by April Guilbault
The clouds rumbled and rain threatened….but then, like magic, both disappeared and all was well for the Opening Day of the ever-popular Westport Farmers’ Market. Sun shone, folks ambled in and a veritable party was had on the blacktop among the veggies…and breads…and pizzas…and flowers! Oh my!
Local, sustainable and, in many cases, organic and GMO-free are the name of the game here. At the market, you can talk with the farmers, show your support, endorse a growing movement and, in return, leave with a armful of healthy and fabulous goods for your table and your garden.
Among the many vendors (23 regular and 16 rotating), you will find everything from grass-fed beef and delicate cheeses to fresh flowers, herbs and rustic breads. A great many of these purveyors are organic and offer a treasure-trove of wonderful edibles.
Ox Hollow Farm (Roxbury) offers all-natural, pasture-raised beef, pork, and chicken. “We love our animals!”, they say, and it is reflected in the quality of the meat. Sausages, steaks, hot dogs, roasts, chops, ribs, bacon (maple cinnamon bacon, anyone?) top their “menu” all the way down to more unusual parts such as hearts, kidneys and tongue.
Sport Hill Farm (Easton) was brimming with greens, after all, early spring is the “Green Season” says farmer Patti Popp, who wore a tee-shirt emblazoned with the words “Hardcore Locavore” to set the tone for the day. Fresh eggs, Happy Rich (aka Asian broccoli, which disappeared oh-so-quickly), chard and collardtransplants, bok choy and other GMO-free greens overflowed the boxes at her stand. “Adjust your expectations” of farms and be prepared to “eat seasonally” and you will be happy, Popp says!
Local from the peppers to the sea salt harvested in the Hamptons on Long Island, Connecticutly Grown Hoardable Hot Sauces have developed a cult following. “Cruel and Unusual Punishment” sauce proves to be tingly and fiery but enjoyable and is a great seller as a hostess gift during barbeque season. Be sure to also try the Green Pepper and Red Pepper sauces, which are great on grilled veggies, cheeseburgers or mixed with sour cream for an easy and delicious dip.
Having expanded their stand and added an extra checkout station, Fort Hill Farm (New Milford) is ready for a great market season with their customer’s convenience in mind. Mountains of fresh, bold spinach, vibrant globes of radishes, piles of bright green scallions looking like stacked brooms waited under their tents. Add to that, gorgeous firework-like dahlia plants, herbs and vegetable plants (including kale!) and planters of herbs…it was hard to choose what to purchase. Have you tried Tatsoi? You’ll like this nutty, buttery green.
Using local ingredients (ie. butter and spelt berries from various farms in NY State) and non-GMO cornmeal, Wave Hill Breads (Norwalk) loaves and rolls are hearty, mouthwatering and almost a meal unto themselves. Try their 3-Grain Olive and Roasted Red Pepper Ciabatta split, grilled and filled with veggies for your next summer picnic. Or try their croutons on your salads or cubed bread for a sumptuous bread pudding. Happy, happy!
Kaia Cafe (Westport and Greenwich) is an organic health cafe, yoga studio and health food store. At the market they offer a variety of pressed juices for sipping or cleansing (try the watermelon lemonade which makes delicious ice pops!), wraps and greens, all GMO-free and organic, as their sign proudly states.
At Riverbank Farm (Roxbury), the French breakfast radishes beckoned to enter their vegetable stall, with their dip-dyed fuschia color singing out loud. A haul of certified organic veggies, foods and vegetable plants overflow here…salad mixes, chard, kale, potatoes….brandywine, zebra and cherokee purple tomato plants…hummus, pesto and an appetizing Spring Energy Salad of chick peas, kale, and pumpkin seeds were ready to take home and enjoy.
Grab a jar of pickled ramps at Sugar and Olives (Norwalk), those forager’s-gold-star-find, and use to top your favorite summer sandwich! Your sandwich and mouth will both thank you. And while you are at it, grab some homemade, GMO-free “oreos”, fabulously stamped with the words “Love Local”. What a picnic you will have.
Beltane Farms (Lebanon, CT) makes a goat’s milk ricotta salata lovingly called the “desert island cheese” by one of the employees, for if she was shipped to a desert island, this is all she would choose to take with her. Can’t get better than that review! Be sure to also try the fresh
Greens and mushrooms, hydroponically, aquaponically or greenhouse grown, feature prominently at Two Guys from Woodbridge (Hamden). Try their lettuce bouquets, in which several types of greens are grown together in a single bunch. There’s something to bring your darling! Then, sprinkle some of their edible flowers on that salad. Here’s something unusual….for when you have a toothache, munch on a Szechuan Button (flower), which believe it or not, is a natural analgesic.
A new addition to the market this year, butcher Saugatuck Craft Butchery (Westport) offers a wealth of pasture-raised, organic meats. Their beef, pork, lamb and poultry products are sourced from New York and Connecticut family farms and every part of the animal is utilized, in keeping with their nose-to-tail philosophy. Keep a watch out this summer, too, as they will be moving their current storefront (in Westport) across the street and expanding, both in size and offerings. More prepared foods and outdoor seating will become available, allowing us to enjoy them more, from nose-to-tail.
USDA Certified Organic Maple Syrup from Doc’s Maple Syrup (Woodhull, NY) is made from maple sap collected and evaporated using the traditional wood-fired method to produce a naturally sweet and complex product. Use it on your breakfast pancakes or cook with it….why use white sugar when maple syrup can be substituted and has a wealth of essential minerals? The family- run business producing this amber delight also offers maple wood cutting boards and the combo makes a great hostess gift for your summer travels. Doc’s will only be at the market about six times this summer (consult their website for dates) so make sure you get some when you see them! Don’t miss their maple-lemon shave ice – a refreshing treat available on the hottest summer days.
April Guilbault is a graphic artist and illustrator turned freelance writer and blogger. After studying Communication Design at Syracuse University, she went on to work at NBC in Chicago and New York as a graphic designer on such shows as NBC Nightly News and The Rosie O’Donnell Show, which earned her several Emmy awards. These days she focuses on a new-to-her variety of creativity…words and writing. Her blog www.DailyFrosting.com is a daily pursuit covering all aspects of enhancing one’s life, namely focusing on the little things that make it worthwhile. Humor, recipes and observances rule the day. She is currently also a contributing writer to the FC Beat magazine, The Cupboard Magazine and www.CTbites.com