Stepping into the center of a new farmers market for the first time can feel overwhelming. Depending on the number of vendors and the layout, it can resemble an intermediate-level maze. Between the crowds, unpleasant weather and lack of maps or signage, knowing where to start and what to buy can seem daunting.
Approaching the potential chaos of a farmers market with a loose game-plan and a little organization helps to create a much more enjoyable shopping experience: spend a few minutes researching what’s in season in your area and how to make use of these items in recipes that appeal to you and your family.
Upon first arriving at a new market, I take a deep breathe in, let it out, and just begin walking. I generally do a lap around the perimeter and take note of what is being offered. Perhaps there are multiple vendors selling the same products, in this case I will jot down some prices or names of which farms have what. You may begin to develop relationships with farmers and vendors, allowing for a much more familiar experience. Farmers are knowledgeable and happy to assist you with your inquiries and purchases. They may have recipe suggestions, storing recommendations or information about next week’s selection so that you can do a little preplanning for the following week. Frequenting the same location is a great way to build up your confidence and comfortability with the market experience. After a few visits, the hustle and bustle will feel less intimidating.
Although there are a few farmers markets close to my home on the south shore that I generally attend, I do enjoy exploring new markets when timing permits. This past week I happened to be in Milton, MA, and I made my way to the farmers market on Wharf Street. With 16 vendors arranged in a simple circle, the Milton farmers market was approachable and easy to navigate. The weather was pleasant, and the crowd was minimal. Seated in the center of the circle were two elderly gentlemen plucking away on string instruments, allowing for a multi-sensory experience that was wonderful.
As I neared the end of my first lap, my eye caught the familiar red of a ripe strawberry, and I made a beeline for the Sunshine Farm stand. Continuing around the ring for a second time, I noticed a familiar vendor: Foxboro Cheese Co. Their cheeses are delicious, and Melissa, the cheesemaker, is so passionate about her work that you can taste it. Obviously, I took my time to sample a few different varieties, because who turns down free cheese?
This Spinach, Strawberry and Feta Salad is a simple and easy recipe with room for many variations, depending on your preferences and what’s available at your local market. Try different greens such as kale or romaine, different fruits such as blueberries or peaches, or different cheeses such as gorgonzola or parmesan. Don’t care for red wine vinegar? Try balsamic or apple cider. Raw garlic too intense for your liking? Try shallots for a more mild flavor. Instead of honey, try maple syrup. Use ingredients that you enjoy, trust your instincts and always taste as you go. Regardless of which variation you attempt, this healthy and refreshing salad will surely please your palate!
Spinach, Strawberry and Feta Salad with Homemade Honey Garlic Dressing
Makes four servings
Total time: 10 minutes
In My Basket:
6 cups of fresh Spinach (from Sunshine Farm, Sherborn MA)
3 cups of Strawberries (from Sunshine Farm, Sherborn MA)
2 cups of Feta Cheese (from Foxboro Cheese Co., Foxboro MA)
6 tbsp Olive Oil (from Brattleboro Food Co-Op, Brattleboro VT)
2 tbsp Red Wine Vinegar (from Brattleboro Food Co-Op, Brattleboro VT)
1 tbsp Honey (from Brattleboro Food Co-Op, Brattleboro VT)
From the Pantry:
1-2 cloves Garlic
Salt and Pepper to taste
- Finely chop garlic.
- Mix garlic in a small bowl with olive oil, vinegar and honey. Salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
- Wash and dry spinach. Chop or rip into bite size pieces. Add to a separate bowl.
- Wash and dry strawberries. Slice, or chop if you prefer, and place on top of spinach.
- Crumble or cube feta to your liking and place on top of spinach and strawberries.
- Add dressing just before serving and toss.
- Dig in! And remember, when you get to the hard part, that’s the plate.
Jessica Ann Mandelbaum has been eating her way around New England for the past four years. With a BA in Anthropology, and her current work towards a MA in Gastronomy, she offers a distinct and eclectic perspective. When Jessica’s not writing about the multi-sensory perception of flavor or force-feeding loved ones her various kitchen creations, she can be found practicing yoga, gardening, reading, hiking, or spending quality time with her dog-daughter.