I visited the the Countryside Holiday Farmers' Market in Peninsula today with the thought of picking up a few locally grown items for my Thanksgiving table. I was hoping for winter squash and maybe some greens of some kind. An hour and a half later I was lugging what seemed like 50 pounds of local bounty to my car, my market bag overflowing with fall fruits & veggies, locally raised meats, and some new finds I feel compelled to tell you about.
First of all, the variety of produce still available to us in late November is nothing short of amazing. Farmers I've known for the past few seasons are getting smarter and smarter about what they plant and when. They are now able to bring us the traditional fall crops we've come to expect like potatoes, turnips, winter squash and apples in addition to baby beets, bok choi and pac choi, carrots, garlic, lacinato kale, rainbow colored radishes, swiss chard and more.
What also impressed me at the market today was the creative energy our local farmers are using to extend the season and utililze the riches of their land in delicious new ways.
Today's highlight was Bramble Honey and Hickory Syrup produced by Daniel and Michelle Greenfield whose farm is part of the Countryside Initiaitve in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. They moved onto their land last year and promptly planted a variety of raspberries and blueberries for their u-pick berry farm. Since berries take a few years to get established they looked for additional ways to earn a little revenue. First they developed a granola made from local oats and their own honey that provided a lovely canvas for their first-year berry harvest. This fall the Greenfields have introduced two new products. Their Bramble Honey is dark and deeply flavored. I can't wait to drizzle it on Sunday morning's toast or enjoy it with a hunk of Parmigiano Reggiano and toasted walnuts or pecans. The Greenfield's steep the bark of hickory trees found on their farm in a simple syrup to produce their hickory syrup which has a distinctive sweet, floral flavor. It was the buzz of the market today and was unfortunately sold out by the time I arrived. The rave reviews will hopefully result in another batch!
Another highlight were the Homemade Honey Caramels made by Heather and Eric Walters of Basket of Life Farm (also part of the Countryside Initiative and Terra Madre 2006 delegates). These soft, buttery, melt-in-your-mouth morsels are made with honey from their own hives as well as cream, butter, brown sugar and vanilla. Boxed caramels can be special-ordered for holiday gift giving (or your own indulgence) and picked up at the farm on Dec. 2 or 16. For more information, visit the Basket of Life Farm's blog.
Other treats I brought home included: bison jerky from Red Run Bison Farm, goat brats from Goatfeathers Point Farm, grass-fed beef from Wayne Cattle Company, artisan breads from Great Lakes Baking Company, pork from Rose Ridge Farm, fruit & berry jams from Seville Berry Farm, goat cheese from Lake Erie Creamery, pesto from Janet Hahn, holiday gift baskets from the Countryside Conservancy, honey and handmade soaps from Lazy Bee, and more. Are you starting to understand why my market basket was overflowing?
Unfortunately, this was the last of the Countryside Holiday Farmers' Markets for the season. With this year's successful markets, let's all hope the Countryside Conservancy will return next fall with an expanded holiday market schedule. We can still shop the North Union Farmers' Market which is open until December 15 and the Coit Road Farmers' Market which, believe it or not, stays open year round. Local produce and products are also turning up in more and more local grocers. And of course, all the farmers I mentioned above also sell direct as long as they have product available. I've included links to websites if they have them or you can check the Countryside Harvest Guide.
So, as Thanksgiving approaches, be sure to remember these local farmers and food producers. Many of the ingredients for our favorite holiday food traditions are grown right here at home. Let's support and give thanks for all the kind folks who are making Northern Ohio such a tasty place to live these days.