This Guy Likes Pig’s Eye
By Tom // Posted 20 September, 2011 in: Farmers Market
It’s no secret to regular readers of this blog, or regular readers from the summer of 2009 at least, that I get pretty excited about going to the farmers market, especially Minneapolis’s Midtown Farmers Market. When asparagus, tomatoes, or sweet corn show up on vendors’ tables that excitement is easy enough to understand, but I’m just as jazzed by the availability of local cabbage and potatoes (the appearance of winter squash, however, continues to fill me with a sense of deep dread). That said, I do appreciate it when a vendor takes a risk on some produce that’s outside the market norm, and for that reason a new vendor – Pig’s Eye Urban Farm – has been winning my heart all summer.
It all started back in May, when I go to the market not expecting to find much more than a cup of coffee. At the Pig’s Eye stall there were green things! Garlic Mustard Greens, to be precise. Unlike the herbs and rhubarb also sold that day, these greens had not been intentionally cultivated: they were found growing on several of the lots that make up Pig’s Eye. I’m a sucker for wild foods, so of course I went home with a bag. The greens were a little tough raw in a salad (with garlic and mustard, of course), but they were perfect after a brief saute.
As the growing season went on, Pig’s Eye kept throwing me culinary curveballs. Locavores in Minnesota get used to finding new ways to appreciate the radish as it is one of the only vegetables available in the early days of summer, but Pig’s Eye took my appreciation to a much deeper level by introducing parts of the radish plant I hadn’t considered: first it was radish seed pods, the pods that develop when radishes are allowed to go to seed. Radish seed pods look like miniature snap peas and have a pretty pea-like flavor: bright green grass followed by the hint of radish tang, and increasing radish heat as you eat more and more. I loved them raw, and they worked well in a stir-fry too. Also stir-fryable were radish blossoms, delicate white flowers. The flavor was similar to the seed pods, green with a hint of radish. And of course, Pig’s Eye was selling radishes, and even had spicy ones, which are more or less unheard of these days.
I’ve appreciated the way Pig’s Eye kept me guessing all season, and also their more traditional offerings: their kale caught Rick Nelson’s attention, and they’ve had fine multicolored beets, heirloom tomatoes, and the other seasonal goodies one expects throughout the summer. Last weekend, though, I got the best surprise of all: there, front and center at the Pig’s Eye table, was a basket overflowing with bright green cones of hops. Cascade hops, to be precise. This was totally unexpected – I have never seen hops at the farmers market before, and it was my understanding that those in search of fresh hops either had to grow their own or make special orders from the Pacific Northwest. To be able to pick them up at the farmers market – what exciting times we live in!
What can you make with hops? You can pickle them – I once had a burger with pickled hops on it, though the memory is not a pleasant one. According to Nathan, the Pig’s Eye proprietor, hops make for an interesting tea. Or you can go the obvious route: make beer. That’s what I did: after a quick ride out to Midwest Supplies for, uh, supplies, I spent the rest of the afternoon brewing away in the kitchen and taking in that fresh hop aroma.