Bellingham history was made a week ago last Saturday when Bellingham Farmers Market opened for the first time in winter A January market may bring up questions in your mind about what farmers could possibly offer this time of the year. I decided to see for myself. I think you'll find there was more than you might expect.
Happily, parking was definitely not an issue. Much of the center area where vendors have stands set up in the summer is converted to parking spaces in the winter. It was nice to be able to park so close, because the weather was "crisp," which is the Pacific Northwest euphemism for "biting cold with a stiff, bone-chilling breeze."
Only three vendors were bravely located outside the covered area, and all had their own sources of heat. Gusto Wood Fired Pizza had a roaring fire blazing in their igloo-shaped portable oven. I could feel the heat from some distance away, and the fire looked and felt welcoming.
Next to Gusto were Cinnamon Roasted Nuts and the ever-present Kettle Corn stands. The warm scents wafting through the chilly air were both inviting and mouthwatering.
Inside the covered, heated area, it was easier to relax (i.e., stop shivering) and enjoy shopping. The number of indoor vendors appeared only slightly fewer than in summer. There was a little extra room to move around between stalls.
I counted 11 farms selling the following food products: Kale and other greens (including arugula; brava, Sumas River Farm); cippolini and other onion varieties; shallots; garlic; beets; Brussels sprouts; carrots; several kinds of potatoes; squash varieties and pumpkins; various kinds of tree fruits (apples, pears, etc.); several kinds of sweet and hot peppers; many types of cheese; beef, lamb, and pork; eggs; yogurt and other dairy products; mushrooms; and herbs.
I likely missed some, but as you can see there was plenty of diverse ingredients for creating interesting, flavorful and healthy winter meals. Alm Hill Gardens even had some early tulips for adding lovely fresh color to your winter table decorations.
Also, the weather had been below freezing for several days before the market, so the ground was frozen hard in some part of the county. Several farmers who had planned to be there had been unable to harvest produce overwintering in their fields. Had the weather been a few degrees warmer, even more farmers would have participated.
Besides the farm vendors, there were other market regulars selling tea blends, roasted coffee and wonderful baked goods. Local artisans offered customized clothing (batik, felted, painted, etc.), jewelry, glass, cards, prints, skin care products, massages and so much more I didn't even attempt to make a comprehensive list.
I spoke with one vendor about how the day was going and asked if she was glad to be there. She laughed. "After the holidays," she said, "the thought of doing another farmers market was not at all attractive, and I wondered what I had been thinking when I signed up for the winter openings. After a little rest, though, it started sounding fun again, and by today I was excited. It's definitely been worth the effort. Business has been steady."
Even buskers were braving the elements to bring music to the market. Outside, a women's a capella group called Major Trouble from Western Washington University was singing to raise money for a trip to a competition.
Weirdly, if they won the competition, they would have to pay for their own trip. If they didn't win, they were covered. Since they obviously intended to win, they wanted to make sure they had enough cash. From what I heard, they have a good chance to take the prize. The men's a capella group, called Undefined, was lining up to sing after the women finished.
Plans are to open the market again on the third Saturdays in February and March - Feb. 16 and March 16. Hours will be the usual: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
If you care about local food and local farms, mark your calendar now. When those days come, bundle up, take the family with you and enjoy these first exciting efforts to turn Bellingham Farmers Market into a year-round local food source. I'll see you there!
ROASTED DELICATA WITH PEARS
2 delicata squash (about 11/2 to 2 pounds) (Hopewell Farm, Everson)
1 clove garlic, minced (Boxx Berry Farm, Ferndale)
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced (home garden, Lummi Island)
1/4 teaspoon smoked cayenne pepper (Rabbit Fields Farm, Everson)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon melted butter (homemade with cream from Fresh Breeze Organic Dairy, Lynden)
1 cup canned pears, drained and chopped into 1/2-inch chunks (home-canned with pears from friend's yard, Gooseberry Point)
1/4 cup apple syrup (BelleWood Acres, Lynden)
Hazelnuts, finely chopped (Holmquist Hazelnut Orchards, Lynden)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Cut delicata in half lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds and tough inner fibers with a spoon or curved grapefruit knife. Slice the squash, with skin on, into pieces about 1/4-inch thick.
Gently mix squash in a bowl with garlic, rosemary, smoked cayenne pepper, salt and melted butter.
Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread out the squash mixture in a thin layer. Put into the oven and roast squash for 25 minutes, turning once after about 15 minutes. Squash edges should be nicely browned and a fork should enter the squash easily when done.
Just before squash is done, warm pears and apple syrup in a saucepan over low heat.
Remove from oven and stir in warmed pears. Adjust salt to taste. Put food into a serving dish. Sprinkle top with finely chopped hazelnuts. Serve hot.
Serves 4-6 as a side dish.
You'll find Whatcom County foods at these stores and farms. Many outlets have seasonal hours. We recommend you call or check websites for current hours.
Acme Farms + Kitchen
Appel Farms Cheese Shoppe, 6605 Northwest Road, Ferndale; 360-384-4996; appel-farms.com
Artisan Wine Gallery, 2072 Granger Way, Lummi Island; 360-758-2959; artisanwineclub.com
Bellingham Farmers Market, Railroad at Chestnut; 360-647-2060; bellinghamfarmers.org
Boxx Berry Farm Store and u-pick, 6211 Northwest Road, Ferndale; 360-380-2699; boxxberryfarm.com
Cloud Mountain Farm Nursery, 6906 Goodwin Road, Everson; 360-966-5859; cloudmountainfarm.com
Community Food Cooperative, 1220 N. Forest St. and 315 Westerly Road, Bellingham; 360-734-8158; communityfood.coop
Everybody's Store, 5465 Potter Road, Deming; 360-592-2297; everybodys.com
Ferndale Public Market, Centennial Riverwalk, Ferndale; 360-410-7747; ferndalepublicmarket.org
Grace Harbor Farms, 2347 Birch Bay Lynden Road, Custer; 360-366-4151; graceharborfarms.com
Green Barn, 8858 Guide Meridian, Lynden; 360-354-1008
Hopewell Farm, 3072 Massey Road, Everson; 360-927-8433
Lynden Farmers Market, 514 Liberty St., Lynden, fiveloavesfarm.blogspot.com
Pleasant Valley Dairy, 6804 Kickerville Road, Ferndale; 360-366-5398; facebook.com/pages/Pleasant-Valley-Dairy/161872142667
Red Barn Lavender Farm (egg CSA), 3106 Thornton Road, Ferndale; 360-393-7057
Small's Gardens, 6451 Northwest Road, Ferndale; 360-384-4637
The Islander, 2106 S. Nugent Road, Lummi Island; 360-758-2190; islandergrocery.com
The Markets LLC, 3125 Old Fairhaven Parkway and 1030 Lakeway, Bellingham; 8135 Birch Bay Square St., Blaine; 360-714-9797; themarketsllc.com
Terra Organica, 1530 Cornwall Ave., Bellingham; 360-715-8020; terra-organica.com
Bellingham Country Gardens (u-pick vegetables), 2838 East Kelly Road, Bellingham; bellinghamcountrygardens.com
Reach Whatcom Locavore columnist Nancy Ging at 360-758-2529 or email@example.com. To follow her day- to-day locavore activities, go to Whatcom Locavore on Facebook or @whatcomlocavore on Twitter. For locavore menus, recipes and more resources, go to whatcomlocavore.com.