Farmers Market Bucket List
Notes from the Market Director
As the Downtown Farmers Market season approaches closing day—October 27, I find myself with a bucket list of purchases to make and projects to complete. Efforts put forth now will be sure to warm winter days with thoughts of the summer harvest. In no particular order, here is my must-do list for the last 4 weeks:
- Sharpen Kitchen Knives
Lorenz Sharpening has been in the business for 102 years. Recently, they returned to their mobile roots, and thankfully they provide their professional services at the Market. All knives are hand-edged, buffed and hand-honed for approximately $.75/blade inch for a kitchen knife. An expertly-sharpened knife makes all the difference in the kitchen.
- Roast Chiles
I have acquired a few seasonal rituals over the years of working at the Market. My favorite is the annual chile roast. The end of the Market season is a great time to buy boxes and bushels of chiles at great prices. I usually go with the larger growers for this task—East Farms, Bangeter Farms, Parker Farms, Cooks Farm—all have great prices on bulk buys. Roasting chiles is easy but time consuming. Grab a couple friends, pick a sunny day, drink a few cervezas and get to roasting. When roasting a lot of chiles, it’s easiest to use a barbecue. Roast, sweat, peel, clean, freeze, repeat. Reward yourself with a steaming bowl of chile verde in February. Added bonus: spicy chiles kick the metabolism up a notch.
- Start a Gift Collection
I picked this tip up from my dear mother. Oh man, it’s true what they say about becoming your parents. My mom has a drawer stocked with gifts she finds in her travels to use for special occasions. Need a special token for a co-worker, party hostess or birthday? Done. The Downtown Art and Craft Market showcases more than 100 local artists selling unique, handcrafted gifts. You can find great small gifts here for your gift collection as well as the high-end items you have been lusting for all year. Last year I bought 10 of the cutest sponge holders from one of my favorite potters, Wally Beers. Paired with eco-friendly dish soap, these made inexpensive, socially-conscious holiday gifts.
- Buy Pumpkins
Why would you buy pumpkins anyplace else? The Market has the most amazing selection of pumpkins and gourds—giant, warty, ghost, Cinderella, pie, mini and more. One of the greatest things about shopping at farmers markets is the unparalleled variety you will find from local farms, and pumpkins truly illustrate this point. Use the veggie valet on 300 South and you can stock up on pumpkins, then drive your car over to pick them up.
- Split a Half Beef or Meat Share
I have always wanted to do this, but have never made it happen. You can buy pork, lamb, beef, beefalo and chicken from small, local farms at the Downtown Farmers Market. These family-owned businesses stand by their products, consider stewardship of the land and promote a better treatment of animals. If you are going to eat meat, this is a much better way to go. Towards the end of the Market season, many ranches are advertising whole, half or quartered packages.
- Freeze Herbs
Many culinary herbs flourish when the weather cools, before the freeze. Purchase fresh herbs, chop, portion into ice cube trays with filtered water and freeze. Drop a few cubes in a stew or sauce during the winter. Have you ever balked at the price of a small package of herbs in the grocery store? With a little preplanning, you can save time and money this winter.
- Store Winter Squash
The list of winter squash at the Market is virtually endless. With names, like hubbard, turban, banana, spaghetti and cha-cha, winter squash is built to last. If stored properly (think root cellar), they are meant to last deep into the winter months. Start a dialogue with a local grower by asking for their storage tips and techniques.
- Indulge in an Eclectic Brunch Offering
Where else can you move from coffee to Thai to pistachio popsicles before 10 am? The Market inspires small kitchens and ethnic cooks to share their passions on a public stage. Most of these vendors do not yet have a restaurant or food truck, so this is it. If you love Mama Linda’s Chile Verde, now is not the time to delay.
- Express Gratitude
Farming is not an easy occupation. To make a profitable business takes sweat, perseverance, creativity, energy and passion. Market vendors are a special breed, with such pride in their products. After all, they sell directly to the consumer. They take requests and suggestions then incorporate those ideas into next year’s plans. Before the Market ends, take a moment to thank your favorite growers and to let them know that you appreciate their efforts.