Farmers Market Minute

By Jason Saul

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Each week on the Farmers Market Minute, community development specialist and foodie Richard McCarthy explores the variety of people and produce who make up this delicious region's farmers markets -- from uptown to downtown, Covington to Gretna.

Episode Date
The Future is Food
About a decade ago, I was visiting a particularly beautiful part of Kentucky to help a community grow its farmers market. Dinner involved farm-fresh items on a comfortably rustic ranch, and thoughtful dinner discussion was led by original and influential author Wendell Berry. The thrust of his talk was the future. With New Year’s Eve approaching, I’ve been thinking about Berry’s comments. He described how he keeps hearing that future will be about technology or information or some other shiny concept. He argued that this was rubbish. The future, instead, will be shaped by the very things that shape all eras: stable access to food, shelter and happiness beneath the roofs of those shelters. I think he’s right. For me, I find happiness at farmers markets, right next to the food. Happy New Year!
Dec 29, 2012
Johnnie A. Clark, Jr.
I recently learned that Johnnie A. Clark, Jr . had died in his sleep at 90 years of age. For longtime farmers market shoppers, you may recall the retired postman turned farmer, who held court on Saturday mornings among his offerings of cut carrots and greens. A real gentleman, Mr. Clark could also be fire and brimstone when issues of social justice and dignity for ordinary people are at stake. Unfortunately, Katrina ended his farmers market presence, but his legacy is worth emulating: He retired from the post office while in his 60s , and when some retirees slow down, he sped up. He worked diligently to establish a farmers’ cooperative in his childhood community of Baygall on the North Shore. I admire how Johnnie Clark deployed the wisdom of age to address perennial challenges.
Dec 22, 2012
As the Jewish community approaches the final nights of Chanukah, I am reminded of a recent conversation I had with Domenica’s Alon Shaya . Of course, his interpretation of traditional Jewish holiday meals is now legendary. The Israeli-born Alon was browsing market stalls for root crops. He described to me how he had recently catered a kosher wedding, and then stepped forward to say, “The way I see it, Kosher is not only among the original health codes (pre-dating our Health Department by a few thousand years) but it’s also a code for sustainability.” Here’s a chef who is at the same time preparing food and considering the meaning of that preparation. He added, “The value of not mixing animals for slaughter with animals for milk speaks to logic and long-term planning." Aren’t these ideas we should consider this holiday season?
Dec 15, 2012
Floral Wreaths
Folsom flower farmer Shirley Randon battles the elements each week to harvest and assemble gorgeous nose gays and full-on bouquets of flowers. Knowledge of these challenges makes me appreciate her delicate, hand-crafted, dried floral holiday wreaths. Have you seen them? Whereas contemporary wreaths feature vivid synthetic colors, Shirley’s are beautifully faded by the sun. These are colors we rarely see any more in commerce. Imagine a ring of dried cosmos, bachelor's buttons, sunflowers and more. I asked her, “How long do they take to manufacture?” She paused and then said, “If you were to include the time to plant and harvest the flowers… a year.” Here’s another reason why farmers market matter: They preserve the patient and detailed crafts of old that are being left behind in this “lighter, quicker, cheaper” age.
Dec 08, 2012
Thursdays Are Different
I spent this past Thursday afternoon zipping from one farmers market to the other. Whereas Saturday markets are altogether larger gatherings with greater choice, our city’s Thursday evening markets offer some surprises. In Mid City at American Can, I was thrilled to find Brussels sprouts on offer: Beautiful, robust Brussels sprouts so fresh I ate a few raw while on site. And then there’s the Marketplace at Armstrong Park that operates alongside Jazz in the Park. There, I found double-yolk eggs. Can you remember the last time you cooked with double-yolk eggs? This unusual find comes in from an old time Tangipahoa Parish farmer. So while the Saturday markets may sail like the region’s flagships, the smaller Thursday markets offer some items not seen elsewhere.
Dec 01, 2012
Shop Small
Nestled between Black Friday and Cyber Monday is Small Business Saturday. Originally started by American Express, this national day to shop small and locally fits so nicely with farmers markets. After all, you can’t get much smaller than the family who farms and sells their products directly. If you’re like most Thanksgiving survivors, today you’re not necessarily dreaming of your next big meal. Instead, the theme is eat light. However, while you’re sifting through leftovers and holiday shopping lists, I encourage you to visit farmers markets, art markets, and any other do-it-yourself retailer who operates beneath a tent or umbrella. After all, when you spend locally, the gift of wealth to the local economy keeps on giving. So, to this end: consider canning your own marmalade, baking stollen or roasting and seasoning pecans — each featuring local products.
Nov 24, 2012
If you’re storm damaged like me, you get drawn into every radio interview you hear about Hurricane Sandy: The disbelief, the frustration, and the delays. In every instance, I think to myself: “This sounds oh, so familiar.” Also familiar is what I’m hearing from farmers market organizers in New York. Fishing families were hammered hard; farmers less so. It has also been gratifying to learn that some of Manhattan’s hard edges are softening. Trauma is heeding to people’s need for gentleness. In response, greenmarket organizers have been serving up hot food. Free samples in New York City! These are unusual times. Thank heavens market organizers recognized their role to deliver a little TLC to storm-weary shoppers. I think back to the tears and hugs at my first market after the 2005 hurricane season here in New Orleans. Talk about an early Thanksgiving.
Nov 17, 2012
Fragility Of Citrus
In late October, there are many reasons for which to be grateful. Among them, there is the arrival of Louisiana satsumas. This year, their arrival is bittersweet. By this, I am not referring to their taste. If anything, this might be the sweetest October crop I can remember. However, there will be far fewer Louisiana citrus products on offer at markets, roadside stands and stores than in previous years. Yes, Isaac did a number on our Plaquemines Parish citrus farmers. What might this mean for the future? Will they replant? Can farmers acquire the financing for their businesses? To rebuild homes? When you unpeel your next Satsuma, look at it carefully. Consider the fragility of our food system. Changes are here... and some of them are bittersweet.
Oct 27, 2012
Farmers Market Minute: Turkish Advice
With cold weather approaching, are you taking care of your skin? Farmers market vendors are always talking about healthy skin. After all, they are always outdoors. Recently, I was spellbound whilst listening to celebrated Turkish cook and Covington Farmers Market vendor Nur Pendaz. In conversation with a young mother, she described how important it is to moisturize ones face with “ghee.” I have to admit: I didn’t see this coming. If you’re not familiar with ghee, it's clarified butter used widely in Indian and Turkish cuisine, and it also fits into Nur’s skincare philosophy: Don’t put ointments on your skin that you wouldn’t eat. And me? I can eat a lot of ghee. I have come to rely on Nur’s ghee for my kitchen. Apparently it also belongs on the vanity stand. For WWNO, this is Richard McCarthy.
Oct 13, 2012
Sankofa’s new home
You know, one of the benefits of open-air farmers markets is their flexibility and mobility. By contrast, brick and mortar retail is land-locked, and thus unable to respond to changes in neighborhoods. Farmers markets are nimble. They can pack up and relocate to sunnier spots. One market that has tested this theory of itinerant living is the Ninth Wards Sankofa Farmers Market. It began life in 2007 as a monthly free-for-all market in Lower Nine. In 2010, it reinvented itself as a weekly farmers market. In 2011, it moved upriver to Holy Angels on St. Claude. And this summer, it has finally found its home at the Arise Academy, located at St. Claude Avenue and Alvar Street. I encourage you to check out Sankofas new home and taste how change does one good. For the WWNO Farmers Market Minute, this is Richard McCarthy.
Jul 28, 2012
Mirliton Madness in Harvey
The Louisiana mirliton is disappearing. But, there is hope. In recent years, Lance Hill has become an unexpected mirliton midwife. He has assembled a fleet of farmers, backyard growers, and foragers to search for and propagate disappearing heirloom varieties of this unique vining, chayote squash. They scour farmers markets, garage roofs, storm fences and other places where fruit can still be found. I just viewed video footage of an incredible mirliton orchard in Harvey. West Bank micro-farmer Leo Jones has taken over one city block for trellising mirlitons. It supports a canopy of 300 shoots. Thanks to Lances efforts, this huge concentration of mirlitons will seed future gardens. Click here to see the video footage yourself . For the Farmers Market Minute, this is Richard McCarthy.
Jul 21, 2012
Celebrate Bastille Day
Today is Bastille Day. In celebration, head over to the West Bank. You can drive on an avenue named for a French head of State, Charles De Gaulle. He actually visited New Orleans in 1960. And while you are there, why not pop over to the Gretna Farmers Market to purchase a bottle of Henry Amatos orange wine. With it, you can prepare a refreshing French cocktail in honor of the occasion. Heres what you need: four ounces of Amatos wine, two ounces of NOLA dark rum, six cubes of ice, one ounce of vanilla simple syrup, and one ounce of lemon juice. In a cocktail shaker, add all liquid ingredients and shake vigorously for fourteen seconds. No more, no less. Pour into two highball glasses with ice. Serves two. Heres to the revolution! For the WWNO Farmers Market Minute, this is Richard McCarthy.
Jul 14, 2012
Grilling Fruit
If your holiday barbecue embers are still glowing with heat, consider joining the throng of chefs who have discovered the joys of grilling fruit. A decade ago, it was exciting to simply taste savory salads that feature watermelon, peaches and figs. Today, that seems pedestrian. I marvel at how chefs are finding ways to grill summer fruit and how to pair them. Among the surprises is grilled watermelon. Its a thing of beauty to see melon etched with grill marks. Imagine the sweet, liquid smoke of watermelon juice atop a green salad or served with grilled meat or cheeses. While figs and pork are often paired together, charbroiled figs take tenderloin dishes to an entirely different level. Whichever fruit you choose, grill in volume. The more healthy, summer fruit you consume, the better. For the WWNO Farmers Market Minute, this is Richard McCarthy.
Jul 07, 2012
Louisiana Cantaloupe
This time of year, all eyes are on watermelons, and for good reason: local farmers grow stars and stripe melons just in time for the July 4th weekend. This year, melon fans should be especially grateful for the spring drought. It has yielded an expectedly good run of cantaloupes and musk melons. Annually, local farmers battle overwhelming humidity and regular showers to grow these delicate orange flesh melons, but this year is different. Just ask Garyville farmer Christine Monica. Her family farms in the sandy River soils of St. John Parish, and this year it’s cantaloupe country . Last week, she sold two trucks worth of musk melons at the side of the road in just two days. So, the next time you curse the drought, be thankful for it bearing fruit: memorable Louisiana cantaloupes. For the Farmers Market Minute, this is Richard McCarthy.
Jun 30, 2012
Eat Local Challenge
Each year, food system solutionaries attempt to eat within 200 miles of New Orleans as part of the Eat Local Challenge . This is a marvelously interactive addition to our local food revolution. However, the Challenge triggers deeper questions about local self-reliance. While you may find Louisiana rice on sale, why is it you dont find local rice vinegar? Rice wine or rice syrup? The same could be said of pecans and sugar. This raises questions about economic development priorities at the state level. For example, I marvel at the ingenuity of farmer Henry Amato, who processes Ponchatoula strawberries for Abitas strawberry ale. But, consider the entire bottle of beer. Which other ingredients could be grown and processed here? This is where you, the consumer, come in. Talk to farmers. Make your voice heard. For WWNO, this is Richard McCarthy.
Jun 09, 2012
Cookbook Swap at the Farmers Market
With farmers market tables piled high, watch the produce fly. These are peak season weeks crying out for fun in the kitchen. But, if the fresh aroma of peaches, blueberries and basil is not enough to inspire you to cook, consider next Saturdays annual cookbook swap. Bring a book, take a book. If you tire of old recipes, seek inspiration from other, published voices. So, scan your bookshelves for cookbooks in need of new homes. Bring them to the Crescent City Farmers Market and pick up a few new finds. One year, I snagged this amazing Catalan cookbook that introduced me to Romesco sauce for the first time. During the height of pepper season, I cant live without it. Another year, I landed a signed copy of a noted chefs cookbook. Out with the old, and in with someone elses old. In your kitchen, make it new.
Jun 02, 2012
Eula Mae Doré
At the Saturday morning market in the New Orleans Warehouse District, festivities centered around the launch of the 2012 wooden token. At market, this is how shoppers convert plastic credit and debit currencies into market money. Last year, the market converted almost $400,000 in wooden coins.
May 26, 2012
A blossom in hand…
I noticed this morning at market a most welcome site: squash blossoms for sale. I dont know whether you grow vegetables. I do. Well, let me correct myself: I try to. Mostly, I seem to raise snails. Yes, I too have tried to grow squash. Unfortunately, the squash borers appear to be in cahoots with my snails. They eat them before I can. SO, heres the rub. Since winter never showed up this year, all gardeners face more bugs than usual this spring. Follow the farmers lead: A squash blossom in hand is worth more than fruit on the bush. Just ask chef Alon Shaya at Domenica. He deep fries blossoms ever so lightly, stuffed with cheese. Or you can roast them in your oven at home. Drizzle olive oil, salt, pepper and stuff with cubes of Bill Ryals feta cheese. Delicious! For the WWNO, this is Richard McCarthy.
May 19, 2012
Mother’s Day at the farmers market
I spoke with several mothers today at this mornings markets. In each case, the women are farmwives managing, or having just managed, to look after ailing husbands.
May 12, 2012
Are you familiar with a traditional food thats just come into season: Mayhaw. It is so named for May Day, its peak season. According to mayhaw mythology, this wild, apple-like cousin of the hawthorn tree thrives in swampy coastal Louisiana and Texas. The fruit is often harvested heroically by young foragers riding pirogues. After battling water snakes and mosquitos, they deliver enough mayhaw for grandmothers to cook up jelly and syrup to last the year. But, with the mayhaws native habitat increasingly endangered, will this traditional Southern flavor disappear? Heres where you come in: Ask for mayhaw fruit and products at farmers markets. Serve it to friends and family; and to those who have the power to preserve coastal wetlands, vocalize your desire to protect our taste of place. For the WWNO Farmers Market Minute, this is Richard McCarthy.
Apr 28, 2012