Winter farmers market
Celebrate St. Pat’s with garden greens
Shop local this St. Patrick's Day weekend! A variety of locally raised products will be available for purchase at the Winter Farmers Market this Saturday, March 16, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. at the State House Inn. There will even be some fresh produce available in spite of the cold rain and snow, alongside free-range eggs, meat, baked goods, skin care products and candles.
“It’s been a weird winter,” said Chad Wallace, of Oak Tree Organics in Ashland. “It hasn’t been all that cold, but we haven’t had a lot of sun either. Still, we’ve managed to grow enough mixed greens to bring to market.” Wallace transitioned the family farm from conventional agriculture to a biodynamic operation, and now raises pastured pork, beef and chickens alongside spray-free produce. Wallace uses low tunnels, essentially miniature greenhouse tunnels that stretch out over a row or garden bed, trapping the passive solar heat from the winter sun, to extend the growing season and continue to grow fresh produce year round.
Moon Girl Farm will also have fresh spinach and arugula for sale at the Winter Market. Farmer Hannah Tomlin supplies local chefs, retailers and farmers markets with chemical-free produce, in addition to offering shares in the farm’s Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. Folks who purchase a full or half share in the CSA at the beginning of the growing season receive a weekly box of seasonal, fresh produce.
CSA programs have become increasingly popular in the past decade and are a means for supplying farmers with capital to buy seed and equipment when it’s most needed at the start of the growing season, before revenue from harvest starts to come in. CSA members share in both the bounty and struggles of the farm and get more than just produce with their purchase. CSA memberships have a positive impact on the community and environment in a myriad of ways – from improving soil health to reducing carbon emissions to job creation. Moon Girl Farm will be signing folks up for their CSA at the Winter Market, and will also be recruiting interns and volunteers to work at the farm, located in Pleasant Plains.
A variety of protein will be on offer at the Winter Market. Grass-fed beef, pastured pork, goat, lamb and fresh eggs will be available, as well as fish from Sitka Salmon. Shoppers with a sweet tooth will find an array of baked goods to choose from with Custom Cup Coffee and Smart Natured Smoothies to wash it all down. Late sleepers may miss out on the fresh spinach, but there will be plenty of Illinois Wine and Smart Natured Pizza to cushion the blow.
Marketgoers who are lucky enough to score some fresh greens at the market this weekend would do well to make a pot of Roman Egg Drop Soup. It’s the perfect antidote to salty beef and green beer. And if time allows, plan to make a batch of pesto to slather on top of slow-roasted salmon or toss with pasta for a quick yet indulgent midweek supper.
The next and final Winter Farmers market will be held on April 20, also at the State House Inn, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. A wider array of produce will be available (as long as the weather cooperates), and vegetable and herb seedlings will be available also for those looking to get a jump on their veggie gardens.
Strachiatella (Roman Egg Drop Soup)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 quarts good quality chicken or vegetable broth
½ cup finely grated Parmesan or pecorino cheese
Salt and freshly grated black pepper, to taste
Dash of freshly grated nutmeg
4 cups spinach, arugula or other greens, roughly chopped
Chopped parsley, to serve
In a bowl (preferably a measuring bowl with a pour spout), whisk together the eggs, Parmesan and a small pinch of salt. Set aside.
Sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium high heat. Season with salt and pepper and a dash of nutmeg, then add the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce to a hearty simmer. Add the chopped greens, and allow the mixture to return to a vigorous simmer. Slowly drizzle the egg mixture into the pot in a thin stream with one hand while gently stirring the soup with the other. Turn off the heat. Ladle into bowls and top with chopped parsley and additional cheese.
Winter greens pesto
1-2 cloves garlic
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup shelled walnuts, lightly toasted
2 cups packed winter greens (such as spinach, arugula, mizuna or kale)
½ cup olive oil
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese*
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Place the garlic and the salt in a bowl of a food processor and finely chop. Add the walnuts and process until chopped fine. Scrape down the bowl, then add the greens. Pulse to roughly chop the greens, then turn on the food processor and drizzle the oil into it in a thin stream. Process for about 20 seconds, then stop and scrape down the bowl before adding the cheese and lemon juice. Process for an additional 20 seconds until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
*The cheese can be omitted from the recipe and substituted with two tablespoons of nutritional; yeast if necessary to make dairy-free
Ashley Meyer is a Springfield-based food writer, cook, gardener and mother of two daughters. When not writing or baking she can usually be found chasing chickens or puttering about in the vegetable garden.