It's Thursday & that means another fantastic column from 'The Dish' contributor, Michele DeRossi!
If you’re like me, you’ve finally worked your way through the last of the Thanksgiving leftovers and you’re craving fresh, colorful ingredients and maybe thinking of adding some health benefits back into your diet. At least a little bit before the next round of holiday eating merriment begins… With that in mind, I headed to the Saratoga Farmer’s Market on Saturday at the Lincoln Baths, a one-stop shopping experience full of the freshest produce, local fresh meats and baked goods as well as hot, ready-made foods to stock up on. Our community is not only lucky to have a plethora of local produce, food and craft items to choose from, but we are also very fortunate to have the farmer’s market available all year round.
The Saratoga Farmer’s Market started in 1978 and has continued to grow and prosper in the community since, opening twice weekly in the summer months (May-October) at High Rock Park and occupying the Lincoln Baths on Saturdays in the winter months (November to April). The Saratoga Farmers’ Market Association runs local “producer-only” markets, a standard that requires vendors grow or produce their goods in Saratoga, Schenectady, Rensselaer, or Washington counties and ensures that products are fresh, providing economic, ecological, and social support to local communities.
For many, myself included, the market is just as much a place to buy groceries as it is a place to people-watch, make new friends, listen to local music and learn more about the food available to us and the people who grow and/or create it. I often like to take a cruise around the market, maybe treat myself to a half coffee/half Battenkill Valley Creamery chocolate milk, and take everything in before making some decisions. I don’t play favorites because I want to support all the vendors, so I mostly just go with the flow of the morning, following my senses to whatever suits my fancy, or the ingredient list of the recipe I’m looking to make.
The first stop I made on this visit was at Owl Wood Farm’s stand located just outside the doors of the Lincoln Baths. Always overflowing with the freshest produce, Owl Wood’s stand is also beautifully set up to show off all that it offers; today’s offerings included carrots, kale, onions, garlic, radishes, potatoes and more. Since I was planning a soup, I decided on a basket of the bright and sweet orange carrots and some smooth, green leeks to add delicate onion flavor. I couldn’t resist the stunning, colorful stalks and leaves of the swiss chard I saw as I was checking out and I was feeling like the more green in my diet, the better. Swiss chard, a nutritional powerhouse, is a relative of both the beet and of spinach and can be cooked much like any other leafy green, especially delicious when sautéed with garlic and lemon or, in this case, added to a brothy soup. Grown by Mark Bascom and Lindsay Fisk, all of Owl Wood Farm’s produce is Certified Naturally Grown (CNG) on one acre of farmland in Salem, New York. CNG is a grassroots program tailored for direct-market farmers who don’t use any synthetic herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, or genetically modified organisms. In addition to being CNG, Mark and Lindsay use bio-intensive techniques, compost and hand tools to harvest their produce and supply to multiple markets throughout the area. Owl Wood Farm also offers two excellent options for a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) in both the fall and the summer, giving affordable options for a weekly mixture of fresh, local produce that changes with the season. Check out their website (owlwood.weebly.com) for more information or stop by the market to inquire with Mark or Lindsay in person.
After bagging up my produce, I headed inside to peruse the other offerings of the market. Although I love the summer market because I can walk to High Rock Park from my house in the warm weather and I can’t get enough of the seasonal fresh blooms and bouquets, the winter market is charming in it’s own right. The Lincoln Baths is the perfect venue for the indoor market, it’s wide corridors are able to fit the large groups of people milling from vendor to vendor and the historical value and architecture of the building lend itself well to this weekly community event.
My next stop was my “bee guy”, otherwise known as Rick Green, of Ballston Lake Apiaries. Rick, a longtime staple at the market, is easily identified by his beekeepers hat and the stacks of wonderful bee products that he stands behind, all boasting bright yellow labels with black lettering. As a honey-lover, I can never resist stopping by this stand and perusing the various bottles of honey, raw cream to buckwheat, big jars to tiny honey bears, the bee pollen, the bee balm (which I gladly purchased this week for my dry winter-weather hands), and the beautiful golden honeycomb fresh from the hive. Rick has been in the bee business for over 30 years and tends to 160 hives in Ballston Lake that EACH house over 70,000 busy bees- that’s over 10 million bees. Rick couldn’t do the work he does, however, without his right-hand woman Norma Ross, who is in charge of all of the bottling that gets the product to the market. Speaking of those glass bottles, Rick will take them back when you have finished with them and recycles them- even offering a small deposit on the larger glass containers. Rick also offers some unique honey products including one of the newest additions to his line, an apple honey wine called Cyser, made from New York State ciders and his own honey. The wine is semi-sweet and similar to a Chardonnay, meant to be sipped like a traditional mead wine or cordial. On the savory side of the spectrum, Rick sells a genius combo concentrate of honey, balsamic vinegar and various spices- a delicious marinade, dressing or dip that can be used everywhere from adding some zest to your rice or quinoa to adding a savory element to your vanilla ice cream. If these ideas don’t suit you, Rick has plenty of others to suit your tastes, displayed on a board behind the product.
Not only can you feel good about visiting Rick and learning more about his bees but also, ingesting local honey and local bee pollen builds the immune system, helping to resist seasonal pollen allergies. To top it all off, the high levels of zinc and soothing flavor make honey a go-to addition to hot teas and, for an extra kick, hot toddies for those chilly winter evenings.
I hope to make it a point to visit and support all the vendors at the Saratoga Farmers Market to stock up on not only produce and honey but also cheeses, hummus, organic meats, pickles, kimchi, wine, maple syrup, fresh eggs and bread and much, much more. Supporting our local farmers and small business owners is a win-win for everyone. Carve out some time to grab a coffee, wander through the vendors and buy something, you’ll feel good about the food you eat and the people you support, even if you don’t feel so good on Saturday morning. I promise.
A few tips: Many vendors offer gift basket options or make your own with market goodies as the perfect gift for a friend or for the hostess at your next holiday party. It’s wise to bring a reusable bag and cash but if you can’t make it to the ATM before you go, visit the Market Shed information table to present your credit or debit card for market tokens accepted like cash by all vendors. Check out the market on Saturday’s from 9am-1pm at the Lincoln Baths (parking is free) just south of town at 65 South Broadway.