Northwest Fresh: Portland Farmers Market Early Spring 2012

  • Northwest Fresh: Portland Farmers Market Early Spring 2012In years past, there was a melancholy time between the closing of the Portland Farmers Market in mid-December and its reopening in mid-March. Three long months of dreary Saturday mornings with nothing to do but bemoan the fact that spring had not yet sprung.

Northwest Fresh: Portland Farmers Market Early Spring 2012But hallelujah, this past year saw the launch of the Portland Winter Market at Shemanski Park, which extended the farmers market season through January and February. What was surprising about the winter market was the wide variety of local produce available even in our coldest season.

Northwest Fresh: Portland Farmers Market Early Spring 2012The farmers I spoke to assured me that root crops would survive temperatures down to 18 degrees. In Portland, Oregon, January and February temperatures range between 38 and 48 degrees on average. Heirloom carrots, parsnips, celeriac, parsley root, and a wealth of other fall-planted produce keep right on producing until the spring-planted crops are ready for harvest.

Northwest Fresh: Portland Farmers Market Early Spring 2012Therein lies the Northwest cook’s dilemma in early spring (March and April). The produce available during early spring  is more aligned to the winter food palette than the late spring food palette. There are exceptions of course, but these come from hothouses where seeds are started early and protected from spring frosts.

Northwest Fresh: Portland Farmers Market Early Spring 2012So even though I am mentally and emotionally ready for lighter tasting, more colorful dishes in March, the fruits and veggies I need to produce those dishes will not be available until May and June. Except for an abundance of spring raabs, chives, garlic scapes, dandelion greens, nettles, fiddlehead ferns, hothouse rhubarb, shellfish, and crustaceans, early spring in the Northwest is more closely aligned, food-wise, to winter than to spring. And the wind, rain, and cold will keep the Northwest cook focused on hearty, filling, comforting dishes for at least another month.

Northwest Fresh: Portland Farmers Market Early Spring 2012Nevertheless, early spring is an exciting time to expand one’s culinary horizons. And much of the seasonal produce that heralds spring is available for only a short period. If you have always wanted to make Nettle Soup, Pickled Fiddlehead Ferns, or Dandelion Wine, now is the time.

Here is some of the bounty you can expect to find in Northwest farmers markets in March and April. (A full list follows the photos.)

Fresh in Portland Farmers Markets: March-April

  • ancient grains (farro, kamut, spelt)
  • apples (cold storage)
  • arugula
  • asparagus
  • baby bok choy
  • baby lettuces
  • baby turnips
  • beets
  • broccoli raab (rapini, broccolini)
  • Brussels sprouts raab
  • carrots
  • cauliflower
  • chard (rainbow)
  • cheese (cow, goat, fresh, aged)
  • cherry blossoms
  • chives
  • cider
  • cilantro
  • clams
  • collard greens
  • daffodils
  • dandelion greens
  • dairy (cream, cream cheese, farm cheese)
  • dried beans
  • dried cherries
  • Dungeness crab
  • eggs
  • farro, Oregon grown
  • fennel
  • fiddlehead ferns
  • fresh pasta
  • green garlic
  • hard red wheat berries, Oregon grown
  • hazelnuts
  • heirloom dry beans
  • herb starts
  • honey
  • whole grains
  • kale (Italian, red Russian, Toscano)
  • mint
  • miners lettuce
  • mizuna
  • mussels
  • nettles
  • parsley
  • parsnips
  • peonies
  • potatoes, several types, including fingerlings
  • pussy willows
  • limes (Rangpur hothouse)
  • mushrooms, wild (maitake, shitake, yellowfoot, hedgehog, morel)
  • mustard greens
  • raab (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, mustard, arugula, green cabbage)
  • radicchio
  • radishes, all colors
  • ranunculus
  • rapini (broccoli raab, broccolini)
  • rhubarb, hothouse
  • salad mix (hearty salad mix for braising or stir fry)
  • salad mix (Asian spring salad mix)
  • spearmint
  • spinach
  • spring onion
  • smoked salmon
  • sugar snap pea
  • tulips
  • turnips, baby
  • turnip raab
  • vegetable starts
  • wild rice, Oregon grown

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