I was the crazy woman oohing and ahhing over the tender collard greens, florescent rhubarb, and neon braising greens. Or maybe you saw me asking every vendor for mint. (No luck on that.)
I wait for this day with keen anticipation every year. Winter weekends are a bit of a letdown without the ritual Saturday morning jaunt to the market.
Sure, there’s the Winter Market at Shemanski Park, but it doesn’t have the vibrant energy of the summer market. Pickings are slim and only the hardiest folks turn out. My tactic in winter is to focus on Asian-inspired dishes, and thus I turn to our local Asian markets (H-Mart, Fubonn Market, and Uwajimaya) for fresh produce.
From March 15th to December 20th, local cooks and chefs stream into the Portland Farmers Market every Saturday between 8:30-2:00 for fresh, local produce and hand crafted specialty foods.
They drag wagons and pull carts, shoulder back packs and shopping totes, and look like they mean business. Portlanders are friendly, but they are also on a mission. Some vendors sell out before noon, so those in the know don’t dally.
If you want to socialize though, here’s a tactic that never fails. Especially in Portland where everyone loves to talk about food.
Mosey over to someone with produce in their hands and simply ask what they plan to do with it. Today, for instance, as I was admiring a pile of petite multicolored carrots, I asked the woman next to me how she planned to prepare them.
Me: They’re so pretty. Too bad the color will be lost when I peel and cut them. How do you plan to prepare them?
Her: I’m not going to peel or cut them. Just rub the surfaces down a little to get rid of the hairy fibers and then roast them whole with olive oil and garlic.
Me: Ahhh, what a great idea. I saw tiny bunches of fresh thyme at another booth. I’ll throw a few sprigs of that in too.
Her: Which way is that booth?
In similar conversations today, I learned several ways to prepare nettles, found out that mint won’t be in the market for weeks, discovered how to thicken smoothies with camelina seed, and verified that the rhubarb on offer had indeed been harvested earlier than usual (the reason the stalks were so unusually short).
As with Portland Farmers Market Opening Day last year, there was a lot of raab at the market today. But this year, growers didn’t name every raab. (Last year’s list included Brussels sprouts raab, kale raab, broccoli raab, turnip rabb, arugula raab, mustard raab, and savoy cabbage raab.)
Last year, hothouse rhubarb wasn’t available until April. But today, one vendor displayed a heap of early rhubarb. There was something odd about it though, so I looked closer. The stalks were half the usual length. The vender explained that he harvested this batch much earlier than usual and that subsequent batches will have longer stalks. First time I’ve seen this tactic.
Arugula, beets (white), bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage (curly, green, red), carrots (multicolor, orange), cauliflower (white), celeriac, celery, cilantro, fava bean tops, French breakfast radishes, garlic, garlic chives, greens (salad and braising),herb and lettuce starts, kale (green, toscano, lacinato, red russian), leeks, lettuce, mei qing choi, miners lettuce, mizuna (green, red), mushrooms (black trumpets, chanterelles, hedgehogs, maitake, shiitake), mustard greens (red), nettles, onions (yellow, red, cipollini), parsley (curly), parsnips, pea shoots, potatoes (fingerling, russet), raab/rapini (arugula, unspecified), radishes (daikon, French breakfast, green meat, red), rhubarb (hothouse), shallots (French), sorrel, spinach, sunchokes, Swiss chard (pink, red, yellow, white), thyme, turnips (white), and watercress.
And as always, no trip to the Portland Farmers Market is complete without a final stop at The Tart Lady. The tender, fragrant Almond Cake is heavenly, as is everything that Monica E. Halici bakes. Be sure to grab your goodies early though, as her booth attracts long lines of fans. And if you get there first next week, leave me at least one slice of Almond Cake. I’m just sayin’.
P.S. We’ll be eating Roasted Garlic & Sunchoke Soup with Rosemary Hazelnut Pesto & Goat Cheese Crèma this week. And I have a mountain of nettles to play with.
- Basic Little Potato & Five Onion Soup
- Basic Pesto, Pesto Oil, Rosemary Hazelnut Pesto, Cilantro Ginger Pesto, Herb Garden Pesto, Basil Arugula Pesto, & Basil Olive Pesto
- Cauliflower Gratin with Tillamook Aged Cheddar, Caramelized Onions & Applewood-Smoked Bacon
- Heirloom Carrot Soup with Lemon Verbena, Spearmint & Garlic Gremolata
- Northwest Early Spring Farro & Lentil Salad
- Quintessential Potato Gratin
- Roasted Garlic & Sunchoke Soup with Rosemary Hazelnut Pesto & Goat Cheese Crèma
- Spaetzle, Wild Mushrooms & Broccoli Rabb with Thai Yellow Curry Sauce
- Spicy Sorrel Chive Pesto
- Spinach & Egg Fettuccini with Wild Mushrooms & Pancetta (Straw & Hay)
- Strozzapreti with Spicy Italian Sausage, Broccolini & Garlic Crema
- Sweet Carrot Bisque with Umami Pesto
Cookin’ with Gas (inspiration from around the web)
- Oregon Live: Photos: Portland Farmers Market Opening Day of 2014 at PSU
- Portland Farmers Market
- Portland Farmers Market Blog: Rooting for Local Food: PSU Market Opens March 15!
- Portland Monthly: Eat Beat: 2014’s New Portland Farmers Market Vendors
- Winter Market at Shemanski Park
Copyright Susan S. Bradley 2014. All rights reserved.