By Lindsay Courcelle
My year is split in two: for 26 weeks, my Saturdays are spent at the Rutland Downtown Farmers Market, which opens outdoors on Saturday May 9. We are lucky in Rutland to have a thriving Winter Farmers Market, and so for many customers, the move outdoors won’t change their weekend routine. For seasonal vendors, however, this weekend marks the start of the outdoor market season.
Sadly, there will be a few friendly faces missing this year, including Sue Katt from Two Dog Farm and Robin Taft Gordon from Pine Hollow Poultry. Returning to the summer market is Meadow Squier of Breezy Meadows Orchard and Nursery. Breezy Meadows is an established vendor at the Winter Market but will return to the outdoor market this year, where they first began their business. Meadow will sell organically raised eggs, goats milk soap, and other delicious and eclectic offerings.
Other new vendors are yet to be announced, as reported by the market managers who are hard at work finalizing the details. Rick Redington will be playing music, setting the scene for a perfect opening day where Rutland area residents and visitors can come together and celebrate the thriving agricultural scene. The forecast calls for temperatures near eighty degrees and partly cloudy skies, so wear your shorts and t-shirts. Finally, warm weather has arrived!
Returning vendors are likely to have new and exciting offerings this spring. Dutchess Farm will be selling a new line of garlic products including minced garlic, garlic flakes, and garlic powder. Dutchess’ garlic is some of the best around so these new items are sure to be a hit. Right Mind Farm will have new varieties of sprouts, ideal for sandwiches and salads and packed with nutrition.
Besides spring greens, watch for seasonal wild edibles like wild leeks and fiddleheads. Wild leeks, also known as ramps, grow abundantly in Vermont and are one of my favorite foods. I relish springtime when wild leeks can be added to just about anything I am eating, raw or cooked. They have a mild garlicky, onion taste and both the white stems and green leaves are delicious. Wild leeks grow in both forested areas and are prevalent along the banks of some rivers, like the Winooski, which the Abenaki named after the onion-like plants growing alongside it.
Fiddleheads are another spring delicacy. The unfurled leaves of the ostrich fern are harvested and can be eaten like a vegetable. They have a beautiful curled shape and are often sold in pint boxes. Fiddleheads can be steamed, lightly boiled, or sautéed, and are also delicious in a pickling brine.
Though ramps are delicious in any dish, used in the place of garlic or onion, here is a recipe that highlights them. The flavors of the ramps and cheese blend wonderfully to create a memorable dish you'll want to serve often.
Wild Leek Gratin
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
- 1 cup grated Gruyere or other cheese
- 1 1/2 pounds wild leeks, trimmed of roots
- Salt and freshly ground white pepper
- 1 cup heavy cream
Melt the butter in an ovenproof skillet. Add the breadcrumbs, tossing and toasting over high heat, stirring occasionally to prevent the butter from burning. Toast about two minutes, or until the toast is a light golden color.
Transfer to a plate. When cooled, toss with the cheese.
Turn on your broiler. Melt the remaining butter in the skillet until it just begins to brown. Add the ramps, facing them all in the same direction. Cook the ramps over high heat, turning occasionally, until they are limp and a light golden color.
Season with salt and pepper, add the cream, and bring to a simmer. This should take only about one minute. Remove the ramps from the heat. Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture over the top of the ramps in the skillet.
Set the skillet under the hot broiler for only about 30 seconds, or until they are bubbling and brown. Serve immediately.
Lindsay and her husband Scott own Alchemy Gardens, a vegetable farm selling through CSA and at the Rutland Farmers Market. Learn more at www.AlchemyGardensVT.com.