Saturday, February 14, 2009
About nine vendors attracted a moderate but steady stream of customers this morning. Since I had already visited the RTM and was bound for Greensgrow in Kensington/Port Richmond, I limited my purchases to four small storage winesaps, from Keystone Farm at $1.29/pound. They had good flavor, were relatively unblemished but, like almost all storage apples, had lost their crunch. Lots of good looking root vegetables and, especially, winter greens at the various produce vendors. Also some spring greens, like dandelions, courtesy of some growers' greenhouses and high tunnels.
Monday, October 27, 2008
Based on visits the last two Sundays, Headhouse Square's roster of vendors, though still strong, are fading with the autumn leaves. But there's still plenty of good produce from a variety of farmers to choose from.
Queens Farm offers a small, selective but unusual array of vegtetables, including these bowl-shaped Ta Tsai greens suitable for use as salad or in cooking, though I can't imagine the latter since it would destroy the beautiful sculpture formed by these lovelies. Better to place of scoop of Asian-inflected chicken or fish salad in the center.
North Star had three different Asian pears the last two weeks. I picked up the Hosui variety, which were crisp but incredibly juicy. Five or six varieties of apples were also offered by North Star, as well as at other fruit vendors, including Three Springs and Beechwood Orchard.
Bunches of credibly fresh, thin-bulbed scallions (a.k.a. green onions) were selling for $2 at Blooming Glen at the south entrance to the Headhouse shambles. Queens Farm, meanwhile, had what at first glance appeared to be scallions but upon closer inspection (by the nose) were clearly small bunches of pugent fresh garlic.
A number of the Headhouse vendors will be there on the day before Thanksgiving (Nov. 26). You can order pies, turkey, sides, etc., in advance from them. Griggstown Quail Farm offers Red Bourbon turkeys at $7.99 pound, traditional birds at $3.79.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
With my store of Cox Orange Pippins rapidly dwindling it's time to resupply. And, just in time, the winesaps are here. These Stayman Winesaps were offered at the Headhouse Square market today by the Wenk family's Three Springs Fruit Farm. Over at Beechwood farms they offered a variety called Turley Winesap. A quick Googling divulged that it was developed in the late 19th century in Indiana. It's apparently not quite as fine a fresh-eating (dessert) apple as the Stayman, but is very good for baked applications. It was particularly important in the early 20th century because of its storage quality and ability to be shipped by rail with little delerious effect.
Over at North Star I picked up a couple each of Golden Russet and Sugar Snap varieties.The former is another fav: a crisp, sweet, medium-sized apple that's a good keeper. So what if it's not red! I haven't tasted the Sugar Snap yet, which has a nice red inflected skin. North Star's website says it's a sweet-tart apple derived from the Empire.
What is it, precisely that separates a common apple from an antique/heirloom variety? That's a discussion I had with Sarah Cain, co-manager of the Fair Food Farmstand yesterday when I noted the sign for the Jonamac's called them heirlooms. Just by its name, I expressed my doubt that the apple qualified, because it's an intentional Jonathan-MacIntosh cross. Sarah contends that even hybrids developed by orchardists qualify fror the "heirloom" nominclature so long as they are 50 years old.
Even on that basis, however, it's hard to justify calling this cross an heirloom or antique. Although the New York State Agircultural Station in Geneva began experimenting with Jonathan-MacIntosh crosses in 1944, a final cross wasn't introduced to the commercial market until 1972, though the strain was largely developed, bred and tested since the late 1950s.
Although I've yet to fine a clear definition of what makes an an apple an "heirloom" or an "antique," my readings suggest that to most people, they mean a variety of apple that was developed introduced prior to the mass shipping by rail of apples in the early 20th century. Apples like the Jonamac, which were developed by government-funded entities after World War II, clearly don't qualify.
An excellent account of the search for heirloom apples under this definition can be found in the November 2002 issue of Smithsonian magazine.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
The Clark Park Farmers' Market, sponsored by The Food Trust, will celebrate its 10th anniversary on Saturday, Sept 6. In addition to the market from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., there will be music and other activities throughout the morning and for a few hours beyond market closing time. In addition to the Saturday market, there's a smaller Thursday afternoon market.
I made my first trip since spring to Clark Park and was overwhelmed by the produce offered by about a dozen vendors. You can see a gallery of the photos I took here. Great variety of tomatoes, plenty of summer fruits and veggies of all types. Because I had been to the Reading Terminal Market the day before, the Fairmount market the day before that, and was planning to get to Headhouse the next day, I limited myself to some fresh corn and yellow summer squash. They went great with the loin lamb chops I acquired at Giunta's Prime Shop at the RTM.
At Headhouse on Sunday plenty of heirloom tomatoes were in evidence at Culton's Organics (photo at right), though I passed these up in favor of their "Currant" tomatoes, tiny little beauties on the vine smaller than "grape" tomatoes. Their highest use is probably just popping them into your waiting mouth, but I used them a quick pasta sauce last night, augmented by just a touch of onion and garlic. Yum. I also picked up some Mirai corn from Culton's, 50 cents an ear.
More Headhouse photos from this week's trip here.
A brief tomato digression. As much as I love the different flavors and characteristics of the various heirloom tomatoes, I certainly don't disparage the basic "field" tomato. Get them ripe off the vine and they not only taste great, they offer a good bargain. And when it comes to picking a tomato for my BLT, I'll pass up the Brandywines, Cherokee Purples and Green Zebras for a good old field tomato, so long as it's ripe and fresh-picked.
And another digression: you can't go wrong in the bacon department for that BLT by getting the Green Meadow Farms product double-smoked by King's Butcher Shop in Paradise, sold at the Reading Terminal by the Fair Food Farmstand. Then again, the applewood smoked bacon available at Harry Ochs works, too. And I've got a package of Country Time's uncured bacon (also from Fair Food) sitting unopened in the fridge which I'm going to try soon.
Over at Fairmount on Thursday I talked with Dwain Livengood, who said he'd be killing some of his chickens over the next week, so they'd be available fresh rather than frozen. The birds are in the 3-4 pound range, and it's best to reserve them. I'll pick up mine this Thursday at Fairmount, but they'll also be available Tuesday afternoon at South Street and Saturday at the Reading Terminal.
Also at Fairmount, Bill Weller is selling some great produce. The cantelope I bought two weeks ago and the watermelon purchased last week were both flavorful and sweet. Last week I also purchased some donut (saturn) variety yellow peaches and turned them into cobbler. Their skins don't peel as easily as regular peaches, even after the hot water/ice water shock treatment, and there's a higher proportion of peel to flesh, so they are probably best used as a fresh-eating peach rather than in cooked and baked applications where you'd want to peel them. Still, even with the extra work and stray pieces of skin, the cobbler tasted terrific.
Earlier this month at the Reading Terminal Market's Pennsylvania Dutch Festival, Nick Ochs got into the spirit (photo at left) with some overalls and a straw hat.
As usual, the festival attracted strong summertime crowds to the market, and the pony cart rarely traversed the block with an empty seat. Bieler's was making donuts in center court, and I tried a hot one as soon as I arrived about 8:30 a.m. Alas, the oil must not have been hot enough: I could have fried a flounder with all the grease this baby absorbed.
Both Iovine's and OK Lee offer local produce as well as the same California, Florida and Mexican imports you'd find at a supermarket (though usually at a lower price). Jersey tomatoes and Pennsylvania corn are among Iovine's offerings, as well as local eggplants, green beans, etc. Finds from further afield recently have included raw peanuts and black figs.
Plenty of local produce can also be found at L. Halteman's and Kauffman's Lancaster County Produce. Benuel Kauffman has expanded across the aisle (photo below) to some of the space formerly occupied by Dutch Country Meats.
Across the aisle (between 12th Street Cantina and Martin's Meats) is the vacant space once occupied by Natural Connection and, before that, Margerum's. David Schreiber has finally got his financing in place and signed a lease, so work will begin soon on converting the spot to his Jonathan's Best grocery. "The store will carry a wide variety of gourmet groceries and packaged foods, plus pre-made sandwiches, salads and their signature line of soups to eat in or take home. Dave, a native Philadelphia, hopes to open in October," said Paul Steinke, RTM general manager.