Westminster Farmers’ Market Report from Maple Heights Farm
Too Busy To Cook?
The Westminster Farmers’ Market is now open for the season! We not only have all the vendors that you remember from last year, but we also have some new vendors that you will want to meet! You can find an incredible assortment of plants for your garden (vegetables and ornamentals) as well as overflowing baskets of greens that you can pick and eat when you get home. You cannot get any fresher than that! Don’t forget that it is rhubarb season and you DO NOT want to miss this fresh, local treat. Asparagus is also available, along with beautiful bouquets of fragrant lilacs! Come early because some of these products run out early.
Rhubarb is highly nutritious (here is an interesting article on the health benefits of rhubarb) as well as delicious and if you think you don’t like it, you should try rhubarb crisp! I like rhubarb crisps because of the whole grains in the toppings and the simplicity of putting it together. Try cutting down a bit on the sugar and serving it for a once-a-year special supper (you may want to do this again with a peach cobbler later in the summer!). This works really well on a Sunday evening if you serve a larger meal in the afternoon and it is a great way to treat your family and train them to look forward to our local, farmers’ market flavors. Here are some recipes and you will surely find something that suits you. Meghan (now 14) and I plan to begin our canning season this year with rhubarb. I think 15 quarts will be great to help get us through the winter.
There seems to be some local interest in canning and preserving food. If you are interested, let me know and I will see if we can pull together some group canning sessions, or training sessions. Processing food in this way is very easy, but it is a lot more fun when shared with good company! My (usually overzealous plans) for this summer include rhubarb, peaches, cherries, pears, and tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes!
My computer had problems over the past month so many emails that I received never got to me. In addition, I may have lost my entire email list for this report. If you are receiving this through the vine and want to be added to my distribution list, email me and I’ll start a new list.
Since I Mentioned Coffee…
I usually make a pot of coffee at home, partly because I do not usually leave the house in the morning, but mostly for economy. A family (two coffee drinkers and a tea drinker in this house) could easily spend $1500 per year, just on the drive-thru. More if you add a pastry. I always have to ask myself this question: if I was given $1500, would I spend it on coffee? My answer is always, “no”. But, the other day, Meghan needed some shoes to match a dress so she could look perfect for her I-made-it-through-middle-school banquet, so off we went in the only time available, which meant that we would not be able to eat supper at home. We had some really great coupons and decided we would stop for a bagel and a coffee at the local drive-thru. Now, it was late in the day and probably not at a time where the pots of coffee were getting refreshed every 15 minutes, but it did make me glad that I have my nice percolator at home and great coffee from Billy Goat Beanery out of Holden (now available at our farmers’ market). I have to say, for the three minutes (about the same amount of time to hit the drive-thru) it takes me to clean my percolator and fill it with cold water and freshly ground coffee, it was not even worth the time out of my way to drive through to get the coffee that evening! It was just not good enough when I compare it to what I make at home. The coffee I make at home costs me about $10 per month is the freshest coffee that money can buy and it keeps about $10 per week in my pocket (more if I include coffee for Max and tea for Andy). But it is so delicious and fresh and hot. And quality alone is a reason for me to continue making my own at home!
Cooking at Home. Are You Too Busy?
Cooking and baking are skills that everyone should attempt to master. There are those of us who would say they cannot cook. I believe that everyone can cook, but, for everyone, it takes a bit of practice and I highly recommend putting in the practice time. It may seem overwhelming at times, but practice will not only perfect a cooking technique, but, more importantly, it will make you very efficient and able to crank out a dish in a matter of minutes (perhaps with a small amount of planning and some organization). My goal for the past few years has been to perfect pies. I have perfected some pie-crust-like recipes (puff pastry and crackers) but just haven’t gotten around to the pies. Since I know that I can make a batch of crackers in about 10 minutes of my time, I know that a pie crust would also be very quick to do. The truth is we eat more crackers in this house than pie (though some of us really do love quiche with our own fresh eggs). I’ll work on my pie crusts if you choose something too. Baking bread is one thing I would recommend. If you have a bread machine you can bake two loaves of bread in about 6 minutes of your invested time (less if you bake it in the machine, which I never do). In order to do this, you will want to establish a “baking ingredients area” in your kitchen. Have a canister of flours, sugars, salt, and other dry ingredients handy. Know where your milk, eggs, yeast and oil are located. Use the same recipe over and over until you have “mastered” it. That way, you will be very good at located each ingredient very quickly – which is pretty important in limiting the amount of time you want to spend on this. When I make bread, I never have to check my cabinet for the ingredients. Over time, you will just know what you must have on hand at all times and these ingredients will go on your “monthly stock up grocery list” as opposed to your weekly list or your “honey can you pick this up on the way home” list. Start with a simple bread recipe. Perhaps a whole-wheat, but make sure your whole wheat is very fresh and not rancid. Make sure your recipe doesn’t have more than five ingredients just to keep it simple from the start. Don’t try a baguette at first even though it has only a few ingredients – baking them is a bit trickier than other breads. Here is an easy recipe. I would NOT use margarine as we avoid foods that are so far removed from nature, but other than that, the ingredients are easy to find and easy to measure. Plan to start it on a day when you are going to be around for two or three hours (laundry or cleaning day works well for me), and with very little effort you will be eating the most delicious, fresh bread money can buy!
We are always trying to improve our kitchen skills and our diets. At ten years old, Sydney is cooking her way through the Mrs. Field’s cookie book. Her friends come over before soccer practice on Mondays and they turn my kitchen into a factory (and thank you to all my neighbors for keeping her supplied because I NEVER seem to have all the ingredients that she needs on hand). Those girls can whip up a batch of the most delicious cookies in no-time-flat! And they are really good!
I am working on ketchup. My sister-in-law gave me a ketchup and mustard and vinegar recipe book and I have been meaning to get to it. And my nephew made some for a cook-out last year and it was really delicious and interesting and worth giving it a try. I also make my “own” barbeque sauce, but most of my recipes call for ketchup, and I don’t think it feels like my own sauce when I’m dumping in a half bottle of ketchup. Probably my main reason for wanting to try it is that I don’t want to feed my family corn syrup and very few brands avoid this staple-of-the-American-diet! The organic ketchups do not have corn syrup, but the brands that I have tried just don’t taste good enough. Well, I made sure I had my ingredients and set to work. After about four minutes I had the ketchup ready to simmer on the stove. That was it! Four minutes and about an hour of simmering which doesn’t take any of my time at all. My batch had a bit too much allspice in it, but it was good enough (and easy enough) to work on perfecting it. And you end up with a LOT of ketchup! We spent the week trying to figure out how we were going to sample it. It turns out that we really don’t eat a lot of ketchup! We could only think of hamburgers and French fries, so that is what we had. Well worth four minutes of my time!
Visit our Westminster Farmers’ Market website…
The Westminster Farmers’ Market website is being updated with vendors for the 2010 season. Visit for ideas on how you can help the farmers’ market, participate as a vendor, or get information on our schedule for the season. Visit us at www.WestminsterFarmersMarket.com.
Maple Heights Farm…
At Maple Heights Farm, we are well stocked with beef and pork. Orders are opening on Friday at Mass Local Food and we have most of our products listed there.