University Farmers Market
The sky looked broken and unpromising on the way to the University Farmers Market this morning. The market itself, by contrast, had a decidedly early Spring feel; not cold but not really warm. Snatches of sunshine breaking through the clouds but a rainbow hinting at rain to come.
In the year-long life cycle of the Farmer’s Markets in Seattle, the beginning of May is still very early in the season. Spring produce beginnings to appear but many of the touchstones we identify with Spring are yet to arrive. There are more shoppers than in the dead of winter but not crowded. A sign of growth: there are enough farmer stands now that the prepared food booths have to move out of the main stall spaces and into their summer locations in front of the school building (this week: sautéed veggies with quesadillas or tamales, crepes, ice cream, pizza and a scattering of others).
In Seattle, it seems that on the first of May, Spring is just getting underway.
Things that looked good:
Rhubarb is in its peak, big waxy and beautiful.
Rabes of all sorts, notably broccoli (“rapini”) and several types of kale
Plant starts, including vegetables, flowers, fruits and berries
Soft Herbs, including chives with blossoms, wood sorrel, tarragon and more.
Local Asparagus (although at $5/pound or more, the price seems daunting)
Cut flowers including irises, lilac, tulips and daffodils.
Morels, both early and true are still expensive but really beautiful. With all the rain we have had recently, the supply should really take off, although I prefer drier weather morels from a cooking standpoint.
Shopping Tip: Often, the farmers offering flowers also have a vegetable or two. Not only are these often of excellent quality, the prices are often significantly cheaper. Check out the prices on the vegetables in the two photos above.
If I sound like a bit of a cheap skate, with my frequent harping on price, I can only blame the chefs under whom I worked in France. French chefs, especially in small, family run restaurants, have a well-earned reputation for thriftiness bordering on an obsessive. The chefs I worked under all agreed that running a successful restaurant is a hard-nosed business where success depends on making the most of every purchase and not wasting a centime. One of the reasons for the seasonality of French cuisine is undoubtably that the quality of all products is at its peak during their local season. But a close second is that those products are cheaper during their season as well.