Today was opening day for the Michigan City’s Farmer’s Market. It was my first time to visit that particular market. The weather was glorious — sunny and mild after a very cool and rainy week.
The market reminded me why I would want to buy local even if the food didn’t taste better (though it does taste so much better) and if I didn’t believe the food to be safer and more nutritious (which I do).
The market was filled with people catching up after not seeing each other during the winter. I even observed a few hugs being exchanged.
There were several folks selling herbs, vegetable, and flowering plants. There were a couple vendors with baked goods and a handful with asparagus, fresh eggs and rhubarb. A couple had fresh greens and one had garlic ramps and some fresh herbs. For right at $20, my purchases for the day included: a log of Capriole goat cheese, a gallon bag of baby spinach, garlic ramps, fresh parsley, three bunches of asparagus, a dozen colorful eggs, and two dollars worth of fragrant beauty in the form of these lovely lilacs.
Back to why I like farmer’s markets so much. They are about connection and community. Several people asked to smell the lilacs I was carrying. I found a vendor who will happily recycle my empty egg cartons and another who can use a stack of empty nursery pots I have sitting in the garage. I left the market filled with joy and wonder and a deep sense of enchantment. I can’t say that supermarkets have that effect.
My next stop was Garwood Orchard which opened for the season last week. Garwood Orchards has been a family run business since 1831 and has a variety of Indiana products, plants, basked goods, and fresh produce (both picked and u-pick later in the season). They are located less than 10 miles from my house. It was also my first time to visit the orchard and market but it won’t be my last. My primary objective was the morel mushrooms they had announced in their weekly email message. I also tried one of their donuts and picked up some fresh produce while there.
After an afternoon of gardening, I turned my attention to what to do with my bounty. I had never had garlic ramps before and had only tasted morels (leftover battered and fried version) once way back in high school. I looked at some morel recipes but ultimately decided to go with my usual approach of keeping things simple.
I started some water heating while I cleaned the mushrooms and washed the asparagus. When the water came to a boil I added the asparagus spears. In a skillet I melted some butter and added the halved morels. I let the asparagus cook for 5 minutes or less and used tongs to remove it from the water. Once the water returned to a boil I added some whole wheat spaghetti (the only non-local part of my meal). When the mushrooms had just started to brown ever so slightly I removed them from the skillet. Into the skillet went chopped ramps to cook just until they started to brown. While the ramps and pasta were cooking, I rinsed baby spinach that was added to the ramps. As the spinach wilted in the pan it absorbed the last of the butter, ramp, mushroom juice.
Once the pasta was done I topped I tossed it with the spinach and ramps before moving it to a plate. I topped it with the morels and added the asparagus to the side. A light dusting of freshly ground sea salt and pepper and dinner was served.
The verdict: Yuummmy. It was a day late but otherwise it was a nearly perfect meal to mark Beltane/May Day. It is also a very good thing that morels have a limited season because I budget can’t afford them as often as I will want them. The meal wasn’t perfect though it was very, very good. The pasta while good was not quite right; the chewiness of the whole wheat spaghetti competed slightly with the morels. I’ll have to think about other possibilities. My dinner was accompanied by the beauty and scent of the lilacs and a glass of Camelot Mead from Oliver Winery which is stretching local a bit given that it is at the other end of the state.
All in all a wonderful spring day and a meal that nourished both body and soul.