Thursday evening (June 16, 2011) my parents and I paid a trip to the Spring Park Farmers’ Market in Tuscumbia.
Only five vendors were selling Thursday evening. In Northwest Alabama, it’s still a week or two early in the season for the full range of produce but I was surprised at the low number, compared to last year. One farmer, L.C. Kelley, said that several farmers had lost their first planting due to heavy rains and had to replant. Another one (or two) lost spouses recently and (apparently) wouldn’t be selling this year.
Regardless of the limited choices, what you’ll find at the Spring Park Farmer’s Market is of excellent quality. Choices include Pat, who markets the most excellent Pat’s Jelly, as well as preserves, relishes and salsa. I’m partial to Pat’s plum jelly. This week, we bought a jar of Pat’s muscadine preserves. I said superb. Mom thought they were a bit on the sweet side. Pat grows her own fruit so the quality is top-notch from start to finish.
We also bought a loaf of sourdough bread made by Florence baker extraordinaire, Laura Hester, who markets her breads and other baked goods as the Red Gingham Gourmet. I didn’t get to try any but Mom raved about how good it is. She said it’s probably the best sourdough bread she’s had. And Mom isn’t one to rave unless she means it. (She forgot to send part of the loaf with me when I left yesterday). Laura Hester led the week’s cooking demonstration, as well. She made turnip green casserole and a cajun-spiced macaroni and cheese. Mom, Dad and I loved, loved the turnip green casserole, which features turnip greens (of course) and the Red Gingham Gourmet’s jalapeno cornbread muffins, which is available in grocery stores around Northwest Alabama.
Kelley’s Shamrock Farms (Waterloo, Ala.) was representing with beautiful blueberries and a variety of hydroponic greens. We bought a quart of blueberries and a fairly-large bag of hydroponic lettuce.
I want to comment especially on the hydroponic lettuce. I’d tried hydroponic Bibb lettuce a few years ago. It was good but I don’t often see hydroponic greens where I shop, so no occasion to try again. With the hot weather–and my emphasis on eating what’s in season and available at farmer’s markets or from the garden, it has been about two weeks since I had a large salad. And I love my salads. So I bought the hydroponic lettuce specifically to get a salad using local greens. It did not disappoint.
- Tomatoes from my backyard garden (Roma grape tomatoes)
- Organic carrot from Whole Foods (carrots aren’t available at our farmer’s markets at this time of the year)
- Diced onion and cucumbers from Winfrey Farms (East Lake Farmer’s Market)
- Diced banana peppers and a small yellow squash from my parents’ garden
- Feta cheese and graded Parmesan (Whole Foods)
- Kalamata Olives
- Homemade croutons using the organic baguette from Whole Foods and herbs from my backyard
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Organic apple cider vinegar
Ms. Kelley shared a lot of details about the hydroponic growing process. It was quite fascinating. After I enjoyed my salad, I spent some time reading more about hydroponic gardening via a variety of internet sources. It’s great to have so much information available online.
I’ll pay a return visit to the Spring Park Farmer’s Market in a week or two for more of Pat’s Jelly, sourdough bread, Kelley’s Shamrock Farms hydroponic greens and whatever else is available that I don’t have in my own garden. I hope that some of the absent farmers are back on the scene. A thriving farmer’s market is a joy to the spirit.