Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Radish leaf pesto

Did you know you can eat radish leaves? I just learned this from the informative Chocolate and Zucchini blog entry on this subject.

I've tried it, so I can say that the leaves are, er, bitter, not to mention a bit prickly, but they certainly are edible.

The pesto is earthy, not quite like the basil-based pesto you might think of. But the texture is the same and if you put it on your very favorite crackers, you'll probably like it as much as I do. Chew, swallow, smile, and think, I'm eating healthy and free food! I mean, what would you do with those leaves otherwise?

Clotilde also suggests putting the leaves in casseroles and soups where the strong flavor of the radish leaves won't upset any delicacy of the dish.

a bit blurry, but I grew these beautiful radishes all by myself,
leaves and all

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Boulder, Helena, Townsend markets

Today I drove a 400-mile loop to visit 3 farmers markets. Whew!

Townsend market

I began at the Townsend Artisan and Garden Market, in its second year. Although you really don't expect much produce this time of year, there wasn't any at all in Townsend. More should show up later in the season, but meanwhile two artisans displayed their wares, hoping for good sales from the passing traffic on Highway 287. I was told that local organizations are being urged (so far unsuccessfully) to sell baked goods as fund-raisers. So if Townsend is a small market right now, it certainly has big dreams.

Helena farmers market

It was a big contrast to see Helena's market, which covers a large space between two small parks. Here are some pictorial highlights.

early season produce piled high

products like this local honey were in abundance

even pets could find a treat or two

plenty of foot-tapping entertainment

cute crafts

and lots of pretty girls -- these from the Queen City Ballet school

Then on to Boulder, about 30 miles south of Helena.

nicely packaged produce at the Boulder market

It was a windy day in Boulder, and I had just missed some vendors who left early. But two stalwart women remained, one selling homemade mixes, bread, and strawberry jam made with stevia, and the other with lettuce and jars of exquisite raspberry jam.

It was a long drive but well worth it to meet the people who help put food on Montana's tables.

Boulder Farmers Market
Boulder City Park, on Highway 89
June 6 - September 5
Saturday, 9:30 am - 1 pm

Helena Farmers Market
Fuller Avenue and Neill Avenue
April 25- November 7
Saturday, 9 am - 1 pm

Townsend Artisan and Garden Market
Highway 287, across from the Mustang Motel
June - September
Saturday, 9 am - 1 pm (depending on the weather)

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Clyde Park market

organic farm produce

With a population of about 300, you might not think Clyde Park would have much of a farmers market. But they do pretty well.

You don't expect to find much produce at any farmers market in June in the eastern part of the state, but I found lettuce, spinach, radishes, herbs, and even handpicked pecans. OK, so the pecans were from Arizona, but the young gal selling them had picked them herself and brought them north to sell while she visits her grandmother for the summer.

One of the cool things about small towns is how informal everyone is. One vendor ran out of cilantro and told a customer who asked for it, "My house is just across from the park. If you can wait a minute, I'll run home and cut some for you. How much do you need?"

toy horses and cows

Another item for sale were these stick horses and cows. Ten dollars each, folks! A bargain!! The elderly woman who makes them told me this would probably be her last year at the market because her eyesight is failing for sewing. It's a shame because these animals are delightful; each one has a charming name -- and they are sturdy. Any imaginative child would love to ride one.

Clyde Park is located in the lush Shields Valley. (I'm told Brooke Shields owns a ranch in the area; did the name speak to her, I wonder?) It's a lovely drive any time of year.

Shields Valley Farmers Market
Clyde Park
City park, 1 block east of Highway 89
June 6 - August 29
Saturday, 9 am - noon

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Great Falls market and lots of rhubarb

Today I headed north to the Conrad Rhubarb Festival and stopped in Great Falls on the way to check out the market.

Altogether I was on the road for 12 hours. It was a lot of driving and a long day, but then when I lived near Seattle and commuted to work, I'd be gone that long from home every day. This was a much more pleasant driving experience.

Great Falls is a big city (population 56,690) and so it has a big farmers market that covers a couple of blocks.

It even has a pony ride! Small children climb aboard and with supervision circle a tiny grass-filled square. I can imagine it is quite an experience. The line was pretty long.

Speaking of lines, the longest was at the Navajo fry bread stand. I was there about 10 am, so this must have been breakfast for these folks. You'll have to excuse the poor photo -- I could not possibly have gotten the whole line in anyway. But you get the idea.

When I arrived in Conrad, about an hour north, I saw another long line for fry bread. What is it with fry bread? Someone told me it might be that this is something you can't really make at home (without a big mess and paltry results -- I've tried in the past myself) and so perhaps folks take advantage of it when they see it. Well, OK. But I'll tell you, these were really long lines.

measuring a rhubarb leaf

Although it was Whoop-Up Days in Conrad -- and their centennial to boot -- I was in town for the Rhubarb Festival. Turns out it is simply added on to the festivities with the hope that more people will check out the rhubarb because they're already in the area whooping it up. (In fact the festival name comes from the Whoop-Up Trail that once passed through the area.)

To get to the rhubarb, I had to cross the street during a parade (a very long and enthusiastic parade) and maneuver between vendor booths on the sidewalk. I finally ended up in a tiny room adjacent to a small cafe on the main street.

There was plenty to eat. I tucked into a rhubarb pie ala mode topped with rhubarb-strawberry sauce. Very delish.

A table was set up with pies to judge, and also displayed were some of the largest rhubarb leaves I ever care to see. They actually frightened me. I think the winning leaf was almost a yard wide.

I headed home happily filled with rhubarb. It wasn't the most exciting food festival I've been to, but it certainly was sincere, and the emphasis definitely was on food. Unlike some festivals I've been to where you couldn't find the celebrated food to save your life.

Great Falls Farmers Market
Civic Center Park, at the end of Central Avenue
June 6 - September 26
Saturday, 7:45 am - noon
July 8 - September 23
Wednesday, 4:30 pm - 6:30 pm

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Stepping into Eastern Washington


I just returned from an exciting weekend with four women friends.

a typical breakfast item -- photo by Kate

We stayed at the Parsonage Bed and Breakfast near Dusty, Wash. The meals were superb -- breakfast by hostess Vicki, and lunch and dinner by potluck. While all our days were filled with laughter and joy, I think the most memorable shared moment came on Sunday morning as we were beginning breakfast and Vicki suggested we all yodel. I wish I had thought to take a photo, but I was too busy harmonizing -- or at least I thought I was harmonizing. Whatever it really sounded like, it was fun.

plant starts at Moscow farmers market

We visited the Moscow, Idaho, farmers market, which is truly a family-friendly place. Children were everywhere and the sound of music filled the air.

Cowgirl Chocolates

While in Moscow, we also visited family-owned Cowgirl Chocolates. Many of their truffles are hot chocolate, flavored with mouth-searing spices, but I found a white chocolate flavored with lemonade that was nice -- and mild. They make and package their chocolates in the store, which has an eclectic collection of items. If you stop by to say hello, they will give you a sample chocolate, so you can't lose.

Green Frog Cafe, Palouse, Wash.

We ate a bowl of soup in the small town of Palouse at the funky Green Frog Cafe. Delicious homemade food!

It was sad parting with my friends, but it was wonderful to spend time with them.

riverside garden in Stevensville, Mont.

On the way home, I stopped to visit friends in Stevensville, Mont. They live right on the river, and their garden is filled with produce that keeps them fed throughout the summer.

After all this, it was good to get home again!