Farmers' Market Report: April 5-6, 2014

Bluegrass, celery, strawberries, goat cheese, and hailstones

Snapdragons and anemones (Photo by Kate Thornberry)
Flowers are entering their finest season in Central Texas, and it is now possible to get amazing locally grown bouquets at all the markets. Prices range from $7-15, and you can’t get fresher, longer-lasting flowers anywhere.

Pictured above are bouquets by Prickly Pair Farm at the Mueller Farmers' Market.

Before I get into the thick of it, I want to mention that this Sunday is Farmgrass Fest ’14, a bluegrass festival taking place at Simmons Family Farms from 2-8pm. All proceeds from the festival will go into a medical emergency fund for Central Texas farmers and ranchers. The lineup of bluegrass performers is star-studded, and includes MilkDrive and the Lost Pines. The weather is anticipated to be glorious on Sunday. If sitting in a grassy field out in the country, listening to amazing bluegrass while the soft breezes ruffle your hair sounds like a great time to you, be sure to come on out.

Dewberry Hills Farm (Really Good Chicken) will be at Sunset Valley this Saturday. As I have said before, if you want some of that fine, fine chicken, be sure to email Jane and reserve one. I have learned my lesson after last week, when I sauntered up to the table thinking to buy a chicken, but they were all sold out at 10am. This week, I have reserved a chicken, and I encourage you to do the same.

This is the good stuff (Photo by Kate Thornberry)
The most interesting stories in the farmers’ market world this week are asparagus and celery. Not only do McKemie Farms and Hairston Creek Farm have tender young asparagus, but the HOPE Market has some too, coming to them from Festival Beach Community Garden.

It seems that no sooner had I mourned the loss of the great big heads of celery I used to buy from Finca Pura Vida farm (who are no more), than I learned that there are other local farmers who have taken the celery challenge. It is a very tough crop to grow around here because it needs lots of water and cool temperatures. I’m afraid that those are two things always in short supply in these parts. However, at the Mueller Farmers Market, Bernhardt’s Farm has great big beautiful bunches of celery. The local product is so very superior in flavor that I recommend buying one and freezing what you don’t use for soups later in the year.

When is the last time your eggs held up in the frying pan like this one? (Photo by Kate Thornberry)
Taking a little metaphorical walk around the Mueller market: Organicare Farms has eggs. Not just any eggs, really fresh and wonderful eggs! In a rare (among farmers, that is) marketing and advertising move, the lady at the Organicare table broke an egg into a dish (pictures above) to demonstrate how much firmer the white of a pastured organic egg is, and how golden the yolk. This intrepid move worked even on me; I bought a dozen.

Speaking of eggs, Smith and Smith Farms were the victims of a devastating hailstorm last week that pretty well flattened their chicken farm. Nearly all of their chickens, which were out in the pasture as chickens ought to be, were killed by softball sized hailstones. Most of their outbuildings were destroyed or blown clear away.

Up at the Cedar Park Farmers’ Market, Amy Landau’s three sons, ages 11, 9, and 7, will be selling handmade rubber band bracelets and action figures to raise money for Smith and Smith. You can also go donate directly at this online fundraiser to help Smith and Smith pick up the pieces and begin again. This is a case where help is desperately needed, so please give if you can, even if it is just a buck or two. It could make all the difference.

Herbs like these from Organicare have so much flavor (Photo by Kate Thornberry)
Organicare also has freshly dried herbs for sale. If you have ever dried your own herbs, you know how much more flavorful freshly dried herbs can be. Organicare has sage, dill seed, and rosemary, along with jars of freshly dried bay leaves.
LaLa's Lemonade (Photo by Kate Thornberry)
LaLa’s Lemonade experienced record sales last Sunday, selling out of many flavors in the exceptional spring weather. Her Original Lemonade is pictured here. LaLa’s also makes Lime in the Coconut, Lavender, Strawberry, and Prickly Pear lemonades.

Nile Valley Hibiscus drinks at the HOPE Market (Photo by Kate Thornberry)
For those who swear by hibiscus tea as something that can help to bring down your blood pressure, Nile Valley Hibiscus Tea is the best kind. It’s local, the guy who makes it is a saint, and it tastes great. If you have ever ordered the "pink hippie" tea in Austin restaurants, chances are it is Nile Valley. At the farmers’ markets they also make a few other drinks too, like mango hibiscus and hibiscus lemonade.

Over at the HOPE Market, Windy Hill Farm is having a special this week on goat shanks, goat bellies, and goat brisket. I've never cooked goat brisket, so that’s what I’m getting. Did you know that the Texas cowboys practically lived on goat meat while riding the range? It is the true cowboy fare.

The JapaJam Burger (Photo by Jessie Curry)
Last week the Peached Tortilla trailer was at the HOPE Market, and they are going to be there again this Sunday. One of the items they will be serving is the JapaJam Burger, made from a 1/3-pound beef patty, sweet tomato jam, jalapeño jack cheese, Japanese BBQ sauce, and Firemans 4 tempura-battered onion strings.
Pea shoots, delicate and curling (Photo by Kate Thornberry)
I know I have written many times this spring about pea shoots, but now I finally have a photo to prove their existence. These lovely pea shoots were grown by Wildsprout Microgreens, and are available at the HOPE Market. The happening chefs of today use pea shoots in salads and as a fancy vegetable, often with fish.
CKC Farm goat cheese (Photo by Kate Thornberry)
My goat cheese hookup for many years now has been Swede Farm Dairy. Not only is their chevré outstanding and reasonably priced, but their goat milk and chocolate goat milk are out of this world. But they were in New York City recently, at the premiere of Stop the Pounding Heart, a documentary film starring their daughter and their dairy farm. I was forced to buy goat cheese from another. I bought chevré from CKC Farms at the Barton Creek Farmers' Market, and I have to tell you, their goat cheese is really good, too! CKC makes several kinds of hard goat cheese, as well as the creamy chevré. Highly recommended.

The HOPE Market has also added a new vendor: Rohan Meadery. As all LOTR fanfolks know, Rohan is by far the coolest kingdom of Middle Earth, I can’t believe Gondor can even pretend to be more important. All hail mighty Rohan, and let us drink a toast to Eowyn with frothing tankards of mead.

Curious Confections will only have hot cross buns for three more weeks, so act accordingly. On their rotating menu this week, they will be featuring lemon breakfast tarts, blackberry oat bars, grapefruit scones, Steen's marshmallows, honey sesame cashew nuts, coffee bean cookies, s’mores cookies, and treacle tarts. Treacle tarts are a British staple dating from the 19th century, and beloved of Harry Potter. If you or your kids have ever wondered what they taste like, this is your chance to find out!

Engel Farms strawberries in the field. Did I mention these are the ones used in the STRAWBERRY ICE CREAM?!?!? (Photo by Kate Thornberry)
Here is the menu from Dai Due this weekend; I would like to point out that they will be serving Strawberry! Ice! Cream!

Breakfast & Lunch at the Market   

Breakfast Sandwich with Hairston asparagus, fried duck egg, City ham, and herb mayonnaise on a gougere roll;

Ossabaw Pork Tinga Taco with onion, cilantro, and radish;

Achiote Boar Rib with duck confit tamal, crema, and cilantro;

Shrimp Étouffée with Texas Gulf rice and wild onions;

Strawberry Ice Cream Mill-king milk, Organicare eggs, and local strawberries;

Cafe a la Olla and Celery Soda.

See you at the markets!

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Farmers Market Report, Farmgrass Fest ’14, Barton Creek Farmers Market, HOPE Farmers Market, Cedar Park Farmers Market, Mueller Farmers Market, Prickly Pair Farm, Dewberry Hills Farm, McKemie Farm, Hairston Creek Farm, Bernhardt’s Farm, Organicare Farms, LaLa’s Lemonade, Smith and Smith Farm, Nile Valley Herbs, Windy Hill Farm, Peached Tortilla, Wildsprout Microgreens, CKC Farm, Swede Farm Dairy

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