Category Archives: Farmers Markets

Biking Sarasota

It may be forced, but I’m one of those people now.  As the saga of the station wagon continues, I’m on my fourth month with only two wheels.  When the engine initially blew, I pined to my sister how I so much wanted to be one of those people who on Saturday mornings would jump out of bed and onto my bike to ride to the farmer’s market, neck stretched to the sky breathing in the morning air.

No, that’s not exactly me.  For the first week or so, John ended up driving me and my bike around.  I’d have him drop us off at the office in the morning only to call him at quitting time and beg for a ride home.  He’s John, so he happily and silently obliges regardless of how ridiculous my requests may be.

The arrangement then turned into me dropping him off at work.  For a while, we tried switching out during the day.  I had mornings; he had afternoons.  We even borrowed a limo.  But now finally after four months, all the alternatives to fresh air and exercise have gone.  It’s down to me and Mellow Yellow.

A 30th birthday gift from John, Mellow Yellow is the Bentley of bikes.  That combined with the Chamber of Commerce weather of late leaves me nothing to complain about…although I sometimes have to remind myself of that fact when my thighs start feeling like boiled spaghetti.  But even that’s starting to make me smile.  The constant burn has me imagining my upper body attached to Rockette legs.  The only real downside is that my $20 farmer’s market budget may have to be lowered.

So I bought more than my shoulder bag could handle, I got to the market before the lines for Maggie’s Seafood and Worden’s Farm were stretching from Main to State Street.  There were still farm-fresh eggs left, and after also riding my bike to the bank and the office, my vegetable drawer was filled by 10 a.m.  OMG, I’m one of those people!!!

To help stay one of those people, I’m starting a new series of blog posts – The Places Having No Car Will Take You – and I’m going to share my experiences biking Sarasota.  In one week, I found a new rec trail and park, spotted a snake and vultures, and had a squirrel run into my front tire.  Fun, gross, strange, there will definitely be lots to blog about.

 

The New After-school Hot Spot

Lately I’ve been buying from King Farm at the Phillippi Farmhouse Market on Wednesdays.  They don’t have a stand, but another farmer there buys from them.  It’s convenient buying my heirloom tomatoes in Sarasota, but the Phillippi market can’t deliver this…Smiling Ella!  By happy coincidence, Cooper and I ran into my sister and niece at King Family Farm and Market yesterday after school.  Sisters think alike, and we both love King Farm.My favorite part of shopping local markets is finding fruit and vegetables passed over by supermarkets.  Variety took a serious hit with mass production.  There are hundreds of different tomatoes in the world; I see about three types at my local grocery store.

Yesterday’s discovery was Rangpur limes.  They look like tangerines and taste like limes, but they’re not limes.  They’re a hybrid of Mandarin oranges and lemons.I wanted to test the sourness because my eyes couldn’t believe these bright orange balls could taste like sour limes, so I told Cooper to take a bite and grabbed the camera.
Yep, Rangpur limes are sour.  The juice went into some mango salsa and I took a bite myself to be fair and because his first words after regaining the ability to speak were, “Now I get to hold the camera.”  He didn’t get the camera out of me, but a sour bite, he did.

From Farmers Market to Table

This is the time of year to live in Florida.  The weather is either warm or cool with absolutely no chance of snow, and the farmers markets have all reopened for the season.  Two stops at the Sarasota Farmers Market this morning led to our dinner tonight – ceviche.  We used shrimp, crab and tilapia marinated in tangerines, lemon and limes mixed with strips of jalapeno pepper and red onion.  Normally ceviche calls for cilantro, but to me it tastes like soap, so I never use it in anything. Any combination of seafood and citrus will do for ceviche.  Maggie’s Seafood and Brown’s Grove are the two stands to look for.  Maggie’s is on the corner of Main Street and Lemon Avenue.  Brown’s is at the corner of Lemon and State Street.

But here’s an insider tip on Maggie’s Seafood: if you can swing it, visit her stand at the Phillippi Farmhouse Market on Wednesdays.  The market is open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and there’s never a line.  Saturday mornings downtown, her line runs around the block and she often sells out.The market has expanded quite a bit since the vendors took over control from the Downtown Partnership two years ago.  An extension along State Street was added last year, but now the market stretches further along Lemon Avenue as well.  One of my favorite morning treats is pure maple syrup, so I was happy to see this sign and a few others…We also ran into a Lukey look-alike!  It was a good day.

Waiting for Jessica at Yoder’s Fresh Market

I was all excited that Jessica’s Organic Farm reopened for the season last Friday, but then I didn’t go!  What’s wrong with me???  The stand is only open Fridays and Saturdays.  I worked both days but could have made it before they closed on Saturday.  I went to OfficeMax instead because it was closer, I was feeling lazy and the Siesta Key Farmers Market is held on Sundays.  Well, that just didn’t work out for me.  The Siesta Key market was rainy and bare.  There was only one produce stand open, but nothing was organic.  And for being chemically enhanced and covered in wax, the produce still didn’t look that good.

But my point is not to bash the stand or the market, it’s to share this quote from the Suncoast Locally Grown Online Farmers Market newsletter, “According to Kathy and Susan of My Mothers Garden, this time of year the definition of locally grown is anything south of the Mason Dixie Line!”  So I went looking for and found some Georgia peaches at Yoder’s Fresh Market that can tide me over until Saturday.

Although after visiting Jessica’s crop schedule, which doesn’t even list the months of August and September, I’m counting more on organic than local.  This far into the summer, I’d be ecstatic over regional.

It was nice to visit Yoder’s for a change.  They may not carry organics, but they’re another good source for local produce in season.  Last December they expanded into the building next door.  I only noticed it recently; today was my first visit.

Both buildings carry Amish jams, cheeses and cookies, but I only saw the pies in the newer, yellow building.  If you’re a Sarasota local, it’s most likely you know someone who has a favorite pie from Yoder’s.  John’s is banana cream. Yoder’s started with the restaurant; all three buildings are side-by-side on Bahia Vista Street.  I vaguely remember eating at the restaurant once, but the taste of their pies are clear in my mind.  They remind me of holidays, and the market has miniature versions!

But since they didn’t have banana cream, I came home with fresh-made granola and wheat bread instead.  Bread may not seem as exciting as pie, but squeeze it before judging.  The market carries some other staple items too-pasta and flour-but mostly it’s a nice Amish deli.  I’ll go back to try lunch; they offer fresh-made soups, salads and sandwiches.

…and it just dawned on me that peaches are on the Dirty Dozen list.  I pulled it up and not only are they on the list, peaches are ranked Number Four for containing some of the most pesticides among all produce.  Imagine me shrugging my shoulders here, “What can you do?”  This peach didn’t kill me, I’m guessing the four I bought today won’t either.

And since they’ve been a recent topic, avocados rank Number Four on the Clean Fifteen list of produce containing the least pesticides.

My First Chicken

Our impulse buy from the Old Myakka Farmers Market today…

A Quick-nic in Lakewood Ranch

Fitting a picnic into the middle of the workweek can be tough, so yesterday we snuck a quick-nic into our routine.  Cooper gets out of school early on Wednesdays; instead of just one of us heading up to Lakewood Ranch, we both went.  We grabbed a giant sub from Sweetbay, a hungry Cooper from school, and popped over to Adventure Park.  We walked the main trail but never found a picnic table…a seat and a view is all you need.

Adventure Park is in the Greenbrook section of Lakewood Ranch.  It has nature trails, ball fields, a paw park, and a outdoor roller rink…but quick-nics don’t allow for much exploring or photography.  Although these birds were really making themselves known.  They squawked non-stop; I had to get at least one shot.

But it was quickly on to grocery shopping, so we were off to King Family Farm and Market.  In addition to blueberries, zucchini and the rest of our produce for the week, we picked up local cherry clams for dinner and eggs for the morning. 

13400 Adventure Place Lakewood Ranch, FL 

King Family Farm and Market

This morning’s breakfast was blueberry jam with lavender on wheat toast.  It was my first time trying the jam, and the flavor threw me a little.  It had my senses crossed for a minute.  As I spread the jam over the toast, there was a faint scent of lavender.  Tasting it intensified the scent, and somehow it was like eating a smell for the first few bites.  But then the flavor of the lavender settled in, and the jam was less strange and much more tasty.  It’s made by Chef Eric Bein of Station 400, a posh breakfast and lunch restaurant on Lemon Avenue in Sarasota.      

I bought the jam at King Family Farm and Market in Bradenton where the blueberries and lavender are grown.  I met my sister there last week.  King Ranch is a regular stop in her afternoon pick-up route; she brings the kids into the market to get their after-school snacks.  This time, they picked fresh flowers too.

The flowers cost 35 cents a stem; just grab the scissors and snip.

The field was filled mostly with Snapdragons, but we saw a few other varieties as we strolled through the rows – lavender, some sort of really tall gladiola-looking flowers, and one towering sunflower.

But don’t just go for the flowers and jam, go for the produce.  A lot of what is grown at the farm is picked that morning, so it doesn’t get fresher.  The produce also has low to no pesticides.  The farm isn’t certified, but their practices are organic.  Still, read the labels while shopping because some of the produce and products are sourced from other local businesses. 

My choices for the week were blueberries, bell peppers, peaches, corn, cucumbers, celery, onions, and patty pan squash.  And even more so than freshness and flavor, the invaluable part of shopping at a local farmer’s market is knowing where your food comes from.  I can rest easy knowing the cucumbers in my fridge are sans salmonella.  Eat local!  

Google Map of King Family Farm and Market

Farmers Market Fiesta

My two best girlfriends are on their way over, one from Miami and one with a bottle of tequila!  The weather is gorgeous; it’s time for a fiesta.  John, Luke, and I made it downtown before nine this morning, so the Downtown Farmers Market wasn’t packed yet – only bustling.  My iTouch must have snapped this picture when I was standing in line at Worden’s stand, distracted by Luke…

…or standing with my eyes shut smelling the basil.

Either way, the ingredients captured went into my fiesta menu of Chicken Tostadas, mostly the salsa cruda.

The tostadas are zingy, crispy and fresh.  Follow the link above for the full recipe.  MIx the following ingredients for the salsa cruda:

  • 2 ripe tomatoes or 4 plum tomatoes, cored and roughly chopped
    1/4 medium onion, finely chopped (about 3 tablespoons)
    1/4 jalapeno, seeded and minced
    2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander (cilantro)
    1 teaspoon kosher salt
    Freshly ground black pepper 

Here are a few of the other things that caught my eye this morning…rosemary in a recycled can of Irish oatmeal…

???…

mermaids…

paint bucket planter…

and the most enormous dog in all of Sarasota…

It may appear in the picture that this bigger-than-Clifford dog just ate Lukey, but don’t worry; it was no more than the standard dog handshake, the butt-sniff.  It’s a good day for all of us! 

My Cold, Organic Dilemma

The temperature has been in the fifties this weekend, which may seem like a crisp fall day to my former New Yorker self but to my new Floridian self; it’s f@#$ing cold! I couldn’t finish my spaghetti dinner the other night because my lips were too chapped.  My fingers are slowly drying into lizard tails, and now I have no farm fresh vegetables until Wednesday.  It was way too cold to leave my fuzzy pink bathrobe yesterday morning for the Downtown Farmers Market, and the wind was blowing too hard in the afternoon to make it over to Jessica’s Organic Farm.  I counted on catching Jessica’s stand at the Siesta Key Farmers Market this morning but no stand, gasp!  There was another produce stand with some tangelos from Orlando but nothing closer.  The bromeliads were the highlight for me.

I ended up doing my grocery shopping at Publix, limiting the amount of produce I bought and bringing me to my next and final gripe of the day…why does one measley super market organic zucchini costs three times the price of a conventionally grown super market zucchini or an organic farmers market zucchini? 

The label is peeling, but it reads $2.99; I’ve never paid more than $1.00 from a local farm and saw a 4-pack of conventionals for $1.79.  Of course, there are packaging costs in a supermarket and higher production costs for a farm operating organically, yet other organic products aren’t triple the price.  The organic blueberries were only $0.50 more than their conventional counterparts, and they’re about to change my whole point-of-view for the day…

Blueberries and homemade whipped cream…I’m happy again!   

Before you go to the Phillippi Farmhouse Market…

Check out their blog!  It’s great for planning your grocery list ahead of time; I’ll be buying lettuce and snap peas from Geraldson Community Farm tomorrow.  The blog has vendor information, entertainment line-ups, and menus.  It’s also a place for vendors to announce any specials they’re running.  Tomorrow’s special is 50 cents off per pound at Maggie’s Seafood, but get there early – it’s only available to the first fifteen customers.

And this mid-week market just keeps getting better!  In addition to the blog, they have partnered with the Sarasota County Extension to offer free gardening classes from 12 – 1, January through April.  Tomorrow’s class is Container Gardening.  And what’s even better than taking a free class is taking said free class in a historic mansion overlooking a rose garden and Phillippi Creek.  Built in 1916, the Edison Keith mansion is an Italian Renaissance-style beauty surrounded by a 60-acre park complete with a nature trail and playground.