Category Archives: Farmers Markets

Chiles, Cherries & Chorizo-Santa Fe Farmer’s Market

Red or green?

That’s the question you are asked repeatedly in New Mexico. It refers to how you like your chiles.  I saw plenty of chile and other red and green products on a re ent trip to the Santa Fe Farmers Market, along with splashes of orange, lavender, yellow and just about every color you can imagine.

Lots of root vegetables

The Santa Fe Farmer’s Market in the restored Railyard district is a colorful blend of vendors from small family farms near the Rio Grande with urban gardeners from artsy Santa Fe and Taos.

Lots of greens: Salad lettuces of mixed shades. Fresh green sugar snap peas. Sage sticks bundled and shaped like cactus or crosses. Lacy green carrot tops poking out of backpacks and tote bags.

And reds: Beets. Rhubarb. Hydroponic tomatoes– still too early for the ones grown directly in soil. Red radishes, some fat as softballs; others more like golf balls. Yellow-skinned Rainier cherries blushing with red and $8 a pound price tags. Mahogany red chokecherries, tiny cherries slightly astringent in flavor.

Cherries are in season in New Mexico

Fresh chiles were there in abundance and also dried powders, dried wreath pods, green chile salsa and a  slew of other products. It’s the same pepper; the stage of ripeness determines the color. New Mexico is to the green chile as Louisiana is to cayenne pepper, but did you know the chile is NOT New Mexico’s #1 agricultural food product. It’s the pecan, and we were surprised to see so many lush groves as we drove throughout the state. New Mexico is second to Georgia in pecan production.

Click on any picture below to launch the photo gallery.

 

And a rainbow of other colors were there too including blue, orange and red corn.

Since, I was traveling, I had to skip the fresh fruits and veggies  the Santa Fe Farmer’s Market and hang out at the bread vendors. My favorite was  the Intergalactic Bread Company. I originally thought the name came from the Mediterranean flatbreads that kind of look like flying saucers. But,  the vendor corrected, “it’s because the taste is out of this world.”

I recommend the green chile cheese bread.

Click any picture below to launch the photo gallery.

 

 

Berries & Dairies: U Pick While U Can

 

I just went berry picking at Shuqualak (pronounced “sugar lock” Farms in Frierson.

There’s usually plenty of berry options at local farmers markets, but there’s something about donning the straw hat and watching the sun rise as you head to a rural berry patch to pick your own.

Broox and Judy Burris run the blueberry and blackberry operation started by Broox’s father in  1986. The land has been in Broox’s family since 1916. He’s the fourth generation owner.

Shqualak Farms
Judy Burris outside the Shuqualak Farms berry barn.

During berry season, the farm is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week. There are about four acres each of blueberry and blackberry bushes. Check out the Shuqualak Farms Facebook page for up-to-date status.

Since I did get up before dawn, I was the first customer that day. I got a chance to chat with Judy, a fun person and a great source of  information on how to get the best berries. “A gentle touch and they fall in your hands. If you have to tug, they’re not ripe enough yet.”

Shuqualak is a town in Mississippi. Broox’s father came across the town while traveling and felt it would be a good name for the farm since he called his wife “Sug” and the Choctaw Indian name meant “hog heaven.” He asked the mayor of Shuqualak if it was OK to use it.

So it’s Shuqualak Farms, but you won’t find any hogs there, no sugar cane — just blackberries and blueberries bursting with flavor as well as antioxidants, fiber, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, manganese and a host of other nutrients that put them on many “super food” lists.

Shuqualak Farms is off Highway 175 and a 20-minute drive from the edge of Shreveport.  I have ridden this route several times with bicycle groups. Just before you get to the Shuqualak Farms turn, you’ll pass Bit’s Country Store, our bicycle group’s stop for breakfast.

Whether you’re on a bicycle or not, I suggest you stop in and grab a sausage egg biscuit. The biscuits are melt-in-your-mouth fluffy.

Bit's Country Store
Taking a Hwy 175 bicycle break at Bit’s Country Store. This was a previous trip. No good way to transport blueberries and blackberries on my road cycle.

Highway 175 intersects Harts Island Road, a popular Shreveport bicycling route. It’s about 11 miles from the LSU Pecan Station to Bit’s Country Store and less than a half mile from the store’s biscuits to Shuqualak’s blueberry and blackberry bushes.

In Louisiana I’ve always thought April was for strawberries, May was for blackberries, June for blueberries and July was the best time for peaches. But that may vary from year to year and by fruit variety.  Like autumn fall color, berry season is short so you want to pick while you can.

“Mother Nature has the final say. This year we didn’t have a winter so the blueberries that normally just begin to get ripe June 1 have been early this year,” Judy said.

Shuqualak Farms blackberries
Blackberries are just now getting ripe.

After you’ve filled your bucket, return to the Blueberry Barn, an old farmhouse built before the turn of the century, and sample a blueberry popsicle. You can buy some to take home or buy the syrup to make your own.

Blueberries and blackberries are $14 for five quarts if  you pick your own. Blueberries also are usually available pre-picked for $20.

There’s also smaller kid’s buckets, picnic tables, harness buckets so you can pick with two hands, even canes to borrow for balance.

I came home with two generous gallons and information from the Ark-La-Tex Blueberry Growers Association, including recipes for pie, muffins and such. But the first thing I made was my go-to blueberry Greek yogurt pancakes from the She Wears Many Hats blog. I doubled the amount of blueberries!

Blueberry Greek yogurt pancakes

Shuqualak Farms

 

 

 

 

Saturday Morning at Phoenix Public Market

Even though I can’t usually load up on fruits and vegetables, I like to visit farmers markets while traveling to experience the local flavor and check out the booths and creative vendor names.

On a recent Saturday, I went to the Phoenix Public Market on the edge of downtown Phoenix.

Local tomatoes, organic herbs and oranges (orange trees are on residential lawns everywhere in Phoenix) were abundant. However, the best thing I ate came from Jerusalem Bakery. I got two outstanding borekas, sesame seed-topped phyllo dough with different fillings inside. One borek a was stuffed with feta cheese and kalamata olives and other with mushrooms, cheese and onions.

Although not a food booth, my favorite name was a shaving kit booth run by an Army veteran: “Shaving Private Ryan.”

 

A Gratitude Lesson From a Rainy Vacation Day

A recent vacation taught me an unexpected lesson on gratitude.

The  vacation itinerary that I drew up for a recent trip that I took with my daughter included a morning drive along the Hood River County Fruit Loop, a 35-mile route dotted with 30 farm stands in Oregon between the Columbia River Gorge and Mt. Hood.

It was prime  harvesting season when I was there in October so I envisioned lots of apple picking on a crisp, sun-splashed fall day. Then we’d have lunch at a local winery and enjoy an afternoon of bicycling  on America’s original scenic byway. Perhaps we would hike a little of the Pacific Crest Trail.

The only question was how could we choose among those 30 points of interest–fruit stands and berry farms, wineries and cider houses, u-pick apple and pear orchards, lavender farms, an alpaca farm and even a chestnut  farm.

The Fruit Loop brochure had me excited as I looked at the farms pictured with blue skies, dahlias in the foreground and snow-capped Mt. Hood in the background. Likewise, the historic Columbia Gorge Highway site had postcard-worthy photos of bicycle trails.  I packed a few of the new almond butter-filled Clif bars just to create a photo similar to the one of a cyclist on the package.

clif-bar

But it was not to be. It rained miserably all day. So we didn’t get to bicycle or hike at all. We didn’t ride the Fruit Loop with our windows down and sun roof open as we had hoped. We should have peeked through the sun roof with our umbrella for a amusing photo op, but frankly I was too bummed out.

We did drive along Highway 35 and the side roads that make up the Fruit Loop. We stopped at a  few farm stands — Packer Orchards, Apple Valley Country Store & Bakery and Draper Girls Country Farm. We found the best variety at Draper Girls — Pacific Rose, Spice and Pink Pearl to name a few. The latter had a bit of pink in the flesh.

pink-pearl-pink-inside

Our adventure for the day: Returning to the Airbnb to watch Reese Witherspoon in “Wild.” And eating some of those apples.

So what was the gratitude lesson?

It took me a while upon returning home, but I reflected on past vacations. On one trip to the beach, rain was forecast every day of the week–we almost cancelled our condo. But as it turned out, it rained none of the days we were there.

We did experience a downpour three years ago during one of the vacation days in New York City, but that was one day of rain, four days of sunshine. (And can you really whine on a rainy day in New York when that means spending it in the Metropolitan Museum of Art?)

On my rough scorecard of vacations past, I’m averaging about  9 out of 10 sunny days. Was I as grateful for those as I was complaining about my rainy October trip to Washington and Oregon?

From now on, I’m going to start vacations with less of an entitlement mindset about the weather. Then, when a vacation day is wrapped in sunshine, maybe I’ll treat it like a gift.

And be more thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Apple a Day on My Recent Vacay

I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus from blog writing recently. My older daughter Claire got engaged in October. It will be #kickstandsandweddingplans around our house during the next few months. Meantime, I’ll share a little bit about a recent trip to Seattle and the Pacific Northwest with my younger daughter Mary Grace.

During my first visit to Seattle’s Pike Place Market a few weeks ago, I spent most of my time checking out the produce vendors, especially looking for different varieties of Washington apples. Did you know that six out of every 10 apples consumed in the United States are grown in the state of Washington? I didn’t know it was that high, but check out this informative site.

So I packed my apple corer for the trip and picked up a few at the market. Can’t say they were much better than the Honeycrisps I’ve been getting at my local Kroger. They have been exceptionally good this fall, and they are grown in Washington. I can’t wait to try this salted caramel apple wheel recipe from Chelan Fresh.

I did make it to the famous Pike Place fishmonger booths and learned you could pack just about any seafood in a TSA-approved box, but I didn’t buy any.

I enjoyed all of the colors and sampling a few different fruit and vegetable varieties at Pike Place. Here are a few photos.

 

Saturday Morning Drive to Mahaffey Farms

On a clear Saturday in the hiatus between the summer and fall Shreveport Farmers Market, I drove to Mahaffey Farms east of Haughton to buy some meat. When you visit, farmer Evan McCommon will let you wander around his pastures as he wants you to get a close view of how his cattle, pigs and chickens are raised.

“If all agriculture was transparent, it would change the way people eat,” says McCommon, who is doing his part in “being the change” in Shreveport-Bossier City. Mahaffey Farms, is at the forefront of  the farm-to-table culture in North Louisiana.

Mahaffey Farms family heirloom tractor
Mahaffey Farms family heirloom tractor

Mahaffey Farms uses no chemicals, no pesticides, no hormones. The farm’s practices go beyond sustainable.   As McCommon says, sustainable implies keeping things as they are. Regenerative agriculture makes things better — the soil, the environment and the way a community eats.

Those principles will be explored during a Food for Thought program on Oct. 5 at the Robinson Film Center in downtown Shreveport. The event will include a viewing of Polyfaces, a documentary on an Shenandoah Valley Virginia farm that has inspired Mahaffey Farms. Food from Mahaffey will be served at dinner, followed by the film and then a post screening discussion led by McCommon.

The family farm dates back to the 1920s. McCommon’s great uncle developed a large farming  and timber operation that flourished there until the 1950s. McCommon began taking steps to revitalize farming there about five years ago.  Visit Mahaffey Farms website to read, watch and listen as McCommon tells about the evolution of the farm.

The farm store is a modest converted garage but the freezers are well-stocked with grass-fed beef and pasture-raised pork and chicken products. Fresh produce is slim this time of year, but at other seasons you may find heirloom tomatoes, pinto beans, collard greens, etc. And there’s lard — cooking lard and soap. Lard is, after all, fat rendered from pork, and Mahaffey Farms doesn’t waste much of the pigs it raises.

I came away with some pork chops, pork tenderloin, andouille, bratwurst and eggs. I also came away with a greater resolve to eat more local food. (Pork tenderloin has already been prepared in a farmer’s market pepper jelly glaze and declared a hit at our house).

Getting There: From Louisiana Downs, drive five miles east on Highway 80 and turn left at East 80 Paint & Body. You’ll actually be on Mahaffey Road. Drive about a half mile down, and the road will bend left toward the farm. You’ll know you’re there when you see a rusty heirloom tractor with the simple stenciled Mahaffey Farms sign.

Saturday hours are 8 am to 1 pm until the Shreveport Farmers Market opens again on Oct. 22. Weekdays, it’s open from 9 am to 5 pm Monday. (You may want to call 318-949-6249 to make sure someone is available to give a free tour). McCommon’s mother, Sandra Evans, has a bed and breakfast at the farmhouse, which can be booked on airbnb.com. Reviews are great for the farm fresh breakfast!

Late summer pond scene
Late summer pond scene

Farmers Market SuperPhotos

A few months ago someone told me about SuperPhoto, an app to add an artistic look to photos.  I have no training in art, so I love the ease of this app.

I’ve been playing around with some of the photos I have taken at farmstands this summer. SuperPhoto has 324 effects in its free version, but I almost exclusively apply the “Painting” one.

The header above includes the feature image for this blog taken from a photo I took at Ed Lester Farms in Coushatta in early June.

Click on the images in this gallery and you can see some samples I’ve done using SuperPhoto’s Painting setting. (Click anywhere on black space to return to blog post).

Here’s a photograph I took of a cut watermelon at the Shreveport Farmers Market and examples of how the image turned out using three different SuperPhoto settings below it.

Watermelon original photo

I’ve also applied the app to some people photographs that I have taken and have ordered copies on canvas that have turned out nicely. Here are two Superphotoed images of my daughters.

Claire
Claire
Mary Grace
Mary Grace

So that’s my favorite photo app. Do you have one you would like to share?

Information about SuperPhoto here

 

Pickles, Jams, Relishes and Stuff: Last Days at the Farmers Market

I usually pick up a jar or two of something pickled or jellied at the Shreveport Farmers Market.

The next two Saturdays are great opportunities to load up the pantry with those items as the fresh vegetables wane and the market winds down for the year  on Aug. 27. The Bossier City Farmers Market continues each Saturday through Nov. 19. The Shreveport Farmers Market will be back for a fall run beginning Oct. 22.

Last week, I spent a few minutes visiting with Ben and Dorothy Pratt of Natchitoches at their Sugarmakers booth at the Shreveport Farmers Market. The Pratts just may  have the biggest variety of canned items for sale at any farmers market any where in the country: 86 different kinds.

“Not all varieties are available all the time,”  Ben quickly points out.

Still, there is plenty to choose from each week. Most popular: things like mayhaw jelly, muscadine jelly, fig preserves. If you’ve been around North Louisiana long enough, you’re familiar with those. But I bet you’ll find some new ones at Sugarmakers.

Possum grape jelly? Possum grapes are tiny little berries that grow wild , says Dorothy, a retired licensed practical nurse, who has been  canning since she was a little girl.

Or how about cinnamon basil jelly, cantaloupe jam, onion and bacon marmalade., white Zinfandel wine jelly. The list goes on and on including jelly made from obscure berries such as loquats and pyracantha.

And, perhaps, the most interesting according to the Pratts? Monkey butter, a sweet jam made from bananas, coconut and pineapple — from a recipe their niece got in the Phillipines.

The Pratts get up each Saturday at 3 am to come to the market, and they plan to be there for the final two Saturdays. Dorothy and Ben, a retired schoolteacher, have been selling at farmers markets since 2001. They also sell at Cane River Green Market in Natchitoches and have racked up quite a few county and Louisiana State Fair blue ribbons.

I came away with jars of spicy marinated green beans, fig jam and hot jalapeno pepper jelly from Sugarmakers. Over the summer I’ve also stocked up on squash pickles from Angel Farms, spicy zucchini relish from Gethsemane Gardens (they’ve got lots of hummus too) and some lemon basil caponata (eggplant) relish from Cindy Sue’s.

So there are plenty of reasons to head to downtown Shreveport during the last two weekends in August.

Refreshing Watermelon Any Way You Slice (Or Ice) It

We have been eating a lot of watermelon this summer. David and I have already gone through about a dozen. At 92 percent water, watermelon is helping us stay hydrated.

Truth be told, I have just as much luck with seedless watermelons I get at the supermarket as the ones I pick up at farmstands. Luckily, most of the stores in Shreveport get their melons from Texas, so that’s local, depending on what part of Texas they come from.

Still,  it is hard for me to pass by a farmer sitting on the tailgate of a 40-year-old truck  in the 97-degree heat with a load of them.  Sometimes I get a real winner, sweeter than the supermarket ones–like the giant one I got from Ryan Farms in Dixie, Louisiana, earlier this summer and another one we purchased along a  south Arkansas back road.

Earlier this week my refrigerator was full, and I had another watermelon on deck (the floorboard of my car). So, I thought it would be fun to experiment with some refreshing watermelon frozen novelties. Surprisingly, there aren’t many watermelon-flavored treats in the supermarket freezer section other than a few made by the Popsicle brand. So I consulted Pinterest and found a few healthy ones to try .

My husband is a watermelon purist and believes eating it any other way but straight is gilding the lily.  I sort of agree, but I love ice cream novelties and frozen treats. I’m glad to have some new ones to add to my stash of Push Ups, Nutty Buddies and multiple flavors of Outshine bars.

Refreshing Watermelon Treats
Refreshing Watermelon Treats

In the photo above, the treats are as follows going clockwise from the the Watermelon Greek Yogurt Ice Cream cone with links to the recipes.

Watermelon Greek Yogurt Ice Cream-eating Greek yogurt is perhaps the most significant diet change I have made during the past three years. Multiple blending repeats made this recipe a bit cumbersome for me, but I liked the taste. I used banana to make it creamier as suggested.

Watermelon Ice Pops-these were my favorite. I substituted Splenda for the sugar. Adding lime sherbet for the rind and chocolate chips for the seeds was so much fun! (Why can’t you find lime sherbet in pint containers?  Does anybody know?) This recipe says 12 servings, but I only got 6 using the five-ounce cups.

Watermelon ice pops
Chocolate chips are the seeds in this watermelon ice pop

Watermelon Lemon-Limeade Pops With a Jalapeno Kick. I did as one of the commenters suggested and added some jalapeno to give it a little kick.

Creamy Coconut Watermelon Pop. This was supposed to be a milkshake but didn’t turn out thick enough for me. I poured it in a mold, and, voila, another frozen treat variation.

 

 

Go to Gullo’s For Produce, Lunch & To Go Meals

I’m lucky enough to live less than two miles away from Gullo’s Fresh Produce & Classic Bake Shop on Flournoy Lucas in Shreveport. Last year, I had to go the entire summer without Gullo’s as it had to rebuild from a fire.

I’m thankful a renovated Gullo’s Fresh Produce opened earlier this year. It includes an enclosed dining room so you don’t have to eat outside on the patio or under the pecan tree in the July heat.

I like to pop in from time to time when I need a few tomatoes, peppers or some other veggies. I usually leave with more than I intended — a jar of green tomato pickles or some locally made toffee.

There’s also “to go” casseroles and salads in the refrigerator and some baked goods.

But the real draw is the hot lunch menu.  They are known for their hamburgers on sourdough buns that have frequently been included in Best Hamburger in Shreveport, even Best Hamburger in Louisiana lists. We went the other day. I was good and got the salad with chicken, Thankfully, my husband shared significant bites of his Friday special–hamburger steak, squash, braised cabbage (my favorite), sweet potatoes and homemade roll.

The new Gullo’s Fresh Produce has evening hours and and is open Sundays. And according to Gullos Facebook page, they are planning a  Gullo’s #2 in downtown Shreveport.