Saturday, March 16, was the last "winter" Bellingham Farmers Market and it was amazing! In the past, the Farmers Market was closed January through March, but this year for the first time they tried having a Market once a month throughout the winter.
Vendors and customers braved the cold weather in January and the rain of February and March, but since most of the vendors were inside the covered and heated area, everyone seemed happy with the results.
On Saturday, April 6, the Bellingham Farmers Market will resume the weekly schedule with the traditional cabbage toss by Mayor Kelli Linville. This marks the opening of the 21st year of the Market's operation, and new vendors will include farmers, ready-to-eat offerings and handmade crafts people. The Saturday market is at Railroad Avenue and Chestnut Street in downtown Bellingham. The opening bell rings at 10 a.m. - hope to see you there.
Sustainable Connections will also be releasing their new annual Whatcom Food & Farm Finder booklet at the market's official season opening. The booklet is the most useful publication available for finding local food sources and learning about Whatcom County farms. It indicates which farms are certified organic producers, which use salmon-safe techniques, who offers CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) programs, where you can go to pick your own foods and much, much more. It's an invaluable resource and the best place to start for people who want to move toward eating high quality, locally grown food.
Spring is the time of the year when I particularly reflect on what a paradise Whatcom County's food producing area really is. The food selection at the March Farmers Market was a good example. Even though it was only mid-March, fresh greens are already being harvested - even growing in the fields outside the greenhouses! Lovely mustard greens, lettuces, braising mixes, crisp curly spinach, and even fresh endive were available at various vendor booths. The herbivore in me was in heaven!
Mustard greens were of special interest to me. I've had mustard greens as part of braising mixes, but never really cooked with them on their own.
Of all the dark leafy greens, mustard greens are one of the most bitter flavors. Because of this, one author calls them "the greens for grown-ups." For that reason, mustard greens are often mixed with other foods. Besides braising with other greens, you can add mustard greens to burritos or other bean dishes, omelets or frittatas, in sandwiches with ricotta or other cheeses and many other dishes.
To cut the bitterness, I like to use a little apple cider vinegar. I confess, I really like the peppery, bitter taste, but if it bothers you, you could also use just a touch of honey - the sweetness helps cut the bitter flavor, too.
But why go to the trouble of trying to make mustard greens more palatable? In a word, nutrition. They are a good source of protein, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, iron and magnesium, and a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, vitamin B6, folate, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, copper and manganese. In fact, it rates 89 on a scale of 1-100 for completeness of nutritional needs.
It's rated five stars as a weight loss food, five stars as a food for optimal health and it has a moderate anti-inflammatory effect. In my opinion, it's worth developing a way to include mustard greens at least occasionally in your menus.
In the recipe below, I included my usual splash of apple cider vinegar, but I also included a smoked cayenne pepper for a little natural heat that I think adds a nice finish to the bitter flavor. Give it a try and let me know what you think.
MORE LOCAL FOOD ACTIVITIES
Besides the return of the weekly farmers market schedule and the wonderful foods you can find there, a lot of other local food-related events start happening in the spring as well. For example, Cloud Mountain Farm Center has begun their weekend gardening and fruit growing workshops. Upcoming workshops in the next few weeks include:
? Growing Apples and Pears;
? Growing Stone Fruits;
? Sustainable Gardening;
? Growing Beans and Grains in Your Backyard;
? Growing Your Own: A Locavore's Garden;
? Seed Starting Workshop.
Many of these classes are free, though a $10 donation is recommended. Some of the more in depth courses have a small registration fee. Visit Cloud Mountain's website at: www.cloudmountainfarmcenter.org or call them at 360-966-5859 to register or to sign up for their newsletter to receive workshop announcements and schedules.
Healthy Connections (a program of the Community Food Co-op) also offers many food-related courses, especially for people who would like to learn more about healthy cooking techniques. Eating healthy these days requires at least some cooking skills.
To find out what's being offered, visit the Co-op's website at: www.communityfood.coop or ask at the help desk the next time you are in one of their stores. They also have an email list you can subscribe to for course announcements.
MUSTARD GREENS STIR FRY
2 teaspoons hazelnut oil (Holmquist Hazelnut Orchards, Lynden)
1 small red onion, chopped (overwintered in home garden, Lummi Island)
2 cloves garlic, minced (Boxx Berry Farm, Ferndale)
1 smoked cayenne pepper, finely chopped (Rabbit Fields Farm, Everson)
1/2 pound mustard greens, coarsely chopped (Sumas River Farm, Sumas)
2 tablespoons water
salt to taste
apple-cider vinegar to taste
Heat the oil in a heavy skillet or wok over medium high heat.
When a small piece of onion sizzles when added to the pan, add all the onion and sauté for a few minutes until just starting to brown around the edges, stirring constantly.
Add the minced garlic and cook for another minute or so. Add the smoked cayenne pepper, including the seeds, and stir in quickly.
Add the mustard greens and the water, and sprinkle lightly with salt. Continue to cook and stir until greens are wilted.
Add a small amount of apple cider vinegar to taste.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.