We had the opportunity to spend some time this week with Orie’s Farm Fresh to learn more about what they grow, how they grow it, and how they eat it. We got a great recipe too that you can learn about near the end of the video!
We are squarely in the middle of the “spring” (read: summer) beet season here in south central Kansas. Beets are typically planted in the early spring for harvest in early to mid-summer. Then a second crop is planted in late July for fall harvest.
I never liked beets growing up. We boiled them or boiled them with the saucy stuff. Ugh. Then I grew up and was introduced to roasted baby beets mixed with other root veggies and seasoning. Yum. And gold and white and candy stripe beets. Yum. And then I got crazy and went down the – beet smoothie, beet ice cream, borscht, beet pickles – happy path to beet-land.
And then kids came along. And life got crazy. And beets…well, here’s the dirty secret about beets. As delightful as they are once you find a way you like to eat them, almost any recipe or preparation other than “cook and eat” requires the first step of roasting or steam-boiling or par-roasting or some other cooking process. Because beets are hard and crunchy, and to do fun things with them, you have to cook them first. And it’s not fast – it can take 1+ hours to roast some beets to the fork-tender stage. So not only do you have to find time for your beet recipe, you also have to find time to cook the beets first and then make your recipe. Beets didn’t fit into my schedule, as much as I wanted them to.
Then this past fall, we added an electric pressure cooker to our stash of kitchen appliances. And a few weeks ago, I was looking at the beautiful piles of beets at the farmers’ market, and realized…I can do those in the pressure cooker.
Ironically, the pressure cooker isn’t much different from the boiling that I scorned in my childhood. But it does get the beets cooked and ready for the next step faster, and fast is more important than the beautiful flavor profiles of roasting.
Here’s the quick directions: trim, halve or quarter the beets (depending on the size), and put them in a pressure cooker with one cup of water. Seal and cook on high pressure for 20 minutes. Quick release the pressure. Then you can let the beets cool a bit and easily slip the peels off. Super easy, relatively fast, no hot oven during the summer.
Once your beets are cooked, the sky is the limit for beet recipes. The first thing I tried? Refrigerator beet pickles.
1. Slice the cooked beets.
2. Mix 1 part apple cider vinegar and 1 part water. (Enough to cover the beets.)
3. Place vinegar and water in a saucepan. Add one cinnamon stick, a pinch of salt, 1/3 cup of sugar, and a teaspoon of whole cloves or whole allspice. I didn’t have any allspice and only a single lonely clove, so I substituted a whole star anise pod.
4. Bring the mixture to a slight boil and make sure the sugar is fully dissolved.
5. Pour over the sliced beets and refrigerate for 24-48 hours for flavors to develop.
The result? Yummy home pickled beets that took a little time, but a lot less time than they could have.
We are into our 4th week of the asparagus season, and if you are like me, you are getting a little tired of the go-to roasted / grilled asparagus recipes. There’s a reason it’s a popular way to cook asparagus. It’s easy. It’s quick. It makes for tasty asparagus. But after eating it a couple times a week for 4 weeks, I’ll be honest that I’m a bit tired of it. But I still want to gorge on it while it’s in season, and I don’t have time for fancy risottos and soups and quiches on a regular weeknight. I found and modified this recipe for a quick dinner one night last week. It is a great way to use a bunch of herbs too. I used cilantro, mint, and tarragon. You could also use parsley, thyme, oregano, chives, or dill.
Are you new to shopping at a farmers’ market? Or maybe you’ve been, but not very often.
Shopping at a farmers’ market is a learned skill, and the more you go, the better you will be. If you’ve never been (or only go a few times a year), it can be almost overwhelming to absorb. The signs (or lack thereof), colors, smells, displays, terminology, types of products…they can all be confusing and send the average shopper running for the safety of their favorite traditional grocery store! This is the start of a series about how to survive and WIN at farmers market shopping.
Before you go to the farmers’ market, you should understand that it can be very much like going to a regular store, only completely different. Here are some things to do in preparation for your visit.
- Research the market (or market options). Beyond the obvious (when and where the market is held), you may also try to determine what vendors will or might be there and what is in season locally. You can check out our sidebar to see what is currently in season! If you are interested in the Old Town or Kansas Grown! markets, they both have websites that list their vendors. The Old Town market also has a neat feature that includes an interactive map of the vendors scheduled to be there that week. The Kansas Grown! website just has a vendor list, but each vendor does say what markets they usually attend. (It’s no guarantee they’ll be there any given week, however!) You can also track down the markets or individual vendors on social media to see when they might be available and what they are selling. My husband always has to check the Facebook page of his favorite baked goods vendor before we go, just to see what’s on the menu this week!
- Make a list (just like grocery shopping). Even if you aren’t a dedicated grocery list user, it is wise to have some idea what you are looking for and what you are willing to pay before you go. Sometimes market prices are much higher than the grocery store and sometimes much less. The size bundles or packages may be different too. If you aren’t used to buying fresh produce or whole cuts of meat, you may want to be conservative the first time, until you are used to having them around. If you are shopping for meat – it comes frozen! This is a different experience if you are used to buying fresh meat at the grocery store and cooking it the same day.
- Take along the right stuff (it makes you look like a regular). Here are a few things that you should plan to take along on your trip to the farmers’ market. Some of these might be obvious, but maybe not everything.
- Your shopping list (sorry, I just had to mention it again)
- A reusable bag or two or three. Most vendors will have plastic bags to put things in, but it is nice to have a reusable bag to corral everything. Extra bags are great during melon and sweet corn season!
- Weather appropriate clothes / umbrellas. You don’t want to dress like you are just walking from your car to the grocery store. Dress like you are going to an outdoor sporting event for an hour or more. Check the weather forecast as you get ready! Especially in the early spring or the late fall, it may not seem that cold until you’ve been outside shopping for half an hour.
- Cash. Many of the vendors are starting to use Square or another credit/debit card reader, but others still use primarily cash. The largest markets have a system in place where you can swipe your credit/debit card and get tokens to spend as well. I prefer to make sure I have enough cash to cover what I will likely purchase. Taking cash also prevents me from splurging on things I don’t need!
- A cooler or insulated shopping bag. If it is warmer than about 50 degrees and sunny, anything that you have in the car will heat up quickly, especially if you have been carrying it around the market for an hour. In the summer, put ice packs in as well. This also allows you to head to the grocery store after your market stop and finish out your list or make another quick stop before heading home. (Or, if you are adventuresome, to visit another market too!)
- A water bottle. Again, think of it like you are going to an outdoor sporting event. Many markets have free water, coffee, or things like that. I like to take my own though.
- A camera. I know, it’s probably in your phone, and I know you won’t leave that at home. Chances are you will see something you want to remember or research later, so have your camera handy to record it.
- Your smartphone. Right, I know. I don’t really need to tell you this. But if you need to research a recipe on the fly or look something up, it is handy!
- (All the kid stuff.) We take our kids to the market with us. It is just part of our family culture – what we do on Saturday morning. That said, we have to haul all the kid stuff. An extra water bottle or two is helpful, diaper bag and stroller if you have littles. (And let me tell you, a nice stroller doubles as an excellent farmers’ market shopping cart!) I try to avoid taking extra toys or snacks because they just end up on the ground.
So…are you ready to make your first foray out to a local farmers’ market? What did I miss? Are there other things that a new market shopper should do or plan to take before their first trip? What are your tricks for making a trip to the farmers’ market an enjoyable part of your weekly routine?