The Market Scene Guide to Surviving Winter at the Greenmarket
Here we are: it's already January, and fall's bounty has given way to what can feel like a dearth of good local produce at the city's Greenmarkets. It's true that the selection at the market can feel like a bummer in the colder months, but please, don't let that stop you from shopping at your local farmers' market. I know that it's easy to get burned out on root vegetables, but there's a better way. Below, some tips for avoiding root vegetable overload and general GSAD (Greenmarket-related Seasonal Affective Disorder).
Eat It Raw
A lot of the root vegetable fatigue, for me, stems from using the same preparation techniques over and over. Yes, tossing with olive oil and salt and roasting at 450 degrees works wonders with just about any vegetable, but a lot of those same vegetables are fantastic when prepared raw, in salad form. Jerusalem artichokes, brussels sprouts, kale, beets and butternut squash are just a few vegetables that can be more refreshing than you'd think in raw salad form, tossed with a simple vinaigrette or served as crudite.
I don't know about you, but I often skip the meat stalls at the market during warmer months. My tote gets filled with all kinds of beautiful produce, and then I run out of room for the fish, poultry, and meat at the market. Without the distraction of sweet orange tomatoes and fairytale eggplants, the winter is the perfect time to grab some chicken from Garden of Spices or pork from Flying Pigs Farm. Then there's the fish at Blue Moon, plus bison from Elk Trails Farm and ostrich from Roaming Acres, just to name a few.
Greens, Greens, Greens
When I shop at the Greenmarket in the dead of winter, I always try to leave with at least two bunches of greens for braising. Kale, mustard greens, chard, and beet greens all work. Sautee with some olive oil and toss in some beans and you've got a healthy, hearty vegetarian dinner. Your body will thank you for the chlorophyll fix.
Brighten things right up with a bunch or two of fresh herbs. Stokes Farm's selection goes strong all winter long until basil season finally returns in full.
Get to Know the Brassicaceae
Most members of this family do quite well in the winter months, including broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, and cabbage, just to name a few. Take advantage of them; they're some of the best options as far as produce is concerned, during the colder season.
Go ahead and sneer at the idea of buying tomatoes grown in a greenhouse. I'm not going to tell you that they taste as good as a field grown specimen from the mid-Summer months, but the greenhouse tomatoes at the Greenmarket are still far better than what you're likely to find at the supermarket, year round.
I know, I know, the whole point of this list was to avoid eating too many root veggies. But allow me a counterpoint: root vegetables are great! They are delicious, hearty and satisfying, and at the Greenmarket you can find them in so many unique varieties. Why, potatoes alone come in well over a dozen varieties--Mountain Sweet Berry Farm sells many of my favorites (and don't skip their delectable potato chips). The white-fleshed Japanese sweet potatoes from Bodhitree Farm are a revelation for someone like me, who thinks they hate sweet potatoes. Jerusalem artichokes are one of my favorite vegetables, root or not, and carrots and radishes are some of the best snacks there is, the latter served with nothing more than butter and salt. Why try to fight it? As long as you're following some of the rules above, there's nothing wrong with roasted potatoes or glazed carrots every once in a while.
I hope these pointers help you get your Greenmarket on through the winter. Just because it's cold doesn't mean that you should abandon your favorite farmers at the market. And besides, spring will be here before you know it. See you then!