Farmers markets are friendly places where people strike up conversations with random strangers, usually centered around food or the uncooperative weather. My two favorite questions, for example, are "What are you buying today?" and "Ooh! How are you going to prepare that?" So naturally, when I saw a woman scooping up those teeny, skinny, red Thai chiles at the Hedlin Family Farms stand, I had to ask.
UrbanFarmJunkie (UFJ): Ooh! What are you going to do with those?
HotChileMama(HCM): [looks suspiciously at UFJ] They're for sauce.
UFJ: What kind of sauce?
HCM: Asian sauce.
UFJ: You mean, for dipping?
HCM: [frowns like UFJ has implied something inappropriate] Sauce.
UFJ: Oh. Sauce. How many peppers would you use in the sauce? Aren't they hot?
HCM: I use about half a chile pepper in a stir-fry for two people.
UFJ: [all confused now, since she thought they were talking about sauce] Oh! But if you only use 1/2 a pepper in a stir-fry, what will you do will all the other ones you're buying?
HCM: [wonders if everyone at the Market is this thick-headed] They're for sauce.
UFJ: [in a last-ditch effort to salvage the situation, points to some turnips] That's great. And what will you do with these?
HCM: Those aren't mine. [Walks away]
End of conversation.
I had a little more success chatting up Kai, a "Hedlin by blood" (his mom was a Hedlin). If you've been wondering where Kai has been on Thursdays, it turns out the farmers in Skagit run a little wholesale Thursday morning market for restaurants. Seattle's Flying Fish restaurant even drives up to get their hands on fresh Hedlin produce! And by the time the wholesale market wraps up, the truck for the BFM has already headed down in Leslie's care.
Hedlin farms 400 acres, of which fifty are devoted to fresh market produce. If you're curious what on earth they do with the other 350, Kai reports that much of it is planted with organic "green chop" and corn for silage. Since he already saw me looking like an idiot about the chile sauce, I asked him flat-out what green chop was: forage that they harvest and feed "wet" to livestock. This all goes to one Organic Valley dairy farmer and probably straight into the milk my family drinks. Amazing!
In the interest of diversifying, Hedlin also raises seed for cabbage and beets and spinach and grows ornamental pumpkins. The acres are rotated every three years between green chop and vegetables to replenish the soil and fight pests and such.
And while the turnips may not have been to the Hot Chile Mama's taste--we can eliminate them from the secret ingredients in The Sauce--Kai enjoys them sliced raw, with the greens served under eggs-over-easy, with just enough heat to wilt them. Splash on a little balsamic vinegar, and you're set. No mystery there.