By Natalie Lariccia
You’ll find a bounty of fresh and tasty fruits and vegetables along a country road or on a suburban street corner.
Take a drive through the country, and you’re likely to notice several farm market signs announcing the arrival of some of nature’s most delectable treats.
Or you might notice street vendors selling a colorful array of fruits and vegetables in front of your favorite department store or on a suburban street corner.
With the lazy days of summer upon us, farm market season is in full swing. And, area farm market employees seem to agree that farm market shopping is a leisurely, family-oriented activity that offers a bounty of fresh and tasty fruits and vegetables.
David Hull of Whitehouse Fruit Farms at 9249 state Route 62 in Canfield said farm market shopping provides shoppers with a unique change of pace from traditional grocery store shopping.
“It’s a more relaxed atmosphere. The customers tend to say it’s just nice to get away from the concrete,” he said.
Whitehouse has been a longstanding Mahoning Valley farm market staple.
Started as a wholesale market in the late 1920s, the market is open year-round and has evolved and expanded over the years by growing its retail and baked good departments and offering a variety of seasonal, family-friendly activities, Hull said.
Hull says he’s observed a trend in more customers making an effort to buy locally grown produce, and it’s a trend that he believes is here to stay.
“I think it’s in the back of people’s minds. There’s a bit of a thought that ‘Why should I buy something from halfway across the country when I can buy something grown here (in the area),’” he said.
Whitehouse offers several locally grown fruit and vegetable selections, including apples, peaches, raspberries and blueberries.
Farm markets also focus on offering fruits and vegetables that are in season, which gives customers a better perspective of eating and preparing in-season fruits and vegetables.
“I think people tend to enjoy feeling that connection by eating foods during the season they (the foods) are in season,” he said.
Martha Stahl, owner of Stahl’s Farm Market at 10780 N. Johnson Road in North Benton, in Western Mahoning County, said farm markets often offer fresher fruits and vegetables than traditional grocery stores, which may receive shipments of produce from states that are several hundred miles away.
“A lot of the things that we grow go directly from the fields to the farm (market) in a matter of hours,” she said.
These fresh, locally grown selections are also often the tastiest and highest in quality, said John Huffman, owner of Huffman Fruit Farm at 13075 Lisbon Road in Salem.
Huffman said he believes farm markets offer customers a more personalized experience and an opportunity to build a rapport with the farmer or market owner. With some local markets offering pick-your-own fruits and vegetables, customers are able to connect with nature and gain a better understanding of the growing season, he said.
Jim Converse, market manager at the Northside Farmers’ Market, said farm markets can help provide healthier, stronger and more sustainable communities while supporting the local economy and area farmers and bakers.
Started in 2003 at 1105 Elm Street near Wick Park on the city’s North Side, the market is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays at the Elm Street location and from 1:30 to 5 p.m. at West Federal Plaza in downtown Youngstown. The market is open on its designated days through September, when the summer growing season ends.
The Northside Farmers’ Market typically features a selection of farmers, bakers and arts and crafts vendors. An array of jellies and canned goods are also available.
Converse said the Northside Farmers’ Market helps fill a void by providing fresh produce and food items in an area of the city where grocery stores are not plentiful.
He’s excited about new services for the 2009 season, including periodic food preparation demonstration classes focusing on recipes that feature local produce. Converse said the market is also now accepting the Ohio Direction Card. The Ohio Direction Card replaces food stamp coupons and qualified recipients can use the card to purchase groceries at participating stores.
Here are some recipes to use after your next stop at a local farm market.
Heirloom Tomato Salad with Mozzarella and Basil
2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1‚Ñ2 teaspoon sugar
1‚Ñ2 teaspoon black pepper
1‚Ñ2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 pounds mixed heirloom tomatoes, quartered if small or cut into 1‚Ñ4-inch-wide wedges if larger
1 pound cherry tomatoes
1 pound very small mozzarella balls (1/4 inch; sometimes called perlini) or 1 pound lightly salted mozzarella, cut into 1‚Ñ4-inch pieces
11‚Ñ2 cups loosely packed small basil leaves or torn large leaves
Whisk together vinegar, mustard, salt, sugar, and pepper in a large bowl. Add oil in a slow stream, whisking constantly until dressing is emulsified. Add tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil and toss well. Season with salt and pepper. Allow this salad to sit a few minutes after tossing; the mozzarella milk and tomato juices emerge and add flavor to the dressing.
Makes 8 to 10 servings.
Herbed Corn on the Cob
12 ears of corn in the husk, stem ends trimmed
1 stick (1/2 cup) plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
36 sprigs fresh lemon thyme
Shuck corn, leaving husks attached at base. Discard corn silk. Spread about 3‚Ñ4 tablespoon butter over each cob, then lay 3 thyme sprigs against each cob, pressing them gently into butter. Pull husks back up over corn. Remove 3 pieces of husk and tear into 12 strips total. Tie top of each husk closed with a strip, then let stand 1 hour (for flavors to develop).
Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in pot (see cooks’ note, below), then stand 4 to 6 ears of corn in pot (depending on size of pot), tied ends up, and steam, covered, moving outer ears to inside once with tongs, until crisp-tender, about 6 minutes. Steam remaining corn, in batches if necessary, in same manner, adding water as necessary. Serve with salt and additional butter on the side.
Makes 12 servings.
Cooks’ notes: If you don’t have a pot deep enough to stand corn in, use a large roasting pan with a rack. Straddle pan across 2 burners and add just enough water to reach rack. Bring to a boil, then arrange half of corn in 1 layer on rack. Cover pan tightly with foil and steam about 6 minutes. Repeat with remaining corn. ∑Corn can be husked and reassembled with butter and thyme (but not cooked) 1 day ahead and chilled, covered.
Fresh Green Bean Salad
1 pound fresh green beans
1 red onion
Crumbled Feta cheese (Mediterrean herb is recommended)
Snip ends off the green beans and rinse. While they are drying, slice the onion.
Combine green beans, onion, Italian dressing and walnuts, and toss evenly to coat the beans and onions. Top with the Feta and lightly toss together. Cover and refrigerate (overnight is best).
Note: Any type of crumbled mild cheese may be substituted for the Feta cheese.