Ah, it’s almost the end of April and that means, among other things, that the local farmers’ markets will soon be opening. Some of their member farms already have, or never closed, because they offered freshly made baked goods, salsas and other wonderful foods.
So, although our own gardens may not have anything in them to eat just yet, our hard-working local farmers are gearing up for another year of providing local, close-to-home healthy foods to anyone who wants nutritious eating.
The River Valley Farmers’ Market is scheduled to open on Exchange Street in Rumford on May 10. But other farmers markets may already be open at various locations around the River Valley area, as well as baked and other foods, seedlings, and flowers at individual farms.
At this time of year, a trip to a farmers market can yield micro-greens, sprouts, brightly colored tulips, daffodils and other wonderful flowers, seedlings for your own garden, parsnips that have wintered over and are now sweeter than ever, herbs, eggs, radishes, a multitude of lettuce, flats of pansies that can go into the ground right now, and many other items the local farmer had planted under hoop houses and in greenhouses while the snow was still on the ground.
The cream of the early crops, in my opinion, is the regal asparagus. Our patch has yet to provide any of these nutritious stalks yet, but it soon will.
When that first of season asparagus appears, I believe it should be prepared as simply as possible so that the delicious flavors predominate.
When picked later, we can think of dressing it up. I like to roast or grill the first of the season asparagus. If sautéing or roasting, just add a little salt and olive oil. Stir frequently, and soon, these bright green stalks will be ready for a spring meal. As a garlic-lover, soon, I’ll be adding sliced garlic to the mixture.
To roast, simply add olive oil to a baking sheet and atop the whole asparagus, along with a little salt and pepper and bake for about 15 minutes at 350 degrees.
Fiddleheads are a delicacy available only during the early-mid spring weeks. Again, these fruits of the ostrich fern are best when small. Many people boil them, then top the cooked ferns with vinegar and/or butter or olive oil, salt and pepper.
Not only are they offered at farmers markets, but people who have discovered a “secret” spot along a stream or riverbank may be selling them from the back of their trucks at very reasonable rates. Such vendors are often seen alongside roads this time of year.
Another “pure” way to serve the first of the fiddlehead crop is, again, by sautéing them. However they are cooked, be sure to wash them several times so that any dirt will be removed.
Here is one way to sauté fiddleheads.
Fiddleheads and Mushrooms (3 or 4 servings)
1 pound thoroughly cleaned fiddleheads
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
1 large garlic clove, sliced
enough olive oil to ensure successful sautéing
salt and pepper to taste
Begin by pouring olive oil into a large frypan, and heat. Stir in the fiddleheads and continuing stirring for a few minutes.
Add the sliced garlic and continuing stirring. Add the mushrooms, and stir to sauté until the fiddleheads are done.
Serve this dish on a colorful plate to maximize an elegant presentation.
And think, in just a few weeks, those of us who have planted lettuce and other greens will soon be able to gather a very fresh salad right from the backyard garden. It’s only the beginning of a summer’s worth of the very freshest vegetables anyone can eat.
I may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.