From the Market Manager
This is National Farmers’ Market Week. When we started our market in 1998, there were 98 farmers’ markets in Massachusetts; now there are over 250. In the U.S. there are more than 7,000 markets. Some say that there are too many. If there are too many markets in any area, the farmers have to work harder to make the same amount of money that they used to earn when there were fewer markets. Just because you want a farmers’ market doesn’t mean you should have one. A few years ago a business owner in Agawam told me he thought they should have a market there. I told him that they have 2 very good farm stands in Agawam (Cecci’s and Calabrese’s) and that they didn’t need a farmers’ market there.
Farmers’ markets are lots of work for the vendors, especially farmers. They start early and end late. I once asked a farmer if when it was going to be hot if they started early and worked ‘til noon. He told me that they worked until the work was finished; no special hours for very hot weather.
Sometimes someone says that farmers’ markets are expensive. Just like the prices anywhere, there are many factors that go into pricing. Here in the Northeast, our large farms are small in comparison to farms in many other parts of the country. Small production farming is more expensive than large production farming. They don’t have economy of scale.
Just as we should all try to purchase as much as we can from local businesses, we should do the same with our food. The money that is earned is very often spent locally; it trickles down to the local economy.
I am grateful that there are many people who want to do the hard work of farming.
There are hundreds of recipes for this soup. It is Spanish in origin and is considered to be a liquid salad. Here is my recipe. As with any soup, the amounts of any ingredients are always variable.
Ingredients: Tomatoes, sweet peppers, onions, garlic, cucumbers, red wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, hot red pepper flakes if you want it spicy.
Method: Puree some tomatoes to make a base. Rough chop more tomatoes and the remaining vegetables then add the vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Don’t use too many onions or too much garlic. It should be served very cold, but the olive oil solidifies a little so it needs to melt before you serve it. It will still be cold when it is served. I use my food processor to puree and chop everything, but a blender works also.
Recipe—Zucchini Basil Muffins
2 large eggs
¾ cup whole milk
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
2 tsps. salt
1 T. baking powder
2 cups zucchini, grated, squeezed dry
2 T. finely julienned fresh basil
½ cup Parmesan, Romano, or similar hard grating cheese
Mix all ingredients except cheese together. Sprinkle cheese on top of muffins. Fill each muffin cup about ½ full. Bake about 20-25 minutes in 425-degree oven.
Another Recipe—Tomato Cheddar Pie
Makes a 9” pie
Make a recipe for a one crust pie crust, chill for at least one hour or overnight.
Ingredients: Filling—about 2 pounds of tomatoes sliced ¼” thick
¾ tsp. kosher salt, divided
all-purpose flour (for surface)
1 cup finely chopped Vidalia or yellow onions
½ T. unsalted butter
1 ½ cups grated sharp cheddar, about 4 oz.)
½ cup mayonnaise
1 tsp. hot sauce
¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh herbs such as basil, oregano, parley and/or thyme
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Line a rimmed baking sheet with several layers of paper towels. Arrange tomato slices on prepared sheet, sprinkle with ¼ tsp. salt and cover with more paper towels. Let drain at least 30 minutes.
1. Position rack in bottom rung of oven and preheat to 350 degrees. After the pie crust dough has chilled, lightly flour work surface and roll out dough to a 13” round. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin, then release into pie pan. Trim edges to leave 1” overhang and crimp as desired. Freeze dough at least 15 minutes.
2. Line crust with parchment paper or foil and fill bottom with baking beans or weights. Bake crust, rotating halfway through, 20 minutes. (this is called blind baking.) Remove weights, pierce bottom of crust all over with a fork and bake again until very light brown and dry, about 10 minutes more.
3. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, butter and ¼ tsp. salt and cook stirring occasionally until onion is softened and just starting to brown, 5-8 minutes. Let cool.
4. Combine cheese, mayonnaise, herbs hot sauce, pepper, onion mixture and remaining salt in a medium bowl. Blot tomatoes with fresh paper towels to remove as much remaining moisture as possible. Arrange tomato slices in pie shell
and top with filling; smooth.
5. Bake pie, rotating halfway through until golden brown, 40-45 minutes. Let cool to room temperature before slicing.
Tomatoes, cucumbers, flat leaf parsley, purple onion, sweet peppers, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper Cut up vegetables into small but not tiny pieces. Make a vinaigrette with lemon juice and olive oil. Season to taste. Make this the same day you are going to serve it.
Saving Herb Seeds
This is the time of year to start saving seeds as many herbs are going to seed now. The key is to catch the seeds before they start dropping and self-sowing in your garden. As the seeds mature, cover the seeds with paper bags to collect them. Cut the flower head stalk and move them to a well-ventilated garage or shed to continue drying. Store the seeds in glass jars in a cool, dark place and try to use them up within 6 months. After that they lose their potency.
Don’t keep any herbs or spices near your stove; the heat destroys them.
Meet the Vendors—Red Fire Farm
It took a bit of doing to convince Ryan Voiland to join our market several years ago, but he has been very pleased to be part of our market. Ryan is a graduate of Cornell University and has been farming since he was a boy. He has been growing with certified organic practices since he began RFF in 2001. The farm produces a wide variety of vegetables, flowers, fruit and a quality selection of vegetable and bedding plants in the spring.
In addition to selling at farmers’ markets, RFF sells wholesale, has farm stands in Granby and Montague, and offers Community Supported Agriculture shares (CSAs).
Ryan’s wife Sarah was an environmental studies major at Vassar College. She started a CSA farm in Stafford Springs, CT, her home town. Eventually she handed it over to others and began working at RFF in 2007, and after meeting and dating Ryan for a couple of years, they married. They have 2 little boys, Wally and Chester.
Every year RFF has a tomato festival at the end of August. This year’s festival takes place on Saturday, August 27th, from 12-6, rain or shine. Go to their website redfirefarm.com for details. There is a fee.
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