I buy asparagus at the grocery store fairly often, and I’ll generally chop it up and sauté it to throw in an omelet or in a tangle of veggies and pasta. Not too exciting. Last week, though, I stopped at the Farmer’s Market in Bellevue, Ky., and grabbed a little bundle of purpley-green spears from one of the farm stands. As I was putting it away in the fridge later, I rinsed off a piece and nibbled off the tip. Incredible! That raw asparagus was so delicious and tender that I decided on an all-asparagus dinner. When something’s so fresh and perfect, why eat anything else?
Of course, I can’t promise you an asparagus epiphany from every Farmer’s Market purchase, but you owe it to yourself to taste the difference this summer between the long-distance vegetables at the supermarket and the locally grown varieties that might have been in the ground just that morning.
The Bellevue market is new this year. It’s on Saturday morning and Wednesday afternoon in the parking lot of The Party Source. (Can you say one-stop shopping?) According to Vicky Tewes of Thistlehair Farms, the Party Source was instrumental in establishing the market, and hopes to expand it in the future. It’s off to a great start now, with early season plants, veggies and strawberries from the farms, Blue Oven Bakery breads and Dolce Vita gelato from the Frommeyer brothers, Fab Ferments’ fantastic kombucha and kraut and meat and eggs from Back Acre Farms.
Covington’s market is also close to my heart — and my house — so I stroll down to Goebel Park almost every Saturday morning to see what’s available there.
In the warmer months last summer, I’d stagger home with too many luscious ripe tomatoes and sweet little apples, not to mention the occasional jar of salsa or honey. There’s a new bread baker who knocked it out of the park last week with an excellent brioche. That’s part of the charm of a farmer’s market. You never know what you’ll find!
Saturday’s a popular day for markets — there are 14 locally, according to the Central Ohio River Valley (CORV) Local Food guide. But there are markets operating around town every day of the week: UC on Monday; Fountain Square on Tuesday; Northside on Wednesday; Mount Washington on Thursday; Florence on Friday; Findlay Market on Saturday; and Hyde Park on Sunday. Check eatlocalcorv.org for a complete list.
CORV also offers common-sense advice for people who are just switching to fresh, local market shopping. First, lose your supermarket expectations. Pineapples don’t grow in the Ohio River valley! But if it’s strawberries that you’re after, you won’t find any better than the ones at a market stand in late spring.
You’ll also have to expect to spend a little more. I know that’s a touchy subject and I feel apologetic to be advocating food choices that might be unaffordable to someone who really want to eat better quality food and simply can’t. But the fact is that a lot of the produce at a supermarket is priced below its cost, since the loss can be recuperated from the high markup of other groceries and nonfood items. A local farmer is charging what it actually costs to plant, nurture and harvest that food — which is not an easy job. When you buy from them, you’re supporting your neighbors and your community, not some banana plantation in a politically questionable country.
And somehow knowing that makes the price less bitter and the berries a lot sweeter.
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