Although the traditional farmers’ market season is Memorial Day through Labor Day, in recent years markets have been opening earlier or even holding special markets throughout the year, due to the increase in demand for local products.Here are a few area markets that will open in April:
• Portsmouth Farmers’ Market on the corner of High and Court street will hold its first market on Saturday, April 20 from 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
• Suffolk Farmers’ Market at 524 N. Main Street in Downtown Suffolk will start its season the same day; hours 9 a.m.-2 p.m.
• Old Beach Farmers’ Market at 19th street in the Croc’s parking lot near the oceanfront will also be open on April 20 for its 3rd Saturday market, which they’ve held all winter and spring.
• Many more markets will begin their season in May, so stay tuned.
Shopping at a farmers’ market is definitely a different experience than running out to the grocery store. And with so many opening up this month, here are some tips for making the most of your farmers’ market shopping experience:
• Get there early. The earlier you go, the better the selection and the fresher the product.
• Bring cash. Many markets and vendors do accept credit cards, but bring some cash, just to be safe.
• Bring your own bag. Reusable shopping bags are the way to go and are easier to carry as you walk around to all the vendors.
• Keep an open mind. If you see something you’ve never tried before, ask the farmer about it and ways to prepare it. You may just find your new favorite ingredient!
• Bring a cooler. Especially if you have other errands to run after the market, keeping your produce in a cooler with some ice packs will ensure everything stays fresh until you get home.
• Get the kids involved. Give your kids a few dollars each and tell them to get something they want. By allowing them to pick and purchase their own items, they may be more interested in trying something fresh and healthy.
• Talk to the farmers. Ask them questions about their products, their growing methods, what else they have available later in the season. The more you get to know the farmers, the more likely you will be to make buying local a real habit.
At April farmers’ markets you’re likely to see spring lettuces, cabbage, kale, collards, carrots, onions, garlic, radishes, spinach, asparagus and perhaps some broccoli. Grab some broccoli and romaine in the morning from the market and have this fresh, creamy salad for lunch.
Romaine and Broccoli Salad with Creamy Roasted Garlic Dressing
2 whole heads of garlic, unpeeled
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 1/4 teaspoons celery salt
1/4 teaspoon (scant) freshly ground black pepper
3 hearts of romaine, coarsely torn
1 pint grape tomatoes
1 1/2 cups small broccoli florets
1 small English hothouse cucumber, thinly sliced
8-ounce thinly sliced mushrooms
1 small red onion, sliced paper-thin
Preheat oven to 325°F. Slice top 1/2 inch from each head of garlic. Place each, cut side up, on large square of foil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper; drizzle with oil. Enclose each in foil. Roast packets directly on oven rack until garlic is tender, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Carefully open foil; cool. Squeeze garlic into medium bowl; mash. Whisk in remaining ingredients. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; chill.)
Combine vegetables in large bowl. Add dressing; toss. Season with more salt and pepper, if desired.
Recipe Courtesy of Jane Cullipher, Cullipher Farms
For more seasonal recipes and additional information about area markets, visit www.buylocalhamptonroads.org
Rachel Burns is the owner at The Content Chop Shop, a small shop providing content marketing services to small businesses, designers and nonprofits. She is also the co-owner of Burn Both Ends, which develops and presents educational opportunities and resources for small businesses looking to grow. She is a local to Hampton Roads and a vocal spokesperson for all its myriad advantages, her favorites of which is the Atlantic Ocean. She has been published in The Virginian Pilot, Tidewater Women, and AltDaily, among others. She lives in the Hickory section of Chesapeake with her husband, two pugs and several feral cats.