Farmers markets bring local produce to the table
What seasonal produce is being harvested in our area right now? Berkshire area farmers markets are offering garlic scapes and delicate lettuces, Asian greens and hearty greens, baby beets and turnips, hot house tomatoes, onions, scallions, strawberries, cherries, last fall's apples and sweet potatoes -- and more.
At least 16 farmers' markets spanning the Berkshire region serve the public between Wednesday and Sunday. Berkshire Grown's website, berkshiregrown.org, has details.
The farmers with the biggest selection of produce at the farmers markets I visited, however, did not raise their produce in Berkshire County. They grew in nearby towns in the Connecticut or Hudson River valleys. There were piles of gorgeous radishes of all shapes and sizes from red to white. A farm from Ludlow had fat little carrot bunches. Cucumbers were ready. A variety of fully grown cabbages were available.
If you don't want to go from stand to stand, you can arrange to have a basket of local and organic produce delivered to you on a regular basis by Berkshire Organics of Dalton, www.berkshireorganics.com.
Over the last five years, Berkshire Organics has developed relationships with more than 50 farms and businesses within a 50-mile radius. Baskets of various sizes can be delivered or customers can shop at their store in the old Burgner's Farm complex at the junction of Williams Street and Dalton Division Road.
Aleisha Gibbons, who owns Berkshire Organics with her husband, Brian, said local fruits will be included in baskets starting this week.
She said this week's baskets will include a choice of apricots, arugula, asparagus, blackberries, blueberries, broccoli, broccoli rabe, cherries, collards, cucumbers, fennel, garlic scapes, green beans, herbs, kale, lettuces, spring onions, shelling peas, radishes, spinach, summer squash, strawberries and Swiss chard.
Our area co-ops -- Berkshire in Great Barrington, Wild Oats in Williamstown, Old Creamery in Cummington and River Valley in Northampton, among others -- make great effort to work with local farmers to keep currently seasonal produce on their shelves.
The local growing season is getting into swing despite the wet weather that has hurt some farmers, according to the Berkshire Co-op folks.
Guido's Fresh Marketplace in Pittsfield and Great Barrington offers a selection of local produce, as well.
Although it's almost the Fourth of July, most local farmstands are not yet open. Taft Farms is an exception with a farm store open year-round. While asparagus has gone by at many farms, check Taft if you want some, they may still have some of their own.
Dominic Palumbo, who raises livestock and vegetables through a combination of traditional farming methods and modern technology on his Moon in the Pond Farm in Sheffield, explained that farmers are stretching early spring crops like lettuces and other greens right now to cover the slack caused by the late growing season.
He has shifted from participating in the Sheffield Farmers Market to having his own farmstand on Main Street in Great Barrington, courtesy of Matt Rubiner, who owns Rubiner's Cheesemongers. Palumbo sells his produce on the covered, columned portico of the store on Wednesday and Friday afternoons. Farm Girl Farm sells produce there on Saturdays.
"It can be a one-stop shop," Palumbo quipped. "You can go to Gorham and Norton for bread and get all your grocery shopping done on Main Street."
Jennifer Salinetti, who farms Woven Roots Farm and CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) in Lee with her husband, Peter, said the 12 inches of rain they got in June made everything late. She expects to open her stand next week starting with lettuces, beets, turnips, Swiss chard, kale and, perhaps, carrots, radishes.
Amanda Dalzell of Three Maples Market Garden said she and her husband Cian are waiting to open their West Stockbridge farm stand until they have summer squash. By that time, they will have radishes, again, and their unusual radish pods to be eaten like green peas. They will have salad greens and herbs -- oregano, parsley, sage, sorrel and thyme -- kale, kohlrabi and snap, snow and sugar peas.
Chef Daire Rooney of Allium Restaurant in Great Barrington read a long list of produce she had gotten from local farmers last weekend. She had Asian greens; yellow and green beans; baby beets, baby bok choy and baby pat choy; heirloom cabbage and Napa cabbage; carrots; escarole, kale, head lettuce; fennel; "lotsa herbs"; maitake, oyster and shiitake mushrooms; rhubarb and strawberries; scallions; spinach; green, patty pan and yellow summer squashes; Swiss chard; beefsteak and green tomatoes; and two sorts of turnips.
"We change the menu daily," Rooney said. "We have English peas, snap peas and snow peas. We have a pasta that has a basil-garlic scape pesto with mascarpone cheese, zucchini, the three peas and pea tendrils. People may come in expecting what they've seen on our online menu but, by the time they come in, we have moved on from it."
Lester Blumenthal, who owns Route 7 Grill in Great Barrington, said the restaurant is "using a bunch of farms now. We're making mushroom gougères, shaved radish and kohlrabi salad, local egg basil crème brulée, grilled veggies and nettle soup."
For the last month, Valerie Schwartz, director of the Berkshire Food Project, which serves chef-cooked, healthy, predominantly locally sourced free lunch every weekday at the First Congregational Church in North Adams, has been getting a lot of greens from Caretaker, Many Forks and Square Roots farms.
"We get lots of greens and many varieties of lettuce and everything is beautiful, too. Every day we make different kinds of salads," Schwartz said. "We put it out on the table before the meal and it all gets eaten.
"We're having double seatings now that school is out. One group eats. They leave and another group comes in. We're feeding over 100 every day."
At the Berkshire Farmer's Market in Lanesborough last Saturday, Marilyn Lampron, longtime saleswoman for Jaeschke's Fruit and Flower Center in Pittsfield and Adams, said they sold out of their all-season strawberries by 11 a.m. Jaeschke's hopes to be selling corn and cucumbers under the tent on Crane Avenue by sometime next week.
"We hate to lose the Fourth of July weekend, but what can you do?"
David Leavitt, who grows David's Melons in Richmond, expects to have melons and tomatoes of many colors and shapes the third week in July.
"It's been a crazy growing season but my melons and tomatoes are doing well. They're looking good," he said.
Michael Weslowski said the strawberries at his Mountain View Farm in Lanesborough are running late and doing well. He expects pick-your-own to go on through mid-July -- depending on the weather.
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