Saturday, May 30, 2009

Twin Bridges market

Today I visited the Twin Bridges farmers market. It was the second weekend of the season and there was no produce, unless you count the bedding plants for sale. I bought a strawberry plant, along with two cucumber plants and an impressively large basil plant to see how they will do in my community garden space.

Baked goods were well represented, including a booth by the Old Hotel that featured blueberry buckle. Yum. The Old Hotel is run by Bill and Paula Kinoshita, who make sure that seasonal local produce is on the menu.

Twin Bridges is located in the awe-inspiring Ruby Valley. If you visit this market, I highly recommend starting from I-90 and traveling south along Highway 55, which turns into Highway 41. May is indeed the best month to enjoy the scenery, because everything is green and there is still a touch of snow on the mountains.

Twin Bridges Farmers Market
Main Street Park
May 23 - September 12
Saturday, 9 am - noon

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

3 square Montana meals

Today I did pretty well eating food made in in Montana.


Here you see a Trevino's tortilla (made in Billings), topped with Tillamook cheese (made in Oregon; at least that's still in the West), tomatoes (raised in the USA . . . somewhere), cilantro (ditto), bits of avocado (from California), and salsa created for the Crazy Woman Trading Co. in Big Timber but made in Texas.


The Crazy Bean is a great place to stop in when you're visiting Big Timber. I love their decaf coffee (from Rocky Mountain Roasting in Bozeman). And the baked goods . . . well, let's just say the new owners, Sandy (pictured) and her husband Andre (the baker), often get asked: "Do you have any cinnamon rolls today?" Quite often they do (as well as butterhorns [pictured], nutty caramel rolls, and miscellaneous cookies with varying degrees of intense chocolate flavor) -- but if you get there too late, you'll certainly remember to get there earlier next time!

Dinner (the local term for lunch)

I read a lot of vegan blogs and while not vegan myself, or even vegetarian, I don't eat a lot of meat, and I appreciate the fact that I don't have to stare at daily photos of meat congealing on plates. But we're in Montana now, and meat has a big place in the economy as well as on the table.

The local meat sold in in my town has been raised naturally and with an aim to making sure the cows are well taken care of. In a future entry, I'll write about a visit to Indreland Ranch, where this meal's sirloin steak comes from. I want to understand better how beef cows are raised.

Next to the steak are the wild asparagus I picked a few days ago, and a potato from Joilet, both roasted in Montola oil (made in Culbertson; although the company may be out of business now). They are lightly sprinkled with Sagebrush Sandy's Seasoning (made in Toston). The condiment is Harold's Hot Mustard (made in Absarokee). This one is my favorite, Sweet Onion, but they have several unusual flavors.


You'll notice I ate a tortilla in the morning and cereal in the evening. Why not? Montana is full of rugged individualists, and I guess I am now one of them!

This delicious all-organic granola comes from the farmers market in Ennis. There were two sizes. The larger size came with cranberries, but I had to add some fruit to the small size I bought. Luckily, I had a few dried cherries left. These come from The Orchard at Flathead Lake, and I can tell you, they are wonderful eaten straight from the bag.

When I am in Billings, I buy Lifeline Farm milk (from Victor), but I haven't been there for a while, so today it was whatever they sell at the IGA.

So that's it for today. Although I feel like I need another snack, so maybe an apple . . . from Washington State.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Back Country products

Back Country vanilla and other products are produced by Jackie Emter, an energetic woman who lives on a mountain-top ranch near Reed Point.

In her spare time between raising 4 children and running an exercise studio in Big Timber, Jackie makes delicious pies, jams, and an award-winning relish. She has developed a technique to produce extracts -- starting with anise, lemon, and vanilla. Her handmade soaps include tantalizing scents like Montana Woodlands, Lilac, and Spring Bouquet. She spins, knits, and loves to adapt recipes into healthy versions.

All of Jackie's products are popular and sell well at the Big Timber farmers markets. Look for her booth when you're in town on a Tuesday or Saturday during market season. But you'll have to get there early -- Jackie's products sell out quickly.

Big Timber farmers markets

Tuesday market
May 26 - September 29
Lions Club Park
Tuesday, 4 pm - 7 pm

Saturday market
July 4 - September 19
Grand Hotel parking lot
Saturday 9 am - noon

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Ennis market

Ennis sits in the beautiful Madison Valley. With a population of about 24,000, it's nearly 14 times the size of where I live but with much the same atmosphere of rural tranquility surrounded by breathtaking mountainous beauty.

The townsfolk are really excited about their new farmers market, located outside on Main Street at the Lone Elk Mall. My friend, Alice, and I had barely gotten out of the car to walk across the street to the market when another woman, who was just climbing into her car, burst out happily to us: "I'm so glad there is a farmers market here!"

On its very first day it was a small market today, but several local food producers were doing a brisk business. Naturally, I zeroed in on the cupcakes. There were chocolate ones, but the carrot cakes were real cuties -- and delicious with their cream cheese frosting and saucy polka dots. Another vendor was selling some truly spectacular all-organic granola, with just the right amount of crunch. Sabo Ranch showed off their rainbow-colored eggs and well-seasoned sausages, courtesy of naturally raised chickens and hogs.

Other vendors sold homemade soap, jellies and jam, cards, and plants. A young, talented violinist provided background music. Everyone was smiling and/or laughing.

There were no vegetables today, but they will no doubt appear later as local farmers begin harvesting.

Apart from the farmers market, the main part of Ennis has several restaurants, antique shops, a quilting store, and of course the ubiquitous souvenirs and fishing and hunting supplies. The area is well-known for its camping and fishing opportunities.

Madison Farm to Fork Farmers Market
Lone Elk Mall, Main Street
May 23 - September 26
Saturday, 9 am - noon

Friday, May 22, 2009

Wild asparagus

It took 2 hours but I managed to gather a pound and a half of wild asparagus. Euell Gibbons had it exactly right when he described it as "stalking" the wild asparagus. Harvesting this delectable spring vegetable consists mostly of walking . . . and . . . walking . . . and, yes, walking!

A neighbor led me around her 700-acre ranch to show me how to look for tall brown stalks of last year's asparagus, then push aside grass and weeds to look for the new stalks peeking up. She's also new to hunting for asparagus, but she found lots, and we picked and picked. Once we realized it was growing mostly along the fence, the rest was pretty easy, although the walking continued since only a few stalks grow in any one spot.

Although the season is only about a month (early May to early June), this is a great way to eat real Montana food. If you can see it growing out of the ground, well, for sure it's grown in Montana! Not only is it free, but you get plenty of exercise.

I had enough asparagus when I got home to make about a quart of a kind of cream of asparagus soup, composed of asparagus, potatoes (grown in Joliet, Mont.), and stock, "creamed" with an immersion blender stick, with a dash of salt and dill added. Mmm!

Asparagus Soup

1 onion
1 tablespoon oil
1 large potato
1 cup stock
2 teaspoons dill
Salt and pepper to taste

Chop the onion and saute in oil in a medium-size saucepan until soft.

Cut the potato into small pieces and add to the onion. Add stock and simmer about 15 minutes, until the potato is tender.

Cut the asparagus into 1-inch pieces (tough parts are OK to use) and add to the cooked vegetables. Simmer about 10 minutes, until the asparagus pieces are an olive color.

Put soup in blender (be careful: it's hot!), or use an immersion blender stick in the saucepan, to make a smooth mixture. Stir in the dill and seasonings, and serve.

Makes about 1 quart.