Bellevue Farmers Market

Market Season Resolutions for 2017

Oh, goody goody! At long last, the Bellevue Farmers Market opens for the season this Thursday, May 18, at 3pm. Let the fresh, local feasting begin, accompanied by live music and friendly faces!

This year I hope you'll join me in making some Market Season Resolutions:

  • Over the course of the season, try something from every single vendor and farmer. I'm actually thinking of making myself a little spreadsheet of our vendors' names. My husband used to frequent the now-closed Tap House in Bellevue, and they offered a punch card listing every single beer they had on tap. I guess even beer lovers need motivation to branch out. I'm betting even the other regulars haven't hit every stand. I'm guessing I regularly buy from about 20% of the offerings. Not this year!
     
  • Try a new variety of something familiar.

 

Yes, that's Jalapeno Tuna, second from the top

Yes, that's Jalapeno Tuna, second from the top

Today I finally opened up a can of the St. Jude's Jalapeno Tuna that I bought last October. How boring I am, that I always make my tuna salad with "Original" variety? Then it occurred to me: instead of making my tuna melts with plain tuna and Pepper Jack cheese, why not use a tuna with kick and a plain (Dubliner) cheddar? St. Jude's doesn't settle for some chemistry-lab "natural jalapeno flavor," either. Inside the can was jalapeno pulp--seeds and all (I scooped out some of the seeds, since my husband doesn't like things too spicy).

 

Ye Newe Jalapeno Tuna Melt with Cucumber

Ye Newe Jalapeno Tuna Melt with Cucumber

Given how tasty this new variety was, I added the "try a new variety" resolution to the list.

  • And lastly, try something entirely entirely new. Is this the year you finally ask how to prepare fiddlehead ferns? Eggplant? That one chile pepper which you don't know the name of? Something pickled? Ask your farmer what to do with it. Or ask that other person reaching for it.

Whatever you do, Market season is upon us--resolve to get yourself there!

Top 10 Reasons to Support Your Bellevue Farmers Market in 2017

Two weeks to Bellevue Farmers Market's Opening Day, people! And, if your anticipation hasn't been building, I'm here to give it a boost.

"We have great grocery stores in Bellevue," you say. "Why would I bother to make an extra trip to a farmers market?"

I've got ten reasons for you (not counting those Market flowers pictured above):

  1. FOSTER CROP DIVERSITY. I'm currently reading this fascinating book, which I'll post about next week when I finish, about the perils of our monocultural worldwide food supply. "In 2016...80% of the calories consumed by humans came from just twelve species and 90% from fifteen species" (Never Out of Season, p3). Why is that a problem? Think Irish Potato Famine. Our worldwide food supply is vulnerable to disease and pathogens, since we generally mass-grow just one variety of things. Not at the farmers market! Our farmers cultivate multiple varieties of familiar and less familiar fruits and vegetables, and, as a result, they take greater advantage of the entire growing season and reduce the harvest vulnerability. More genetic diversity = more robust food supply.
  2. BRANCH OUT, FOOD-WISE. Speaking of fostering diversity, we tend to get in ruts, food-wise. At the restaurant we always order the same thing. We eat the same thing for breakfast and lunch every day, and rotate among seven dishes for dinners. Hey, the time will come when our taste buds wither, and we have to dump more and more salt on food to make it taste like anything, even if we still have the teeth to chew it up--let's make the most of our food-is-glorious window! At the Market, not only can we buy foods outside our eating ruts, but we can ask the farmers and other people we see buying that food how they like to prepare it. When's the last time you whipped up some pea vines? Kabocha squash? Fiddlehead ferns?
  3. DISCOVER THAT FOOD ACTUALLY HAS FLAVOR. Recently my daughter brought home a dozen red roses she'd gotten along with an invitation to prom. "Too bad they don't smell like anything," she said. That was when I explained to her that plenty of roses actually do smell like something, but ones that have been bred for mass-production were chosen for color and hardiness, not fragrance. The same thing happens to our food. In order to make fruits and vegetables survive the journey from field to table, often crossing thousands of miles, farmers bred for looks and durability, not flavor. You can't say you don't like a certain fruit or vegetable if you haven't actually tasted one. A real one. Not its storebought counterpart.
  4. SWAP YOUR DIET, SWAP YOUR CANCER RISK. Did you know South Africans on a traditional diet rarely have colon polyps? Why do Americans accept them as normal and just cross their fingers, hoping none of them get out of control? This Forbes article talks about our fiber-less American diet and its repercussions. Seriously. Eat more fruits and vegetables. And not processed ones. Fresh ones (or frozen). Fiber, fiber, fiber.
  5. MAKE YOUR KIDS LESS "CORNY." According to Never Out of Season and The Omnivore's Dilemma, we eat a lot of corn in North America. Not the on-the-cob kind, dripping with butter, but rather corn products. "In North America, more than half the carbon in the average child's body comes from corn--corn syrup, cornflakes, cornbread" (Never Out of Season, p.4). Lots and lots of corn syrup. Not to mention, our meat is often corn-fed. Skip the processed foods and feed your kids something fresh and whole, including grass-fed meat.
  6. CONJUGATE THAT LINOLEIC ACID. Speaking of pastured, did you know that even buying organic dairy doesn't guarantee the cows were sufficiently pastured? Check out this recent Washington Post article on some big organic dairy suppliers skimping on the requirements. The result? A nutritional profile to their milk more in line with conventional than pastured. I was bummed to see how mediocre-ly even Organic Valley scored. So ask our dairy farmers at the Market how much pasture their cows see!
  7. FIGHT AGING AND DISEASE--EAT FARM-FRESH EGGS. After getting a bad cholesterol rap for decades, eggs are back on the menu, and now eating an egg a day might have beneficial effects. But don't just eat any eggs--you want eggs from chickens who strut around on grass, supplementing their chicken feed with bugs and worms. You want eggs with thick whites and orange-y yolks. You want Market eggs.
  8. FIGURE OUT THAT "HOMEMADE" IS BETTER THAN PROCESSED. Once a month I participate in a church potluck, and it makes me frantic that the teenagers will reach for the uniform, processed desserts, rather than the irregular, homemade ones. Eek! It all goes back to not knowing what real food can taste like. The Market offers great ingredients for making your own goodies, as well as offerings lovingly prepared by artisan bakers and candy-makers and ice-creamers. If you're going to spend your calorie allowance, by all means make it count.
  9. PUT MONEY BACK IN YOUR OWN POCKET. Buying from our local farmers keeps the money circulating in our local economy and in our state. And our healthy economy is one of the reasons we live in such a great place!
  10. LIVE LONGER IN OUR GREAT PLACE. I bet physical therapists have a name for the posture and neck problems of people who spend 80% of the day staring at computer screens and their phones. Not only do we suffer aches and pains, but we actually shorten our lives because it's the face-to-face interactions that impact longevity, healthfulness, and general well-being. Befriend the farmers you meet at the Market. Make dates to meet your friends or significant others there for dinner and live music. Replace one texting exchange with a live-and-in-person encounter. You'll be happy you did, and you'll live longer to be happy about it.

 

Says who? Says Susan Pinker. Who, I'm positive, would love the Bellevue Farmers Market.

Says who? Says Susan Pinker. Who, I'm positive, would love the Bellevue Farmers Market.

There's No Place Like Home(made)

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Right here, right now. This is the moment, folks. If you're at all interested in fresh, perfect, and local--if you ever try your hand at cooking, or even if you open packages, combine them with other opened packages, and call it "home-cooked," now is the time to hit the Market and experience genuine food at its peak.

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Put down the crappy, storebought tomato and make yourself a real Caprese salad.

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This time of year, there is no excuse for sub-par food!

After running out of a friend's homemade jams and my mother-in-law's specialty strawberry freezer jam, we were reduced to trying various storebought varieties, with pretty mediocre results. (How can something look like apricot jam, be called apricot jam, cost like apricot jam, and still be so flavorless???) I'm happy to report that the local fruit came in, and we've restocked.

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We're only waiting on the freestone peaches to hit before my husband puts by our winter-load of peach pies. The blueberries are done and frozen.

Corn, sausages to grill, potatoes and onions, cheese, fruit...all the fixings of a quintessential summer meal are waiting for you this week at the Market. Find yourself half an hour to drop by and find yourself in summer food heaven.

Egg Lovers, Unite!

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While chatting with a friend the other day, she mentioned a vegan chef she knew who was responsible for family meals. Meaning he, the wife, and the kids all ate vegan by default. And I think that, definitely, if someone in the family is going to go vegan or Paleo or gluten-free or what-have-you, it had better be the family chef. The family chef can impose his or her food agenda on everyone with the least pain involved. Ask my kids, who groan whenever I mention some new nutritional tidbit I've learned, which might adversely impact their favorite foods. If anyone in my family is in danger of going vegan, it's my youngest. Not only is she an animal lover, but she naturally dislikes cheese and eggs served on their own. I'm banking on her unflagging love for bacon and club sandwiches to keep her in the omnivore column, lest mealtimes get more complicated around here. Because the rest of us love not only meat, but cheese and milk and eggs.

But let me be clear. By "eggs" I mean real eggs. I don't raise chickens (the volumes of poop scared me off when I was considering it), but I do fork out extra money for better eggs. When the Market is going, I buy from our various farmers. And when it's not...

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When it's not, I fork out for the most farmers-market-like eggs I can buy at the grocery store. Just check out the difference in those yolks! As Deborah Madison says in my well-thumbed Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone,

The color of the yolks reflects what chickens have been eating. Chickens I've known that peck at this kernel of corn and that fresh green plant, bug or blossom as they wander over the yard have eggs with bright yellow yolks...While organically raised food is always preferable to use, it's especially important with eggs. Those that come from chickens that aren't crammed into small cages and given boosters of hormones to encourage laying and antibiotics to compensate for the disease crowding fosters are simply better all around. They look lively and healthy, the yolks are bright yellow, and the chickens who laid them are healthier, too.

To this I would add that the best eggs have thicker egg whites. When you crack one in a frying pan, the egg white doesn't immediately flow all over, as if it were water. Now, in the picture above, I bought Stiebrs eggs from Whole Foods, which receive a good score on the humane side of the things, but those chickens are clearly not enjoying the varied diet of the one who laid the orange-yolked egg. And when I boiled up the Stiebrs eggs to serve in a Chinese Beef Stew dish, my son demanded, "What's wrong with the eggs? They're all pale and they don't taste as good."

All of which is to say, in the Market off-season I've been buying these puppies:

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Yes, I know a chunk of my money is going to the beautiful packaging and the wee "newspaper" they enclose, but the eggs really are quite good. The egg whites may not be as cohesive as Market eggs, but the yolks are beautiful and flavorful, and I haven't found a better alternative on the store shelves. Some time ago I posted on the benefits of pastured eggs, which you may want to read about here. Better looking, better tasting, and better for you.

As you know, good ingredients make for good food. Check out this challah I made for my book club, a traditional Jewish egg bread in honor of Judy Blume's In the Unlikely Event (another book club member brought bananas, since one of the characters ends up in a mental hospital).

You'll want good eggs for this one

Eggs do good service in our baked goods, adding structure, color, and flavor, and helping with emulsification and the attractive browning. But even just served as themselves, eggs are great sources of "solid nourishment at modest cost in a form that can be used simply and quickly" (more Deborah Madison). Egg-lovers need no encouragement, but for my youngest I find that she'll eat scrambled eggs if they're accompanied by salsa, and occasionally I can get her to have a "Chinese fried egg," which is just a fried egg sprinkled with soy sauce and about 1/8 tsp sugar while it's being cooked.

I'm pretty sure I could be a weekday vegetarian, if necessary, but my dozen eggs might have to be pried out of my cold, lifeless hands before I gave them up.

Five Things I Love about the New Market Website

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Congratulations! If you’re reading this, it means you’ve discovered the new market website, as well as the new location for my UrbanFarmJunkie blog—on the revamped Bellevue Farmers Market website. Now it looks like I’m actually affiliated with the Market, and not just some random Market junkie writing fanfiction over on Blogger. My new home would be Thing #1 I love about the new website. But there's plenty more!

Thing #2 to love: The nice, simple, navigable layout. Market Opening Day? It's there. Hours? Yep. Map? Check.

Thing #3: to love The Vendor list, by category. This might actually be Thing #1 that I love. Much easier to consult when you’re thinking, “What was the name of that booth where I bought the sausages..?” I also love how the vendor name includes a link to their individual website, if they have one.

Thing #4 to love: A place to donate in support of the Market. So say you can’t volunteer, but you’d love to show your appreciation for our farmers and vendors and organizers’ dedication to fresh, local food. We do this by coming to the Market and buying yummies, of course, but we can now also make direct, tax-deductible donations here. And donors who give $50 or more receive a copy of the beautiful Bellevue Farmers Market cookbook.

Thing #5 to love: Did you check out the Poster page yet? The Bellevue Farmers Market has enjoyed some beautiful artwork and design over the years, and you can revisit past posters here.

Our web guy has kindly imported past UrbanFarmJunkie posts to the new site, so bear with me while I learn how to use the bells and whistles of WordPress!

Looking forward to another Market season, right around the corner. In the meantime, check back here or subscribe to keep up with my latest findings on good food, healthy eating, recipes, and food-related book reviews.