Eating-up Stratford
Bite by Byte

Friday, June 25, 2010

Salad Days at the Midweek Stratford Farmers' Market

Homer Simpson once led a conga line to the catchy tune:
"You can't make friends with SA-LAD!"

Today at the Midweek Stratford Farmers' Market, I proved him wrong!

The Stratford Agricultural Society has been running the market in Stratford since way back in '55. That's 1855, which makes it one of the longest-running markets in the province. Today, the market takes place year-round at the impressive Stratford Agriplex on Saturday mornings from 7 am until noon, and as of June 16 a midweek market is being held every Wednesday from 3 pm to 7 pm.

This past Wednesday, I officially launched the summer salad season with a personal challenge: to assemble a kick-ass salad using ingredients purchased from all of the veggie vendors in attendance that day.

But first I ran into Judy Burns, the Chairperson of the Market Committee, who told me that the midweek market was ideal for those who couldn't make it to the weekend market, "A lot of people have to work on Saturday." She told me she was looking forward to the progression of the growing season, because as more produce comes out of the ground even more vendors will be attending the Wednesday market.
One vendor who you will only find here on Wednesdays is Pam Rogers from Kawthoolei Farm (aka "The Sprouts Lady"). She supplied my Farmers' Market salad with some crunchy lentil sprouts and some alfalfa sprouts sprinkled with spicy daikon radish sprouts. What I like about buying food from Pam is that I know her market efforts support a worthy cause: for ten years she has worked with Burmese refugees in Thailand offering substance abuse recovery services (for more info check out the Friends of DARE Network website).
Next it was over to the Meeting Place Organic Farm booth, where Katrina McQuail expressed a practical appreciation of the midweek market, "Farmers have to harvest more than once a week, so it's really brilliant!" I picked up some crisp green snow peas for my salad, and also enjoyed a little sample of her delicious Apple Jam.
It just being early summer, I didn't have high hopes for much selection along the line of tomatoes. Boy was I impressed when I encountered a veritable rainbow of local hothouse produce on offer by Theresa at the Red Barn market stand! I got one each of red, yellow and orange tomatoes, and my salad was suddenly bursting in technicolour!
Next it was over to the Windy Lane Acres stall, where I grabbed some outstanding fresh broccoli and a bright red bunch of radishes, both of which I was assured were "Just picked!"
I was again pleasantly surprised by an unexpected presence at Wednesday's market: the first new potatoes of the year, courtesy of Thames River Melons! I also grabbed a bunch of asparagus from them... and this salad just took a bit of a Nicoise twist!

My favourite dressing this time of year is a strawberry vinaigrette (see recipe at bottom), so I grabbed a quart of strawberries from a friendly (but camera-shy) Mennonite vendor (Perth County tip: if you want pesticide-free organic berries without paying the 'certified organic' price, always look for the Mennonites!).

Mickey McGuire's cheese stand was out of the local buffalo mozzarella they usually have on offer (I'll have to come back on Saturday for that), but some Quebec blue cheese promised to add some stinky-tang to the ultra-fresh medley I was composing. I grabbed some lovely early beets from Logan Produce (which have the added bonus of the beet tops for my salad), and a Jonna Gold apple from Vernon Orchards, and my salad was just about complete...

Except I'd forgot the most important part - the greens! I came back full circle, as I returned to my old friend Pam Rogers for her Mesculin mix.
After assembling what was almost certainly the best salad I've ever had, all I have to say to Homer Simpson is:

You CAN make friends with SA-LAD!

Strawberry Vinaigrette:
1 cup Strawberries (washed, hulled & sliced)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh basil (I got that from my own garden)
1 tablespoon water
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch black pepper

Blend until smooth and enjoy over some summer veggies from the Stratford Farmers' Market!

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