for 22 weeks. Members pay in advance for a share of the farm’s harvest, and then pick-up their share each week in Middletown or Providence.
For more information or an application, visit the Simmons’s Farm website.
Cookbooks geared toward seasonal menus. My first year in the CSA, I spent a great deal of time looking up recipes online and scouring my cookbook collection for ways to use the plethora of vegetables I suddenly had in my refrigerator. This past summer, I came across a few cookbooks that are designed with seasonal harvests in mind, and let me tell you, I was amazed at what a difference these cookbooks made in the kitchen. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Cooking Light Through the Seasons: An Everyday Guide to Enjoying the Freshest Food, by the editors of Cooking Light Magazine
- Eating Local: The Cookbook Inspired by America’s Farmers, by Janet Fletcher
- Morning Glory Farm, and the Family that Feeds an Island, by Tom Dunlop
Island Books carries a good collection of cookbooks, and the helpful staff is always willing to special order items for you.
Canning & preserving. If you have considered canning and preserving in the past, now is a great time to borrow a few books from the library or do some internet research to see if it is for you. We were a bit intimidated by it last year, but I’m glad we jumped in. Our canned tomatoes brought us about half way through the winter, and we are still eating some of the fall chutneys. We were also able to give a lot of our canned goods as gifts over the holidays. Here are a few of the books we found useful, all of which are available form the Middletown Public Library:
- Put ‘em Up! A Comprehensive Home Preserving Guide for the Creative Cook, by Sherri Brooks Vinton
- The Food Lover’s Guide to Canning: Contemporary Recipes & Techniques, by Chris Rich
- Canning and Preserving with Ashley English, by Ashley English
Let’s get cooking… almost.
While Sweet Berry Farm’s asparagus are still a few weeks away, I couldn’t help but include one of my favorite asparagus recipes in anticipation!
Asparagus Topped with Creamy Tarragon Sauce
- 2 bunch(es) asparagus, tough ends trimmed
- 4 teaspoon(s) chopped fresh tarragon or 1 teaspoon dried
- 2 teaspoon(s) Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon(s) lemon juice
- 1/2 cup(s) low-fat plain yogurt
- 6 tablespoon(s) reduced-fat mayonnaise
- Salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon(s) water
- Bring 1 inch of water to boil in a large saucepan. Put asparagus in a steamer basket, cover and steam until tender-crisp, about 4 minutes.
- Meanwhile, whisk yogurt, mayonnaise, tarragon, lemon juice, water, mustard, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Drizzle the sauce over the asparagus. Serve warm or cold.