Thursday, June 16, 2011

A Trip to the Olney Farmers Market and the Season's First Canning

Music at the Olney Farmers Market
A few weeks ago, a friend of mine invited me to accompany her to the Olney Farmers Market. This Sunday morning market boasts live music and cooking demonstrations, with a location not too far outside of Washington, D.C.  I am hoping to visit a variety of markets in the area this Summer to see what is out there. The Olney market is larger than the Westminster market I'm used to, for sure. In addition to produce, there are vendors for a variety of ethnic foods, olive oil, bread, super-fancy baklava, and a handful of other handmade items. It has a nice vibe to it. The location is larger than Westminster, and on a nice green area. The music was good, and the Indian curry I had was outstanding. My friend's mother watched a bit of the cooking demonstration, and was impressed by the chef. All of those extras really provide a lot of life to the market and entice people to stay a bit longer. I even ran into friends I hadn't seen in a long time, who encouraged me to buy some of the bread. Zeke's Coffee vends there, as well, which was a yummy surprise.

I was less impressed by the produce vendors.There were only two local organic farms at the market that day and two or three large farms from Virginia, which were conventional. I was surprised to find this and disappointed, given the proximity to D.C. Doing more web investigating, it looks like the Olney market does indeed have a larger set of local farms, including Kayam, a Jewish organic farm near Finksburg. I think it was just too early in the season, and so they were not there. I'll have to check the market again at the height of the season and see what it is like.

The cooking demo at the Olney market - you can see the market in background

I did buy spinach from the organic Sligo Creek Farm and I really wanted to buy garlic from another small vendor, AvianMead Produce, but they were sold out. Both farms are in Brookeville, Md. Sligo Creek looks like a great place to try and visit -- 12 acres is farmed on the 140-acre property. I was very impressed with their salad greens. According to their information sheet, they also sell at the Crossroads Farmers Market in Takoma Park on Wednesdays (3-7pm) and Silver Spring Market on Saturday mornings.

There was also nice cheese from Palmyra Farm near Hagerstown. Like Bowling Green Farm nearby in Howard County, Palmyra Farm is a dairy farm that had decided to reinvent itself as a cheese company in order to sustain its business. Most cheese from Maryland is made in Pennsylvania, but Palmyra has hooked up with a cheesemaker in Hagerstown to produce their cheeses.  Palmyra is also selling at several local restaurants and markets, including the Common Market in Frederick.

Prepping the strawberry haul for freezing - sugar helps preserve taste and texture

On the way home from that outing, we decided to stop by TLV Tree Farm, in Glenelg, Md. on the chance that they still had some strawberries to be picked. I had picked there on Memorial Day weekend this year and found the picking slim, so our hopes weren't too high. Lucky for us, the picking was great and the strawberries sweet and juicy. TLV uses Integrated Pest Management (IPM) on their farm. We ended up picking probably six quarts or so, enough to make a strawberry tiramisu-like dessert - our standy favourite - and freeze some. This week, I converted about six cups of the frozen strawberry slices and some fresh rhubarb into jam. In a total of 45 minutes, I had 8 jars of strawberry-rhubarb jam. Every two weeks, in about 30 minutes, I make two quarts of whole milk plain yogurt for the family. Throughout the year, we mix in various jams and jellies, either made or acquired, to create our fruit flavored yogurts. This is actually the first year making strawberry jam for us, but it turned out most excellent.

This post is part of the Real Food Wednesday and Simple Lives Thursday blogrolls. Please check them out and their host sites for what's going on across the country and internationally in the Real Food world.

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