It is my firm belief that a day should not go by in August without tomatoes and corn. And yes, you should eat the corn the day you pick it! You already knew that, though.
Well, today is the last day of August. There will still be corn, but the great days of tomatoes will soon be gone, so eat up!
There are two ways to eat tomatoes in August: the tomato sandwich, which I have already posted about, and cut up (sliced, nice and pretty, or just chopped up in large, “rustic” pieces, as I usually do it) with a little red wine vinegar and olive oil, salt or garlic salt, and maybe some parsley. Sometimes a bit of red onion. (Check out the juice in the bowl of tomatoes at the top of the page. That’s 90% tomato juice right there, from two huge tomatoes from Country Dreams Farm at the Nashua Farmer’s Market.)
It’s this tomato “salad” that I eat every day until they start to become mealy. That’s when the season is over and you couldn’t pay me to eat another tomato until next August. (Well, truth be told, I’ll eat those cherry tomatoes you find all year at the supermarket, but those are not local, so let’s not talk about it. shhhh!)
Yes, I know some will read this and shout “BASIL!! Where’s the basil??” Well, I just never grew up with basil, I guess. I like the clean, grassy taste of parsley. You can have basil, if you want. And mozzarella. Mozzarella just takes up valuable tomato space in my belly.
It was near closing time when I managed to stop at the Merrimack Farmer’s Market last week. Twenty-five vendors strong and the very last one on the south end of the line, Ledge Top Farm of Wilton, had tomatoes for sale. Perfect, medium sized tomatoes and it was still June.
“Are these really yours,” I asked, skeptically.
Oh yes, I was assured. They were started in the greenhouse and they taste as fresh off the field.
I bought two, confident that I was making a mistake with my money. I have always held the opinion that tomatoes are only good for two weeks in August. Three, if you’re lucky. Otherwise they are hard, tasteless and worse of all…mealy. Even the thought of a mealy tomato makes me shudder.
I brought them home, cut one up right away, and pressed the slices with my fingers for signs of mealiness. None there. My father quickly ate them up with oil and vinegar. They were good, he said. Hmmm….yeah but he’ll eat any tomato you place in front of him.
The next day I sliced up the second one and made a sandwich with it: just tomato slices, white bread, mayo and salt. I bit into it, still waiting to be disappointed.
IT WAS DELICIOUS! I couldn’t believe it. Juicy and flavorful. I was sad that I only bought two.
The Merrimack Farmer’s Market is held every Wednesday afternoon 3-6 in the Vault parking lot (better known as the old Zyla’s), 526 Daniel Webster Hwy. That’s tomorrow. Ledge Top is an organic farm. Look for them and their tomatoes.
Downpours all morning turned the grand opening of the new and improved Nashua Main Street Farmer’s Market into a soft opening with a few hardy vendors in attendance. By noontime, the rain lightened and Nashua’s Country Dreams Farm was selling summer squash, zucchini, Walla Walla onions, rhubarb and strawberries. Garlic scapes were already gone to those that braved the weather earlier.
Also from Nashua, Dirty Girl CSA, in its first year of production thanks to a locally famous start-up campaign through Kickstarter, was selling early greens and radishes, as well as tomato seedlings, T-shirts and stickers.
Fred’s Farm made the hour and half long trip from Alexandria and was selling a great variety of salad and cooking greens, all organic, all harvested hours earlier. Spiczka Farm from Dunstable, MA featured early peas and strawberries.
I picked up some squash, radishes and an onion to roast up. I may get adventurous and cook up the radish greens – something I’ve never tried before – perhaps into a frittata. Check this space for a hopeful success story on that. Oh yes, and of course some strawberries, perfectly ripe.
As mentioned in my last post, the Salem, NH Farmer’s Market accepts SNAP/EBT on eligible purchases. Well. not only that, but they currently have a program where they will match SNAP/EBT usage dollar for dollar up to $20!! Spend $20 in SNAP/EBT and get another $20 to spend at the market! The program continues while funds are available.
Can’t make it to Salem? You can find a list of Farmer’s Markets throughout New Hampshire that accept SNAP/EBT here. Just note that not all are open in the winter.
Not many people realize that farmer’s markets exist in the winter, but they do. They are few and far-between, and some don’t operate every week, but you should be able to find a couple within a reasonable distance from your home, if your home is in southern New Hampshire. You can find a partial list of New Hampshire winter markets here. Remarkably, what’s missing from that list is the Salem, NH Farmer’s Market, an excellent market that is slightly off the beaten path and hosted at the Lake Street Garden Center. Tucked away within a residential neighborhood, Lake Street is a surprisingly large center that lends outdoor space to the market in the summer and generously lends greenhouse space to the market in winter.
A lot of hard work goes into making this market a success, including regular recipe features on WMUR television and social media activity. No cash? A few venders take credit cards, but you can also purchase tokens at the information desk with credit cards or SNAP cards. Sometimes there’s music. Sometimes there’s face painting. Sometimes there’s cooking demos.
Because it’s winter, you will find more meat than produce – and there was a good selection to be had this Sunday. I believe all the meat was sold frozen and this is the common way meat is sold at farmer’s markets.
Brookford Farm had an amazing display of milk and cheese products, including raw milk, buttermilk, yogurt, kefir, quark, cheddar, brie, blue and feta. Market customers were exchanging empty glass bottles for new filled bottles of milk, keeping the vendor busy ducking out of the greenhouse to his refrigerated truck filled with goodies. They were the only vendor selling dairy, but equally as popular was their grass fed beef products and pasture raised pork and chicken, including maple bacon. Ground beef sold for $10.00 a pound and sausage sold for $12.00 a pound.
But that’s not all. They also had a small selection of root vegetables and bags of flour milled from their own wheat, grown GMO-free on their farm in Canterbury, NH — One of the very few growers of wheat in New England!
Hurd Farm, from Hampton, NH, raises grass-fed beef, all-natural, pasture-fed chicken and turkey and all-natural heritage breed pork. They were offering several cuts of beef, pork chops and sausage and whole turkeys and chickens. Italian sausage sold for $9.99 a pound and Ground Beef sold at $6.99 a pound. You can find Hurd Farm at several farmer’s markets in Rockingham County and also at the farm on Wednesdays and Fridays, where you will also find fresh eggs and maybe some laying hens for purchase!
Miner Family Farm, from Merrimack, NH, had the only offering of lamb at the market. They also sold cuts of beef, pork and chicken, plus chicken and duck eggs, along with their own branded selection of dried herbs and spices. Ground beef sold for $7.00 a pound and Italian sausage sold for $6.50 a pound.
If you want chicken, Vernon Family Farm has it in all forms – whole birds, butchered, sausage, stock & soup and even organ meat. Sausage sold for $10 a pound. Their Cornish-cross birds are pasture raised with additional organic grain feed on the farm in Newfields, NH. They also sell Oyster and Shiitake mushrooms!
The only vendor this past Sunday with an extensive collection of produce was Arrowhead Farm from Newburyport, MA. Besides cold storage staples like potatoes and onions, Arrowhead featured a variety of greens and herbs freshly grown in their solar greenhouses. Arrowhead also uses the Salem Farmer’s Market for some of its CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) pickups, and it has one of the larger selection of CSA options I have seen in the area, so that is worth checking out.
A wild blueberry distributor had a booth. Representing eight family farms in Maine, including Wild Wescogus Berries in Addison, Orcutt Farm in Steuben, and Dan-a-Dew Wild Blueberry Farm in Blue Hill, he was selling 17oz containers of individually quick frozen berries for $9.99. Wild blueberries are smaller than cultivated blueberries but contain twice the antioxidants. And they are delicious.
Dried herbs, herbal Teas, and infused honey and oil were available from Wilton, NH’s Bee Fields Farm. Anderson’s Mini-Maples from Deerfield, NH provided the necessary maple syrup products.
Finally, every farmer’s market that I visit have local vendors selling their own homemade small-batch foods, which may or may not be sourced from locally grown/raised products and this market is no exception. This past Sunday you could pick up organic breads, pancake mixes, mustards, jams and jellies from The Fresh Plate of Amherst. You need to act fast. There was only two loaves of bread left by the time I got there.
If you wanted lunch right there, you could grab some Puerto Rican from Kingston, NH’s El Camino or some Ukrainian from East Kingston’s Bucovina Cuisines. Or snack on some organic baked beans from West Hopkinton’s Breakwind Farm (that’s right).
The Salem, NH Farmer’s Market is open every Sunday from 10-2, all year long.