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The Joy of Farmers’ Markets

Connecting the planet, farmers and the general public through farm-fresh ingredients

 

By Liz Gastiger and Kevin

 

For almost as long as there have been farmers, there have been farmers’ markets. They are a tradition around the world that bring fresh produce and farm products directly to the buyer. More importantly, they also bring the farmer directly to the public to share their expertise and bounty of freshly grown goods, which is a blessing for those who appreciate farm-fresh ingredients.

Because of their trade, farmers are in tune with the seasons, the moon, the weather, the soil, their markets, land prices, the local geography, heavy farm equipment, the logistics and the people associated with farming. In other words, farmers study the planet and have the ability to hear its language. They follow the signs from the earth’s forces and become one with them. Farmers are able to transform their resources from the planet’s information into their marketable products. The signs and variables involved in farming and the logistics in moving their products to market are numerous, and yet, the successful farmer constantly adjusts, overcomes and improves. I’ve often heard people say that anyone can farm, but that’s far from the truth. Farming is a business like any other, but with the planet as a partner.

Recently at a local farmers’ market, Kevin and I had the pleasure of asking the vendors about their products. They told us what is in-season, like peaches, apricots, cabbage and zucchini. Almost all of the vendors also had a story of their grandparents’ or parents’ favorite dishes from the seasonal produce they grew. One vendor shared his own twist on what we know as “Little Debbie’s,” where he added dates; a treat his grandmother loved every weekend he made it. Another local vendor produced the most amazing cakes, brownies and cookies using sweet potatoes from their family recipes.

Farmers have also learned to rely on themselves. Generally, the happiness of farmers doesn’t depend on what somebody else does, but their own toil of the soil. As Richard Bach writes in his bestselling book, “Illusions,” “If your happiness depends on what somebody else does, I guess you do have a problem.” If only we could all be more like farmers and learn a thing or two about how to stay connected to the planet, to listen to its messages and to better rely on ourselves.

Here are a few recipes that I enjoy using the freshest, in-season peaches I can currently find at my local farmers’ market. I hope you too can visit your local farmers’ market to find fresh peaches and other in-season produce and enjoy these recipes as much as I do!

Fresh Peach Crostata

Flaky Pie Dough
(Makes two 9” shells)
Ingredients and Instructions
Blend
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon salt
Cut In
½ cup shortening
½ cup cold unsalted
butter, cubed
Stir In
4-7 tablespoons ice water

Preparation
Blend flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl until well mixed. Cut in shortening and butter with a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Stir in 4 tablespoons of ice water with a fork, adding more water if dough seems dry when pinched. Divide dough in half, press each half into a disk and wrap in plastic. Chill dough for at least an hour before rolling out.

Filling Ingredients
3 large peaches, peeled and sliced
8 tablespoons sugar, divided
¼ cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons butter
½ teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons raw sugar crystals

Instructions
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Toss sliced peaches with 3 tablespoons of the sugar. Combine remaining sugar, flour, butter and cinnamon and, using your fingers, rub the mixture together until incorporated. Combine the peach mixture with the flour mixture.

Roll out pie dough into a large circle. Transfer to parchment-lined cookie sheet. Place peach mixture in the center and fold up the edges of pie dough over the peaches. Sprinkle pie crust and peaches with 2 tablespoons of raw sugar.

Bake until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbly for about 45 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool slightly before cutting and serving.