Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Farmer's Market Finds

We foodies tend to get excited when summer comes around and farmer's markets start popping up everywhere. Summer's almost over, though, and so far, I've found very little at my local farmer's markets that seemed blog-worthy. Maybe it's because it's been a drought year, or maybe I've been making lousy choices. Either way, most of the the produce I've picked up has been no better than what we get at the supermarket. A few times I bought "interesting" items, such as shungiku, which the sign at the market said was "good in stir-fries." When I got home to my computer, I learned that shungiku is also known as "edible chrysanthemum," and that's what it tastes like -- a flower. (Sorry, but eating flowers has never been my thing.)

Then, recently, the yield started to improve, culminating in this batch of heirloom tomatoes, which I bought on Monday:

They were a mixed bag, but the good ones were very good. As I collected the tomatoes at the market, I scribbled down their names with little descriptions (such as "big bumpy red"); if my notes are accurate, the ones in the picture are (from top, left): Green Zebra, Black Plum, Red Zebra, Speckled Roman, Brandywine, Pineapple, and Costoluto Genovese. The Speckled Roman was decidedly the sweetest and most flavorful (though this probably has more to do with the individual crop and even the particular tomato I selected than the cultivar). The Black Plum and Green Zebra tomatoes were also very good. In general, the greener tomatoes were crisper and easier to slice, but otherwise they tasted very similar to the red ones.

Between Monday and Tuesday lunch, I ate most of the tomatoes with extra virgin olive oil, basil (another farmer's market purchase), and Cappiello mozzerella. Next week, though, I plan to get a little more creative. If you're looking for ways to use great summer tomatoes, there are some ideas in today's New York Times Dining & Wine section; some simple pasta recipes from the Boston Globe Magazine; and, of course, lots of recipes in A Veggie Venture's Alphabet of Vegetables.

Another vegetable I've done well with this year (as on previous years) is Asian eggplant. Asian eggplants come in a variety of shapes, sizes and hues, but the ones I've seen have generally been thinner and more purple than globe eggplant and Italian eggplant, which are rounder and almost back. I like the Asian varieties much better, and have only been able to find them at farmer's markets. They have few seeds and tend not to be bitter, so there's no need to salt them. I've used them in tofu stir-fry, pizza, and pasta sauce.

And here's another nice find: kohlrabi.
Kohlrabi is one of the vegetables I learned about from A Veggie Venture. It looks exotic with all those tentacles, and mine had the added allure of being purple (they are more commonly light green, as in the Wikipedia pic), but kohlrabi is actually quite mild and approachable. Just cut off the stems with a paring knife and use a good peeler to peel it, and you have a nice, crunchy, low-calorie snack.

It may be too late for perfect strawberries, but I have hope for the end of the season. The corn is already here, and before long we'll be seeing that fabulous winter squash. I'll try to keep you posted on my finds. Feel free to share yours. (If you have a blog, you can even use Blush, the Sweet Tomato).

(Cross-posted to the Kosher Blog.)


Anonymous said...

Which Farmer's Market has the great tomatoes? -The Enabler

elf said...

The Farmers' market near Central Square (behind Harvest Co-Op) has one booth with a selection of tomatoes that puts everyone else to shame. It's open Mondays from 11:30 to 6.

Anonymous said...

Thanks! I am going to check out the Harvard Yard one today. -TE