by Linda Slezak
My first experience of a farm stand was on a day-trip to the North Fork. I wasn’t living here just yet and I was delighted by the big outdoor displays of fresh fruits and vegetables in colorful profusion. I was tempted to buy everything and almost did.
A week after my farmstand shopping spree, I remembered that I had bought spinach that I hadn’t used yet. I found the spinach in the back of my refrigerator and expected to see a wilted, gloppy mess as I would with any supermarket-bought spinach. Instead, the spinach was still fresh, almost like on the day I bought it.
This was an eye-opener for me. I now understood how much “local” matters. Instead of produce being shipped to us from as far off as California or South America and arriving in our supermarkets weeks later, we can get fresh produce virtually in our own backyards.
Now, living on the East End, I feel very fortunate to have access to farm stands and farmers markets, where freshness and wholesomeness is a given. I so look forward to the spring, when a few farm stands open and there is asparagus and snap peas. A little later, more open up, offering lettuce, beets, leeks, onions and new potatoes. In May and June, local strawberries arrive. If you haven’t tasted local strawberries, you don’t know what real strawberries should taste like. They are small, sweet and delicate. Try them with local rhubarb in a cobbler.
Recently, I visited some farm stands and farmers markets and became aware that not all produce being offered is locally grown. I went to one that had fingerling potatoes. These are so flavorful, but having been in “farm country” for a few years now, I know that it is early in the season for fingerlings. So, I asked the proprietor what farm these potatoes came from. She said, “oh, they’re from South Carolina. We don’t have local ones yet.” I appreciated her honesty and bought them anyway. After two days, I decided I would oven roast them – a great way to prepare fingerlings. When I took them out of the bag, the potatoes were full of “eyes.” That meant they were not so fresh. This is a major difference between local and shipped in from elsewhere.
Now, I do understand that many farm stands feel obligated to provide all kinds of produce – even things like lemons and bananas, which we know are not local. But when shopping, a savvy consumer, should ask about the provenance of what they plan to buy. I saw a very heartening sign at Long Season Farms in Jamesport that says “If We Sell It, We Grew It.”
Another gripe of mine is when produce is pre-packed, as in supermarkets. I wanted to buy a few stalks of rhubarb, which is now in season. The rhubarb was bundled into two-pound bundles and the proprietor would not break it up. A good farm stand should sell produce by the item – if I only want a pint of strawberries, I should not have to buy a quart.
Definitions you should know:
Farmstands are operations that primarily sell one farmer’s produce at a stand on the farmer’s property, though farmers often augment their produce with crops from other local farmers, and some may have crops from out of town if they aren’t in season here.
Rules differ from town to town, but most East End towns have restrictions on the amount of produce from other farms that can be sold.
Farmers markets have booths or tables where many farms sell produce and other products (like preserves, cheeses, eggs, meats). Some farmer’s markets sell crafts and other non-edible items. These markets often accept WIC or EBT (food stamp) payments, as well as senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program checks, available at local senior centers.
CSA stands for community supported agriculture. This is a practice that pays farmers up front for a seasons worth of produce. You buy a “share” and pick up from the farm once a week. What you get in your share will be whatever was grown that week. You can split a share with a friend if you find that the share amount is larger than what you need.
Don’t get too hung up on “organic.” Most local farmers use minimal pesticides and preservative sprays because they are only selling locally and don’t need to keep the food fresh for a long time. However, more and more of our local farmers are going organic because they are committed to sustainability. Do try to support our local farmers.
The most recent innovation in local food production is ECI, The Ecological Culture Initiative. This organization has chosen Hampton Bays as the location for its educational movement to preserve the natural environment including the soil, the marshes and waterways, in other words, our ecosystem. They are hoping that it will become a model for “regenerative neighborhood development.” To learn more about this initiative, go to eciny.org.
Next up is a fabulous recipe for a Corn and Scallop Chowder that contains mostly local ingredients in season during the summer:
Corn Chowder with Sea Scallops
This chowder makes good use of seasonal produce. By July, we should have fresh local corn and local red potatoes. Sea scallops are gathered from our coastal waters.
To me, this is a quintessential East End summer dish.
6 slices bacon, chopped
½ cup minced red onion
½ cup diced red pepper
½ cup diced celery
1 pound Red potatoes cut into small cubes
2 to 3 cups corn kernels
2 cups milk
¾ cup half and half
2 Tbls chopped chives
½ pound scallops rinsed and dried plus 1 Tbls butter
salt, white pepper and cayenne to taste
In a medium stockpot, cook bacon until crisp – remove bacon and drain off all but 2 Tbls fat.
Add the onion, red pepper and celery and cook in the bacon fat until soft.
Puree 1 cup of the corn with 1 cup of milk. Add to stockpot.
Add remaining corn, milk and potatoes and cook covered until potatoes are done (15 minutes).
Stir in half and half, chives and spices and simmer 3 to 5 minutes.
Sautee scallops in a single layer in butter in a hot skillet (2 min. on each side)
Pour chowder into deep bowls, top with a few scallops, sprinkle on bacon and additional chives.
Linda Slezak is a long time member of Slow Food East End. She has a certificate from SCC School of Culinary Arts and has taught cooking classes for adults. As a Chefs to Schools instructor, she teaches cooking to children in our local schools.
East End Farmers Markets
Westhampton Beach Famers Market
Saturdays, May 13 to Oct. 28, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., 84 Mill Road, Westhampton Beach
Flanders Farm Fresh Food Market
July 1 through Oct. 21 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
David W. Crohan Community Center, 655 Flanders Road, Flanders
East Hampton Evening Farmers Market
Thursdays from 5 to 8 p.m. through Aug. 27, Calvary Baptist Church. 60 Spinner Lane, East Hampton
East Hampton Farmers Market
Fridays, May 12 through Sept. 1, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Nick & Toni’s Parking Lot, 136 North Main Street, East Hampton
Sag Harbor Farmers Market
Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. through Oct. 28, Bay Street, just east of Marine Park
Greenport Farmers Market
Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. through Sept. 16, in the parking lot lot at 2nd and South Streets near the IGA
Hampton Bays Farmers Market
Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. through Sept. 3, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, 165 Ponquogue Avenue.
Montauk Farmers Market
Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. through Oct. 8., on the Montauk Green
Springs Farmers Market
Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. through Oct. 31, Ashawagh Hall, 780 Springs Fireplace Rd
Hayground School Farmers Market
Fridays, 3 to 6:30 p.m. through Sept. 1
151 Mitchells Lane, Bridgehampton
Southampton Farmers Market
Sundays, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. through Oct. 8, 25 Jobs Lane at Southampton Arts Center
Shelter Island Farmers Market
Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. through Sept. 2, Shelter Island Historical Society Havens House, 16 South Ferry Road