Slow Food for Thought...

“Defending the earth means safeguarding biodiversity, the landscape and farming. Those who haven’t seen the importance of farming haven’t understood anything!”
Carlo Petrini, Founder of Slow Food

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Farmers' Market Report: September 22

Our local farmers' markets are bursting with another season's harvest. Now is the perfect time of year to visit your favorite market and pick up fresh, locally grown ingredients for the coming week's meals. Recipes were buzzing through my head as I wandered the market Saturday morning... apple and pear tarts, ratatouille, soupe au pistou, salsa... all those great harvest time dishes.

My haul included: arugula, beans, bok choi, cilantro, corn, garlic, peppers (cubanelles, jalapenos, poblanos and bells), ground cherries (more on these below), potatoes, buttercup squash, tomatoes, and tomatillos as well as grass-fed, organic cheese, ground beef and rib eyes! My basket was a bit heavy to say the least -- I really should invest in wheels if I plan to keep this up. I had all the ingredients for some mean quesadillas for lunch topped with tomatillo salsa. For dinner, grilled ribeyes and some fresh-picked corn on the cob.

An interesting find at the market Saturday included ground cherries also known as Bladder Cherry, Chinese Lantern, Winter Cherry, Cape Gooseberry, and Poha Berry. And in Italy they're called Alchechengi. When I visited Torino for the Terra Madre & Salone del Gusto events last fall, the windows of nearly all the city's beautiful chocolate shops featured these mysterious little chocolate-dipped fruits. I also encountered one as a garnish on a lovely cocktail called a Puccini.

My rudimentary Italian language skills never enabled me to fully understand a translation of what these were at the time, but I recognized them from home where I had occasionally seen them at farmers' markets. I had also made the mistake of planting a japanese lantern plant in my garden which produced the same fruits. I developed such a hatred of that invasive plant that I never thought it might in fact produce anything edible. (I'm still pulling up shoots every time I see them). But they look just fine coming from someone else's garden or market stand.

The the Italians of course know how to take something as humble as a ground cherry and raise it to the level of true delicacy. They peel back the husks and dip their ground cherries in gorgeous dark chocolate leaving the little golden husks attached as convenient little handles. Inside the chocolate, you find the bright orange fruit surrounded by a sweet creamy liqueur. Not bad. I didn't go quite that far with my little ground cherry treasures. But since I had some Sharfenberger chocolate sitting here, I tried dipping some. It's hard to go too wrong with fruit and chocolate. These were winners. Not only did they taste wonderful but they wowed everyone at Saturday night's bonfire on Lake Erie as we passed them around.

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