Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Livingston farmers market is jumping!

Children are everywhere at this season's Livingston market. As you walk through the market area, you will dodge many young people, walking, pushing bikes, chatting. An entire section of discounted tables is set aside for young entrepreneurs to sell their creations.

You won't see dogs running around because of health regulations, but I found two vendors who are raising money for the Stafford Animal Shelter in Livingston. One is a young gal selling cupcakes, cookies, and items made from duct tape, who is first saving money for an iPod. But she is optimistic it won't take long. After that purchase, the rest of her profits during the summer will go to the shelter.

Shelter volunteers run a lemonade stand at the market. Other fund-raisers during the year include the Bark in the Park event on August 19 and the Fur Ball in May. Check out the shelter website for heart-warming stories of adoptions and ideas for doing your own fund-raiser—like the girl who sold hot chocolate and raised $100!

The best thing about the market today was seeing all the lovely fresh produce.

I love tomatoes, and heirlooms really rock. Here is a basket of green and red zebra striped heirlooms.

I also learned about garlic scapes, which are only available for about two weeks in June. They are the long green stems of garlic plants and smell and taste slightly of garlic. They contain a seed pod and are plucked off to allow the garlic plant to get big for its harvest in July.

You can use the garlic scapes in stir-fries or in any way you would a green onion (scallion). The vendor told me that they make a tasty pesto that can be frozen to use all year round. One woman told her she mixes a thawed ice-cube-size piece into a homemade loaf of bread for extra flavor. To make the pesto, simply substitute garlic scapes for basil in any recipe. Using pecans instead of pine nuts is tasty, too.

Tumblewood Teas offered refreshing samples. The new My Yer Lemony is very nice!

That tea would go with these nice cupcakes. I ate a red velvet one (third from left in this photo).

Or why not grab a bag of kettle corn. This vendor loves his job!

There was a lot more, of course, from friendly bears . . .

. . . to hot ready-made food, like Z's Gyros. Z wasn't here today, no doubt being busy in her new restaurant, Z's Meze, in Bozeman. Be sure to check that out—the Mediterranean and Turkish food is terrific!

It was a lovely hot afternoon. I didn't stay for music, but each week an area musician will entertain on the park stage nearby.

Be sure to stop by!

Sacajawea Park bandshell
June 6 - September 26
Wednesday, 4:30 pm - 7:30 pm (music 6:30 pm - 9 pm)

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Market season is underway!

New in 2012, the Big Timber Kraft and Farmers Market began today under grey clouds. But spirits were bright, with most of the 8 vendors saying the day had been pretty good for them.

The market has a good location right on the main highway into town, and clear signage points the way at each end of town, so no doubt more customers will arrive as the summer season gets underway.

Today there were two tables piled high with delectable baked goods, with plenty of pies, rolls, and the ever welcome maple bars. Some tomato plants were being sold, a reminder that early markets are a good place to stock your Montana garden.

There was also a good selection of crafts available, including jewelry, pottery, blankets, and crocheted items.

Market manager Shona Wieting made sure to add "kraft" to the market name to allow for a wide variety of goods sold.

Shona is known at local markets as the Berry Bandit, with her jellies made from mostly foraged fruits. Because she makes her jellies from scratch each year for market season, Shona often has her freezer full of fruits she's found throughout the year: grapes from a back yard, apples and plums from abandoned trees, chokecherries from wild bushes in the area.

She explained that she picks 50-100 gallons each year to make chokecherry jelly and syrup. In general, she carries a stick with a hook at the end so she can grab high branches of trees or bushes, but she also uses it to prod the ground around the place she will be picking, checking for rattlesnakes.

She's happy to leave fruits or berries for any bears that appear, preferring to flee rather than fight for her share. One year she felt the skin on the back of her neck prickle; something was watching her. It turned out to be a baby bear whose mother had been killed on the nearby highway. Shona left quickly, figuring the bear needed the chokecherries more than she did.

Shona proudly displays the first-place award she received for her chokecherry jelly at the 2011 Lewistown Chokecherry Festival. There's a lot of tough competition at that festival, so this is indeed an honor.

Stan and Norma from Wilsall appear at many area markets selling their odds and ends of imaginative items. For example, you can find many people selling lights stuffed into wine bottles, but Stan found a giant beer bottle for something different.

Stan also showed me the spinning wheel he refurbished, figuring out how to create new parts by looking at pictures of other wheels. At $200, you're getting a real bargain.

It was Stan who reminded me why vendors sit in the hot sun at farmers markets, even when they're not making much money. "You meet nice people, that's the thing," he said.

Yes, you do meet nice people. Be sure to visit as many farmers markets as you can this year!

Big Timber Kraft and Farmers Market
West 1st Ave & Hart Street, next to Car Quest and across from American Bank
June 2 - September (depending on weather)
Saturday, 9 am - 1 pm