Westminster Farmers’ Market Report from Maple Heights Farm
Rain does not dampen the spirits of our local eaters!
Although we had rain, we had plenty of vendors and customers last week! We are looking forward to better weather tomorrow though! Meghan was unable to make her donuts last week and there was a minor outcry over it. She will make a double batch for tomorrow! So stop by Meghan’s “Meetinghouse Café” and try one!
We should start to see plenty of late summer and fall vegetables and fruits at the market. Pumpkins, peaches, apples, winter squash… Have you ever served peach cobbler for dinner? It’s practically a pancake and fruit but really delicious! How about pumpkin soup made with a real pumpkin? Just cut the pumpkin in half and roast it in your oven. Then substitute for the canned pumpkin in your recipes. Easy, nutritious and delicious.
As some of you know I have tried to get the Best of North Central Mass contest modified to include Best Farmers’ Market. I think the creators of this contest were really sorry that that category was missed, but it could not be changed for this year. I did threaten a write-in vote so consider as item 80) Best Farmers’ Market Westminster Farmers’ Market or the farmers’ market of your choice. The Westminster Farmers’ Market gets my vote for “78) Place for family entertainment”. In addition, Meghan’s “Meetinghouse Café” will get my vote for “36) Coffee Shop/Diner)”, Honeybee Baking Company will get my vote for “44) Desserts”, M.L. Altobelli “17) Garden Store/Nursery”. Be creative and let’s see if we can put Westminster Farmers’ Market on the North Central Massachusetts map! Have fun; support our local producers and VOTE!
Last week we were lucky enough to have Aurelia Carter, juggler extraordinaire for our entertainment. She was a great sport juggling under the cover of the gazebo while we faced a downpour! The children had a great time with her as Aurelia spent loads of time trying to teach them how to juggle! I saw a lot of progress throughout the afternoon and the kids had so much fun. We hope to have her back next week.
We hope to have Sue and Steve Nickerson playing again this week. And watch for them on our farmers’ market float in the 250th Anniversary Parade. They will be accompanying Lauren Dennen as she performs her Irish Step Dancing.
I am thrilled to also have the following appearances scheduled over the next few weeks. And I so appreciate the performers that take time out of their busy schedules to support our efforts at the farmers’ market:
·Next week we have Bart Sides with his band Dr. B and the Homemade Band playing from 5:00 until 7:00. Many of you have seen their awesome and fun performances around town so come and cheer them on and support them in any way you can!
·October 2: Ron and Meghan McGuire which promises to be a wonderfully entertaining event. You saw them in the Westminster 250th anniversary talent show where they won overall!
·October 9: Warren Rasmussen (read about him at his website. He is raising new awareness about ground nuts in this area and will also be selling his book, The Mary Rowlandson Story, which is a piece of local history involving Mary, Wachusett Mountain and Redemption Rock!)
Why Local Food?
So, why do you shop at and eat from the farmers’ market? I’m sure you have many reasons that are all important.
·The food is of better quality, even if there is a blemish here or there it is more nutritious, it is fresher and has better genetics and better flavor, there is a large variety of heirloom vegetables that cannot be found easily elsewhere. The baked goods are freshly made with no preservatives, no high fructose corn syrup and most likely no trans fats. The meats are farmed locally, most right here in Westminster using no hormones, antibiotics, or pesticides. Most are grass fed increasing the amount of omega-3 and Conjugated Linoleic Acid or CLA according to EatWild.
·Another important reason to shop at our farmers’ market is to become part of a greater community. I know we are all part of the Westminster community – or perhaps part of many sub-communities within the larger community. You may be part of the school community or the senior community or the town government community. At the farmers’ market you will find the Westminster community where all our sub-communities are represented and together once a week. It is an unusual opportunity to meet up with friends, neighbors, acquaintances, relatives, classmates, co-workers that we don’t normally run into on a weekly basis. This season I have met some of the most interesting and kind people right here at the market. That alone is worth the trip.
·Local Food Preserves Open Space: When more people put their dollars into the pockets of local farmers and show that farm work is valuable, farmland becomes less likely to be developed. We will be facing enormous pressures in the next decade according to the study done by Dr. Mullins and the Industrial study group two years ago. Our area will be targeted by developers of industry and residence due to its large tracts of undeveloped land. Supporting the farmers’ market is supporting your local farmers. This support allows farmers to maintain their land as farmland. And for all of you that have hiked the mid-state trail through our section (Graffiti Bridge to Batherick road – near batherick road) you have seen the beauty of rolling fields dotted with cows and know that it would not be preferable to see houses or industry!
On the farm…
Our Cornish X chickens (non-heritage breed) are ready for processing and will be sent out on September 27th (the day of the parade – like that day is not busy enough!). I have 15 for sale at $4.00 per pound – all raised in our “chicken tractor” that has been moved to fresh grass almost daily all summer. Their fresh grass diet has been supplemented with high quality non-medicated feeds (and I was told medicated feed was required! I didn’t even loose one bird due to feed – just one due to a chicken stampede during a coyote attack) starting with organic feeds for the first few weeks. I then switched to a high quality grain as the organic was extremely expensive and was going to almost double the price of raising them. In addition they have received plenty of tomatoes and zucchinis that overfilled our pesticide and chemical free vegetable garden! These birds will probably average about 4 to 5 pounds each. If you would like to reserve one, please email me A.S.A.P. I also have my heritage flock that will probably be ready in another 4 or 5 weeks. If you order a Cornish X, you will have first opportunity to try my Barred Rock birds when they are ready. Pickup will be on September 27th in the evening at our farm on
Howard Rdin Westminster.
Don’t throw away the bones!
As the weather turns cooler and the days shorten, so our eating habits transition from backyard cookouts to heartier comfort food. I love soups and I love making them. There are many, many qualities to broth that are beneficial to humans and the only way to get the benefits is to make the broth from scratch.
Whenever you can get your hands on a really good chicken or turkey or beef or pork bones, never let the opportunity to make a good broth slip by. Broth is loaded with nutrition and if you take the time to read this article, you may never compost another bone without simmering the heck out of it first. Making a broth only takes about 10 minutes of actual time – and nothing, not even apple pie, will make your house smell better.
Last week, a good friend shared a chicken with me from her backyard flock while I await my own chickens… We got two meals out of the chicken for 6 people (roast chicken and chicken quesadillas), two drumsticks were turned into school lunches and then the remains were turned into broth which was used in about 12 servings of soup that was used for dinner one night and school lunches the next day. When we ran out of soup (see recipe below) the kids were asking for more for their school lunches!
I chopped the leaves off celery that I would normally discard, threw in a few bits of veges (not strong flavors like broccoli or beats) and simmer. So as not to waste my good (and at this time very small) carrots, I used a Queen Anne’s Lace root – otherwise known as wild carrot of which I have PLENTY. Put a bit of vinegar in to extract additional calcium and glucosamine. After simmering, cool and pick the additional meat off the chicken, add it to the broth. From here, there is so much you can do.
One recipe I love is chicken and wild rice soup. I wish I could avoid the seasoning packet but I have been unable to duplicate the flavor it gives this soup. I also don’t use 2 chicken breasts, just the extra meat from the simmering. The broth has a nice chicken flavor and does not require the extra meat in my opinion. If I have dried mushrooms I add those also (chopped up small, I think my family thinks it is chicken – none of them read this and they won’t know if you don’t tell them).
Delicious broths can also be made with pork and beef bones. We are getting requests in the market for broth bones and Andy will be bringing some along this week. One recommendation from Julia Child (and Amy Dacyzn) is to put bits of vegetables in a container in your freezer: the tops you chop off the celery, tomato skins and seeds, leftover carrots and potatoes, anything you have except strongly flavored veges like brassicas. When you are ready to make soup, empty this container into your broth for extra flavor. At thanksgiving time I use the water used to boil or steam vegetables as part of the base for my broth and I also use any leftover gravy and vegetables. One of the great benefits of making broth besides the extreme nutrition is that they are really almost free. Often they are made with things you weren’t going to use anyways. And what do you get for that? Probably one of your healthiest meals of the week!
Here are some additional soup recipes from my favorite website. All contain broth and they are sorted by rating, highest to lowest. If the recipe calls for canned broth or bouillon, use your own broth. Canned soups and dehydrated soups add a lot of junk to your diet instead of all the wonderful nutrients from your own broth. Get creative and have fun! Other than foraging for wild plants, there is probably no more economical way to raise the nutrition level of your family!
One more quick tip from my Aunt and Uncle with whom I spent my summers on the rural Maine coast (think Andrew Wyeth’s Christina’s World): When (if) you boil lobsters, save the broth and all the shells. Put the shells back in the pot with the broth and continue to simmer. You will have an incredibly delicious broth to use as a base for fish chowders or bisques or Newburg. This broth adds a flavor that you will not get from any can. Though perhaps not traditional, we also use clam broth as this has a nice sweet flavor that is delicious in fish soups. The remains go out to our chickens or compost pile, both of which quickly turn them into healthy soil for next year’s garden.
For your Christmas shopping pleasure:
Remember, two gifts each week while you enjoy the farmers’ market may make your Holidays stress free!
·Tobacco Shed Pottery: Beautiful yellow-ware bowls, mugs and pitchers that are as functional as they are beautiful.
·Cutting boards by Bob Richards: Also a beautiful and functional addition to your kitchen. If you don’t like to cook it may just be because you need a good cutting board and good knives. Without these, cooking is much more of a chore than it needs to be!
·Jam and Jelly basket from our variety of jelly and jam producers. Just when we are needing a taste of summer!