Local farmers are bringing more obscure products to the city's streets. Some sting, some stink, but one thing's for sure: They're all tasty. Here's what you should try the next time you visit the farmers market.
Spring is officially here, and the city’s farmers markets are back in full swing. And while you’re sure to find tables overflowing with lettuces and baskets brimming with strawberries, many of the area’s farmers are bringing more obscure products to the city’s streets.
Some sting, some stink, but one thing’s for sure: They’re all tasty.
We recently took a walk through
FRESHFARM Market‘s Dupont Circle market with Executive Director Mike Koch and Juliet Glass to learn more about some of the lesser-known products that are in season. Here are the top picks.
Green Garlic or “Spring Garlic”
Passionate about garlic? Then you’ll want to try green garlic — a younger version of the traditional garlic plant.
Some may mistake its white base and tall green stalk for a scallion, but the taste is unmistakably garlicky — albeit milder and fresher. Green garlic’s lighter flavor is the perfect addition to sautéed vegetables, grilled fish or a batch of pesto.
If you’re in search of an even more delicate flavor, garlic greens are the answer. Use them as you would use chives: Chop them up and add them raw to salads, or mix them in with a soft cheese to make an herb spread. Garlic greens are great over eggs, and can lighten the flavor of any dish that calls for traditional garlic cloves.
Duck, Duck, Goose Eggs
Fruits and vegetables aren’t the only seasonal foods at the farmers market. Come spring, Keswick Creamery’s Melanie Dietrich Cochran comes to the market with a handful of duck and goose eggs.
Unlike chicken eggs, duck and goose eggs are only available certain times of the year. Ducks lay their eggs from January to June, and geese from mid-March through May, Cochran says.
What can your taste buds expect? Duck eggs are slightly richer in taste than traditional eggs.
“It’s a stronger-flavored egg. The yolk is bigger, so it’s creamier – a little yolkier, a little denser,” she says, adding that they are great for baking – and brunch plans.
“They make amazing poached eggs because the whole egg is firmer.”
Planning a “Game of Thrones” watch party? A goose egg will impress your hungry guests – and remind them of Khaleesi’s dragon eggs. The eggs are much larger in size (one goose egg is the equivalent of five chicken eggs), but mild in taste compared to duck eggs. Just keep something sharp on hand to crack them open.
“You actually need a knife to split the membrane,” says Cochran, who adds that the eggs are perfect for a crowd-friendly frittata.
There’s good news for tomato fans: You don’t have to wait until August to sink your teeth into the juicy, flavor-packed fruit. Emily Zaas of Black Rock Orchard grows her heirloom tomatoes in three large greenhouses during the winter, so they are ready for the spring markets.
Unlike hydroponic tomatoes (which are also available outside of the typical tomato season), Zaas grows her tomatoes in dirt, which makes them more flavorful. The early-season crop also helps keep her farm’s workers employed year-round.
If you want to branch beyond the Brussels sprout, pick up a handful of kaleidoscope for your next dinner party.
The kale-Brussels sprout hybrid is tender and a touch sweet, plus it adds a splash of color to any plate with its green and purple leaves. Martin Jolin of Twin Springs Farm recommends sautéeing or roasting kaleidoscope.
The hearty vegetable will only be available for a few more weeks.
Ease your way into kaleidoscope with kaleidoscope rabe — the flowering part that grows off (or bolts from) the kaleidoscope.
Twin Springs Farm’s Martin Jolin recommends preparing kaleidoscope rabe just as you would broccoli rabe.
Spring is the perfect time to get your fill of salad greens (you won’t find them once summer’s heat and humidity kick into high gear), and the gem of the springtime crop is the Gem Romaine.
Zach Lester, of Tree and Leaf Farm, says the petite heads of lettuce are tasty raw with a squeeze of lime, a pinch of salt and some chopped mint, or enjoy them halved and grilled.
True to its name, you’ll get a good sting should you handle this vegetable raw, but don’t let that discourage you from trying the seasonal green.
Tree and Leaf Farm’s Zach Lester bags them up ( so all you have to do is dump the nettles into a pot of hot water and blanch them. Once they’re cooked, they no longer sting.
Lester says the intensely green and earthy-tasting vegetables are great when made into a pesto or in any pasta dish.
(WTOP/Rachel Nania) “When we harvest [stinging nettles], it’s a double-glove situation,” he says),
At Spring Valley Farm and Orchard, Eli Cook and his team cover a great distance — sometimes up to 800 acres — foraging for morel mushrooms. The prized mushrooms have a short season — Cook says he will likely only be able to find the mushrooms for a few more weeks.
If you’re hoping to score a morel or two for your next omelet or risotto recipe, get to the market early. Cook typically sells out within the first hour.
(AP Photo/M.L. Johnson)
AP Photo/M.L. Johnson
Ramp up your favorite recipes with the darling vegetable of spring: the ramp. For a few weeks each year, chefs, home cooks and food fans all go crazy for the wild leek.
Unlike most vegetables sold at the market, ramps are not commercially grown. Farmers forage for the onion and garlicky-tasting green.
Most market-goers chop up the white base and green stalks and sauté them with other seasonal vegetables, or throw them in eggs and omelets.
FRESHFARM Market’s Juliet Glass prefers them pickled, and some market vendors even turn them into condiments, such as ramp mustard and ramp pesto.
Sure, a plate of peas is a welcome springtime meal, but so is a plate of pea shoots.
Cinda Sebastian, of Gardeners Gourmet, says the green stems taste exactly like peas (think light and fresh). Eat them in a salad or quickly sauté
them for a warm weeknight side. Just be sure not to overcook them. Sebastian says pea shoots only need a minute.
“Set the table, make sure everything’s ready, then throw the pea [shoots] in the pan and turn the pan off,” she says.
(Thinkstock) A little olive oil and some salt and pepper is all they need.
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