Farmer’s Markets have all kinds of handmade/homemade/locally made treasures. They’re also packed with colors, smells, people, agrarian delights – all kinds of things to inspire our own creativity. For instance, I recently bought a homemade Mint Mojito Lip Balm from Harmony Creek Farm, from which I have also bought gorgeous homemade peony soap in the past. It’s one of very few peony products that really truly catch the rich scent of peony flowers, unlike a lot of storebought, highly processed peony lotions that smell only generic and floral.
I also got breed specific Lincoln and Romney wool skeins from Springfield Farm of Kent County. Personally, my love of wool and knitting makes it hard for me to eat lamb (call it silly). Springfield Farm breeds sheep for meat and wool and also sells incredible sheep skins as well as finished wool products, plus small production dyed and undyed yarn. According to The Knitter’s Book of Wool, both breeds were specially developed for this kind of multitasking, unlike many other sheep breeds that are suitable for only one or the other. Both Lincoln and Romney breeds are longwools (long staple fibers). Lincoln wool is coarse and appropriate for rugged outer garments while Romney is slightly softer and can be appropriate for mid-range garments to outerwear.
Both these sellers take part in D.C. area farmers markets run by an organization called Freshfarm Markets. That’s the amazing thing about living in the D.C. Metro area – you don’t realize how close you are to farm country, but Virginia and Marlyand are both packed with all kinds of agricultural and artisan finds, such as the Misty Mountain Farm in Virginia (producer of Blue Ridge Yarns which are so so so so beautiful – available at Looped Yarnworks among other locations) and several alpaca farms up in Maryland, some of which allow visits and/or produce their own yarn lines.
And while this is by no means a food blog, how could I resist talking about the produce I picked up during my most recent Farmer’s Market runs? Freshfarm Markets had a small farmer’s market at Gallery Place on Thursday, where I got the most gorgeous edibles.
I got fresh white peaches, apricots and plums as well as farm fresh mascarpone from Blue Ridge Dairy Company which were just dying to be combined into a heavenly fruit salad.
After I got the flesh out of the plums I looked like I had committed murder.
But once I added the mascarpone and some slices of apricot it started to look like something a bit more edible.
It was DELICIOUS. Highly recommended despite lack of visual appeal.
I also picked up fresh basil and tons of the most delicious sheeps milk cheese you’ve ever had from Everona Dairy. I made an eggplant bake using Everona’s piedmont cheese (it’s incredible, like a mild parmesan or manchego).
Here’s the Piedmont with a drizzle of olive oil.
Chopped basil and chopped garlic added to the Piedmont and olive oil:
Everything put together before baking:
The finished product (never mind all the crap I dropped into the stove burners):
I combined it with some delicious bread I also picked up from Bread Ovens at Quail Creek (here you see a quarter wheel of a delicious, thick dinner bread with a brioche loaf):
And some fresh mozzarella from Blue Ridge Dairy and fig “membrillo” from Everona, shown here with gazpacho I purchased from Chris’ Marketplace (I sampled it there and wowza) and a spritzer of my own design:
The spritzer is half San Pelegrino sparkling mineral water, plus Ocean Spray’s cranberry/pomegranate 100% juice and just a splash of Welch’s 100% white grape juice. It’s a great drink because it is hydrating, the bubbliness makes it a great alternative to soda, and because it’s half water (which you wouldn’t know from drinking it) it cuts down the sweetness of the juice and reduces the amount of sugar you’re consuming. Super refreshing.
Here’s the bread, mozzarella and fig membrillo together:
And here’s my plate, on the dining room table which is also conspicuously covered with my craft supplies, and there’s Seurat sitting on the other side eyeing my food:
The following night I decided to make potatoes and bruschetta and have them with what was left over of the eggplant.
This is a bunch of the produce I picked up Thursday: on-the-vine tomatoes, okra, chives, mini red potatoes, a beautiful zucchini, and a beautiful, rose-like head of butter lettuce from Endless Summer Harvest.
While I boiled the potatoes, I heated some olive oil on low to infuse it with some leaves of fresh basil, dried herbes de Provence, paprika, onion powder, salt and pepper.
Then I combined the oil and potatoes on a pan with fresh chopped garlic and added lots more heat.
For the bruschetta I just chopped the tomatoes, the basil and more garlic and put the mixture on top of some more of that delicious thick bread. Here’s everything plated up:
I still have tons left and anticipate eating like a king.
Here’s an Everona sheep’s milk cheese with herbes de provence in it and a chilled seafood soup from Chris’s Marketplace (you can’t see the shrimp in there because of the floaty stuff, but I assure you they’re there. I sampled this as well and it’s so yummy and fresh).
And here are some shiitake mushrooms from The Mushroom Stand.
Inspired by all this, I was compelled to make an Etsy treasury dedicated to farmer’s markets
Meanwhile, a friend from out of town and I had plans to meet up in Dupont Circle on Sunday and I remembered that Farmfresh Markets has a market there on Sundays. We checked it out before lunch and it’s HUGE. Some of my favorite sellers were there, and some new ones.
Clear Spring Creamery makes divine chocolate milk from grass fed cows. I already took down a quart by myself a few weeks ago and treated myself to another pint on Thursday, so I don’t buy any on Sunday, but I have a feeling I’ll need another fix in a week or two.
The Mushroom Stand was there.
Blue Ridge Dairy was there.
Harmony Creek Farm was also there.
As was Everona Farms, hawking their delicious, delicious wares. We got to chatting with Emily (great name) whom I had also seen on Thursday. We discussed our mutual difficulty eating lamb (great Emilies think alike) because of our respect for all the things they can produce. I explained that as an avid knitter I can’t eat something that produces wool, and she felt the same way about sheep’s milk. She also told us the sad tale of the ram that got depressed when it wasn’t baby-making season because he had no purpose in life and just laid there like a flump, and of adorable baby lambs running around house kitchens because they have to be bottle fed since their mothers don’t have enough milk for the entire litter.
Everona harvests lanolin for use in hand cream and also makes sheep’s milk soap.
I also ran into a seller I’d purchased from on Thursdays, Copper Pot Food Company.
They make a white fig and balsamic vinegar jam that I’m addicted to. I combine it with quark (a mild, creamy cheese) from Clear Springs Creamery on crackers and it is 100% wonderful. I also have a peach and prosecco bellini jam that I haven’t had a chance to break into but am contemplating on that brioche loaf, and a jar of smoky bacon and parmesan sauce that I plan to put on linguini with some andouille chicken sausage. I think both the jam and the sauce are pretty affordable for artisan, farmer’s market products. They also make artisanal tortellinis and raviolis for cooking at home.
I also encountered Buster’s seafood, a no frills fisherman’s stand. Buster doesn’t have a website, but this Yelp review is pretty helpful and he offers beautiful, beautiful crabs.
My friend and I seriously considered skipping lunch for a moment and going back to my place to cook up some seafood, but we decided against it because it’s hot and I hadn’t brought my freezer bag. Next time maybe!
I also fell so in love with another seller I encountered for the first time, Welsh Garden, that I’m going to do an entire post just on them, but here’s a teaser. Welsh Garden specializes in all kinds of lavender products, including edible ones.
Definitely more on that to come with plenty of pictures.
And here are just some colorful sights from around the market.
I’m tempted to write about the farmer’s markets and produce stands I encountered when I lived in France, but there’s so much there that I will have to save it for the sequel.
In conclusion, farmers markets are a definite source of inspiration for whatever your art or craft may be. On top of that, they support the buy local movement, they’re eco-friendly, they help you eat healthy, they support small business and farmers, and they’re RIDICULOUSLY DELICIOUS. To me, farm-fresh produce and a bountiful feast of colors, smells and flavors…that is the definition of true luxury.
As always, Emily