2012 farmers market season has me wondering what state I’m in

Just a few weeks ago it seemed like the farmers markets would never open, and now here we are already two weekends into the season at the Midtown Farmers Market. And what a season we are having! May farmers market shopping in Minnesota in any normal year is an affair for the die-hards, an exercise in hopefulness and bitter disappointment as dreams of tables over-laden with bright green spring produce are dashed against the reality that stuff really doesn’t get growing in Minnesota till later in the summer. But this is no normal year! After a mild winter and weather since March that could only be described as ‘decent’, our Minnesota and Wisconsin farmers have gotten things rolling a little earlier than usual. In three years of shopping at Midtown, my opening day hauls have been the following:

  • 2009: a small chicken, prepared tomatillo salsa, frozen mutton
  • 2010: foraged ramps, a pint of strawberries, frozen mutton and spicy almonds
  • 2011: 2 large bunches of spinach

Opening weekend was last week, and I got a pint of strawberries, three pounds of asparagus, and a pound of rhubarb. This week was even better: rhubarb, strawberries, asparagus, arugula, spinach, basil, oregano and radishes.

radishes, rhubarb, asparagus, strawberries, spinach, herbs, etc.

It’s not usual that you can make a full meal out of market shopping in early May, but I’m already practically able to make a full week of meals with what I can get at the market. A pessimist by nature, I’ve got a nagging feeling the other shoe’s about to drop on this easy winter/beautiful spring/plentiful produce situation, but that’s just all the more reason to enjoy it while it lasts.

I give great credit to Midtown’s excellent manager, Amy Behrens, for putting together a great mix of vendors this year, both seasoned regulars and some new faces. Martha and I enjoyed chatting with newcomers Blackbrook Farm, who grow a variety of vegetables near Amery, WI.

Blackbrook Farm

They’re dropping in at Midtown a few times in May before moving on a more permanent basis to the controversial Linden Hills Farmers Market, which will be open Sunday mornings. I was immediately drawn to Blackbrook by their attractive signage and very unexpected produce: radishes, spinach, greens, arugula, asparagus and rhubarb. Some of this early produce is made possible by a greenhouse, which will be providing Blackbrook CSA subscribers with cherry tomatoes as early as June.

If you were thinking about sitting out farmers markets this May on the basis of past disappointments, think again: things are different this year.

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