Midtown Farmers Market: Week 13—Great Produce
By Tom // Posted 28 July, 2010 in: Farmers Market
The Midtown Farmers Market has so many great prepared food vendors this year: some old stalwarts, some newcomers, but always enough to offer a lively and interesting blend of ready to eat food for at market consumption. Local media have taken notice too; it seems every week there’s a new story on a vendor who sells at Midtown: The Magic Bus Cafe in Minnesota Monthly, Dandelion Kitchen in the City Pages, or the Heavy Table’s roundup of five flavors of Midtown.
While the latter piece was interesting in its own right, what really got my attention was the comments; particularly, those by Brian Ames of Ames Farm questioning how big a role non-producer vendors should play in a market. Or rather answering, “a heavy ratio of immediately consumable foods (ICF’s) to growers/producers at farmers markets is detrimental to farmers and growers in my view.” He goes on to argue that sales made to ICFs take dollars that could be going to farmers/producers.
Two years ago, when I started shopping at Midtown — the first farmers market I’ve regularly shopped at — I would have been on the same page with Mr. Ames when it comes to non-grower vendors; let the yuppies get their coffee and tamales, I was there to buy produce. Over the course of the past couple of years, though, I’ve come to appreciate — and befriend — sellers of ICFs. As some of the comments in response to Ames point out, they are part of a symbiotic relationship with the growers that helps to produce a farmers market experience that is unique — not just another grocery store.
In spite of the important role played by the food trucks, tents and taxis, I agree with Ames in as much as whatever other amenities they offer, a farmers market should be primarily about the farmers. Last year I made a serious effort to highlight the farmers — or at least their fruits — on this blog with weekly posts featuring the farmers market haul. I’ve cut back on those this year since it got a little boring for me (and perhaps for you?). But don’t take my silence to mean the farmers of Midtown aren’t weekly providing delicious produce; they continue to keep my basket and eventually my belly full of locally grown vegetables.
One producer I’ve been especially happy with is new this year: Gardens of Eagan. My love affair started when, on the first market day when all I was expecting was opening festivities and canned goods, they had a table full of strawberries. Not just any strawberries, either, but strawberries that were the sweetest I had ever tasted: ideal strawberries. I rode that wave for the month or so it lasted, and have also enjoyed various interesting lettuces and kale from the Gardens. Then last week, as I was in line to buy tomatoes (some of the first of the year), Gardens of Eagan’s Jennifer Nelson insisted I try a sample of their watermelon. Here again, the same experience as with the strawberries; I was tasting a fruit like no other I had tasted before, but that tasted like the fruit should taste. I hadn’t planned to buy a watermelon this week, and didn’t really have a solid plan for carrying it home on my bike, but after that one bite of perfect watermelon I didn’t have much choice but to buy one.
Midtown vendors have also been quick to supply the season’s first sweet corn: I bought half a dozen ears from Pflaum Farms two weeks ago, and last week tried the corn grown by Carmen of Peter’s Pumpkins and Carmen’s Corn. It’s still a little early for sweet corn — the flavor is not quite at its peak – but after enduring a whole winter with nothing but the frozen stuff, all these ears were welcome relief.
And of course beyond the sexy fruit, tomatoes and corn there is the regular mid-summer stuff like potatoes, summer squash, eggplant, peppers, cucumbers, herbs, lettuces, greens, onions; basically any vegetable that grows in this climate is growing now. This is the best time to shop at the farmers market: no mania or cult-like commitment required — the vegetables sell themselves. And, what’s more, you can also get a great breakfast from one of the many sellers of immediately consumable foods!