The Crunch of Spring

Many of you have been asking what's on offer at local farm market these days. Due to the extremely cold weather earlier this month, local farmers are dealing with spring crop delays and potential backlash from budding summer crops.

As daunting as the news may sound, there's still plenty to choose from in these early weeks of the new season, as I discovered this Sunday at Freshfarm Market at Dupont Circle.


Carrots don't get much better than these. (Kim O'Donnel)

Below, a sampler of current produce highlights, which, of course, is subject to Mother Nature.

P.S.: You'll want to get your hands on the updated farm market lists in today's Food section:

Maryland

Virginia

DC

Carrots
These were the belles of this week's ball, laying in their glorious pale orange wonder, at the Next Step Produce stand operated by Heinz Thomet.

Although sweet enough to crunch on their own, I resisted some degree of temptation and threw together this heavenly mix of flavors, as suggested by Alice Waters in her "Chez Panisse Vegetables."

I'm a member of the uncooked carrot club (can't stand them cooked), so this recipe was of interest. Even better, this is one you can play with -- I might substitute the red wine vinegar, for example, with milder rice wine or a champagne vinegar. Rather than a lemon, I used a sweeter Meyer lemon, and considered a hint of ground coriander, particularly since its leaves were being used as garnish.

Spicy Carrot Salad
From "Chez Panisse Vegetables" by Alice Waters

Ingredients
2 pounds carrots
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
3/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

Method
Cut carrots into julienne strips, or coarsely grate, depending on texture preference.

In a small bowl, mash garlic clove with salt and mix it with vinegar, lemon juice and cayenne. Whisk in olive oil Taste for seasoning add more acid, salt or pepper if needed. Toss with carrots, add chopped cilantro and serve.

Also up for grabs at market:

Spiffy-looking chard, which is a wonderful spinach alternative, quickly sauteed or roasted, mixed with garlic and white beans.

Leeks....which are highly underestimated in this country. In Europe, they're braised in wine and thrown into soups... then there's the wild leeks of Appalachian woodlands, aka ramps, which are celebrated every year at this time in Richwood, W. Va.

I've never cooked with ramps, which are notoriously stinky with strong oniony-garlicky notes, but I've been told they are best cooked simply in a hot pan with butter and/or oil, and marry beautifully with morels. If you've got a ramps recipe, by all means, share in the comments area.

Tender-leaf Russian kale, which sautés in fewer than five minutes. The simpler the preparation the better. Oil and salt is all you need. You can even eat it raw.

Garlic scallions, aka green garlic: These are immature garlic plants in their pre-bulb state. They offer a milder flavor than bulbed garlic yet like my beloved garlic scapes (the flowering shoot of the plant, due in June), they are incredibly versatile and fun to cook with.

Check out this recipe for roasted lemon and garlic scallion pesto from the blog at Clagett Farm, in Upper Marlboro, Md. I can't wait to try this one.

A few more juicy green garlic nuggets surfaced from other books: Green garlic and leek risotto (Deborah Madison's "Local Flavors") -- doesn't that sound luscious? I may have to whip this up before the week is over (stay tuned for that report).... and, from Alice Walker's book, green garlic with potatoes as a soup or a ravioli filling. Since I'm learning how to make ravioli on Friday (yes, I will be detailing my pasta dispatch next week), this flavor combination is sparking all kinds of dinner ideas.

And lastly, some of my favorite, trusty sources for inspiration on cooking with spring's early arrivals:

"Chez Panisse Vegetables" by Alice Waters
"Local Flavors" by Deborah Madison
"Organic Cook's Bible" by Jeff Cox
"A Well-Seasoned Appetite" by Molly O'Neill
"Farmer John's Cookbook: The Real Dirt on Vegetables" by Farmer John Peterson

By Kim ODonnel |  April 25, 2007; 10:57 AM ET Farmers Markets , Spring Produce
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Comments

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Kim, I wait in anticipation for your reports on the green garlic and leek risotto and the ravioli. Sounds delicious.

Posted by: Mmm Garlic | April 25, 2007 4:03 PM

Yay, spring vegetables!

When I was in Israel we ate a somewhat different carrot salad: shredded carrots, orange juice, and raisins - that's it. It's quite refreshing. (None of the yucky mayonnaise-y stuff you see here in delis sometimes.)

Posted by: Reine de Saba | April 25, 2007 7:28 PM

Kim,

On a whim I planted some garlic cloves that had sprouted while languishing in my fridge (the cloves had gotten lost behind a jar of zucchini relish, poor things) and now have a whole bunch of these "garlic scallions" in a pot outside my door. I also have a pound of arborio rice, so keep us posted on the leek/green garlic risotto - am in need of inspirational recipes as law school exams take over!

Thanks again for the blog - great insights and recipes, as always.

~Cait.

Posted by: CaitVaughn | April 25, 2007 10:20 PM

Do you know if any of these places would have ramps? I've heard so much about them, but have never tried them. Either I'm too late in the season or I can't find a place to buy them. I'm *thisclose* to buying them online. I'm loathe to do that because I like to hand pick my produce.

Posted by: DC Cubefarm | April 26, 2007 9:46 AM

Hey DC Cubefarm, I spotted them on Sunday at Freshfarm Market in Dupont Circle. I would def. try seeking them out this weekend. Let me know if you need more help finding markets near home.

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | April 26, 2007 10:58 AM

At the Spring Valley Farms stand to be specific. Supposedly they'll have them again this weekend along with a blue sheet talking about what one might do with ramps. They even have bottles of salad dressing made with ramps for sale.

We got some and used them in a hen of the woods ravioli recipe from The Mushroom Lover's Mushroom Cookbook and Primer.

Posted by: Arlington, VA | April 26, 2007 11:26 AM

Thanks! If I can't find them closer to home, I'll hop on the metro to Dupont Circle. I really want to try ramps.

Posted by: Dc Cubefarm | April 26, 2007 3:59 PM

Sorry we missed you today and thanks for doing this. We've been vegan since last Oct. after years of prodding from our daughter. Who knows, maybe even the Pope may join us soon.? Currently we're reading Vegan: The New Ethics of Eating by Erik Marcus. A douple of other good books that we just finished are: The China Study by T. Colin Campbell and son, and Animal Liberation by Peter Singer. The two latter books have been informative and serve as an inspiration in our commitment to this change in our lives. Looking back, I don't know why we took so long to do this. Just the saving in time spent at the supermarket makes this a worhtwhile effort to persue.

Posted by: She & Bob | April 26, 2007 11:30 PM

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