Some Late Spring Farmers Market Gems

{Today contributor Jesse Frost of Rough Draft Farmstead introduces us to some of the unusual items we might see at the market this time of year… And if you don’t see them at your market—ask a farmer! Always try new things and you might be surprised what seasonal items you end up looking forward to each year.}

Even without the tomatoes, peppers, squash and beans of summer, the bounty of late spring is diverse, exciting and prolific—especially if you know at what you’re looking. You might recognize the lettuce and green onions, radishes, turnips and spinach, but what in the world is a garlic scape? What do I do with kale flowers? We wanted to give you a list of items you may be seeing at your local farmer’s market this month—or receiving in your CSA basket—that might be a bit foreign, but that we hope to get you excited to try!

Lambsquarters:

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Gardeners will laugh, but they will also probably nod their heads in agreement. This plant is often considered a weed (as it thrives in disturbed soil), but is also said to be more nutritious than almost anything we farmers grow, high in several different vitamins and minerals, from Vitiman K and B12, to calcium and magnesium. Many refer to it as a superfood. Lambsquarters is also sometimes called wild spinach, as the leaves taste somewhat similar, but with a meatier taste and texture. Raw or cooked, use them almost anywhere you would use spinach. And feel free to use the stem as well—it takes longer to cook, but is entirely edible!

Duck Eggs:

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If you are an omelet fan, do not deny yourself this treat. Ducks tend to lay vigorously this time of year and their eggs—richer and larger than chicken eggs—can be extremely tasty. Use them anywhere you might use a chicken egg, though I usually consider them to be 1 1/2 chicken eggs if needed in a recipe. Duck egg chocolate mousse anyone?

Garlic Scapes:

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Hard-neck garlic puts up a flower in the late spring, and many gardeners prefer to pick that flower off so that plant will put its energy into making a large bulb. Then most gardeners proceed to cook and eat the young flower, stem and all. Often referred to as a “garlic scape” or “pigtail,”  these twisty treats can be used in place of green onions, and lend a slight garlic flavor to dishes. For me, garlic scapes are the main ingredient in my hot sauce, as I lacto-ferment them for a couple months, add hot peppers, blend in a food processor, then eat on practically everything.

Kale Flowers:

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If you’re as big of kale fans as we are, I have some good news and some bad. Kale is not a fan of the summer heat, and is hard to keep around as it goes to flower (or gets eaten alive by cabbage worms). The good news, however, is those flowers are delicious. Like tiny broccoli heads, they can be used in a stir-frys or mixed with eggs (perhaps in your duck egg omelet!). On our farm we really enjoy simply steaming them with a bit of fresh butter, then serving as a side dish.

If perhaps you haven’t been seeing any of this at your market, just ask your farmer if they have any they could bring you—they will no doubt love you for asking them to bring weeds and flowers! Any fun recipes you have including these lesser-known gems, or any other interesting items you’re seeing at the market, please feel free to share them below. Also, if you have any questions about what you’re finding at your markets or in your CSA baskets, please don’t hesitate to send them along—we’d be happy to help you navigate the season!

 

 

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Author:Jesse Frost

Although born in Colorado, Jesse spent his formative years in Richmond, Kentucky. After high school he received an opportunity to cook at Le Relais Restaurant in Louisville under Chef Daniel Stage where he spent two years learning the importance of local produce before moving to New York City. While there, Jesse found himself managing a small wine shop in lower Manhattan. Specializing predominantly in organic, biodynamic, and sustainably-produced wines, he discovered a fondness for natural fermentation and farming. After four years, he left the city and returned to Kentucky. A two-season internship at a small farm in Southern Kentucky called Bugtussle introduced him to farming, his first ferments, and a wonderful lady. He now runs Rough Draft Farmstead with his wife Hannah in Danville, and you can read their blog and follow their story at roughdraftfarmstead.com. Jesse is also available for speaking engagements and seminars on gardening, starting small farms, and fermentation.

One Response to “Some Late Spring Farmers Market Gems”

  1. July 18, 2014 at 11:53 am #

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