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Early Spring (Mar 21 - Apr 20)


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Last week, even really early, there were long lines at many of the stands. I was waiting in one line and then going to my next vendor and yet another long line. It was starting to feel a bit like a culinary amusement park.

Ya know, the winter market gets dull but at least there's some elbow room. The spring and summer crowds get less and less tolerable every year. Last year I started going to the nearby Saturday markets (Mt. Pleasant and Silver Spring) and it was so much more relaxed.

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This information just came via the weekly email from FreshFarm Markets:

Such a cold spring we are having! Our fruit growers are seeing some damage to peach and pear trees. Record low temperatures in April will delay spring crops of asparagus and strawberries. Frost date in the metro DC area is April 20, so we have time to plan our gardens even if we can't plant yet.
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I assume there are no strawberries yet. Anyone know when they might appear this year?
Heather's right, Hersch. Even though we had a bizarrely warm spell before winter returned and lingered, everything that wasn't damaged is coming in a bit later. Gives you more respect for where our food comes from, I guess, without Jamie Oliver standing on a hill slitting the throat of a sweet little lamb.

Reports from South Carolina and other peach-growing states are grim since some orchards are completely wiped out.

I've just cut and pasted e-mails from FreshFarm Market before, and I'll do that now, but not on a regular basis. You might want to go to the Web site that I linked above and sign up for Bernie Price's weekly notices, especially since this year will be so uncertain. Did I mention they come with a poem?

Here's almost the entire announcement:

Last weekend's Nor'easter will make us all appreciate this weekend's sunny, warmer weather more than ever! Our region's cold, rainy (and for some farmers, snowy) weather last week means that some crops (strawberries and asparagus) will not be at market until May. If you don't see a farmer at market (like Long Meadow Farm, New Morning Farm, Sand Hill Farm or Wheatland Vegetable Farms), it's because s/he does not have enough product to come to market.

Sadly, another farmer will not be returning to our Dupont market or any of the other markets in our metro area. Adam Cook of Blue Highland Dairy has closed down the dairy and ceased operations. Unfortunately, the odds are stacked against a small dairy farmer succeeding due to the high costs of equipment and the relentless regulatory requirements. And selling milk did not bring in enough revenue to repay government loans. The cows were sold at auction this week and the dairy equipment is up for sale. So, Blue Highland Dairy is no more. We will miss Adam and the incredibly delicious milk, butter and cheeses that he brought to market. And what about those milk bottles that you still have? Adam hopes you will find another use for them; the quart bottles make nice flower vases. If you would rather not keep them, you can return them to market this Sunday. We'll have a space near one of our Information Tables set up to take them. If you want a refund of your bottle deposit, please let us know when you return your bottle at market. Thank you.

Dupont MarketSpecials at Market: Ramps, watercress, mache, beets, carrots, green garlic, baby turnips, greenhouse-grown tomatoes, Swiss chard, kale, new potatoes from Sunnyside Farm & Orchard. Bosc pears from Reid's Orchard are really tasty. Chris Marketplace returns this Sunday with a limited amount of CRABCAKES (got lucky with a first catch of Maryland crabs) and empanadas. Buster's Seafood will also be back at market with freshly caught fish, mostly rockfish this time of year. Warmer weather also means Roger Cole will return with orchids. Stop by our Chef Demo at 11 am and learn how Will Earls and Danny Bortnick make incredibly delicious fresh veggie cocktail drinks at Firefly! Farmers at Dupont: Anchor Nursery ~ Atwaters ~ Arbec Orchids ~ Black Rock Orchard ~ Blue Ridge Dairy ~ Bonaparte ~ Buster’s Seafood ~ Cedarbrook Farm ~ Chris Marketplace ~ Cibola ~ Country Pleasures ~ Dragonfly Farm ~ Eco-Friendly Foods ~ Endless Summer Harvest ~ Farmhouse Flowers & Plants ~ FireFly ~Gardeners’ Gourmet ~ Highfield Dairy ~ Jefferson’s 4 Seasons ~ Keswick Creamery ~ Mount Harmony ~ Mushroom Stand ~ New Morning Farm ~ Next Step Produce ~ Reid’s Orchard ~ Solitude~ Spring Valley Farm & Orchard ~ Smith Meadows Farm ~Sunnyside Farm & Orchard ~ Sunnyside Organic ~ Toigo Orchards ~Twin Springs Fruit Farm ~ Wheatland Vegetable Farms ~ Virginia Lamb ~ Wollam Gardens

Penn QuarterSpecials at Market: Mount Harmony is back with handmade soaps. Beets, carrots, baby turnips, Swiss chard are at Sunnyside Organic. Check out Wes Lanham's weekly bread, cookie and soup specials.

Farmers at Penn Quarter: Anchor Nursery ~ Black Rock Orchard ~ Blue Ridge Dairy ~ Chapel's Creamery ~ Chris Marketplace ~ Cibola Farm ~ Endless Summer Harvest ~ Floradise Orchids ~ Mount Harmony ~ Mushroom Stand ~ Sand Hill Farm ~ Sunnyside Organic ~ Toigo Orchards ~ Wes Lanham of Ovens at Quail Creek Farm ~ Wheatland Vegetable Farms ~ Wollam Gardens

Foggy BottomSpecials at Market: Lynnvale is back at market with fresh flowers. Marvin of Long Meadow Farms returns May 2. Farmers at Foggy Bottom: Bonaparte Breads ~ D&S Farm ~ Endless Summer Harvest ~ Firefly Farm ~ Keswick Creamery ~ Long Meadow Farm ~ Lynnvale Studios ~ Quaker Valley Orchard ~ Smith Meadows Farm ~ Sunnyside Farm & Orchard

St. Michaels, MDSpecials at Market: St. Michaels market opens for its 10th season on Saturday, April 21. Opening festivities include music, new market poster and chef demo by Michael Quattrucci of Restaurant Local. April 26-29 is St. Michaels's Food & Wine Festival. Brian McBride of DC's Blue Duck Tavern is featured chef at market on April 26[sic? Check Web site since it said the 28th in part of email I snipped]. BONAPARTE BREADS will be at market! Roger Cole will have a lovely selection of orchids. Farmers at St. Michaels: Anchor Nursery ~ Arbec Orchids ~ Bonaparte Breads ~ Butter Pot Farm ~ Chapel's Creamery ~ Eve's Cheese ~ Kreider's Tomatoes ~ Pot Pie Farm ~ Sand Hill Farm

We Need Volunteers!

FRESHFARM Markets needs your help at market and during the week to distribute information about our markets. We have lots of postcards to distribute for our markets in DC and Maryland. We also have a wonderful Volunteer Coordinator, Joanna Winchester, who holds monthly volunteer workshops. Let Joanna know of your interest in volunteering by sending her a message at joannawinchester@freshfarmmarkets.org. And thanks so much for your help!

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Asparagus is in our very near future :lol:

Asparagus has been in my very recent past - restaurants have been serving it for the past week or so, most memorably Haidar Karoum's Cuttlefish "a la plancha" with Salsa Verde (made with Olio Beato, garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, parsley, chives, and thyme), all coupled with some fresh asparagus cut into equal size as the cuttlefish. A foreshadowing of Estadio, perhaps.

And, Osteria in Philadelphia, where asparagus (and artichokes) featured prominently in two of five courses ordered.

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Asparagus has been in my very recent past - restaurants have been serving it for the past week or so, most memorably Haidar Karoum's Cuttlefish "a la plancha" with Salsa Verde (made with Olio Beato, garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, parsley, chives, and thyme), all coupled with some fresh asparagus cut into equal size as the cuttlefish. A foreshadowing of Estadio, perhaps.

And, Osteria in Philadelphia, where asparagus (and artichokes) featured prominently in two of five courses ordered.

But whither the asparagus?

Hillvalley was probably supplying insider information about the effect of our unusual early spring heat wave on local asparagus, a plant that can shoot up 10 inches in a day.

Quaker Valley may have been the first to cart local asparagus to D.C. shoppers on Wednesday at Foggy Bottom :lol: . In any respect, Black Rock Orchard has some. Farm at Sunnyside... I am sure there will be sightings all around these parts over the next few days.

Have to say this is the first year I've seen spears at the market before ramps (aka botanical road kill, if you're Heather).

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Spring Valley may bring ramps to the Dupont Circle FRESHFARM Market tomorrow. If not, they'll be coming to markets the weekend after (April 16 & 17).

Weekend of April 16-17 should also bring stinging nettles from Evensong (Silver Spring) and perhaps Next Step Produce (Dupont).

Please record first sightings of asparagus here, please. Next week, perhaps, says the Spring Valley crew..

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Okay. I'll answer my own question. Gardener's Gourmet had enough asparagus to last almost two hours at yesterday's markets and Black Rock Orchard had only a handful or two. Farmers say the crops from West Virginia, Maryland, Virginia and Southern PA should be coming to our area's markets during the next couple of weeks.

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In the index Leleboo so kindly created for this forum, you'll find this handy Guide to the Seasons with links to a few local sites. Since weather determines both the first appearance and longevity of the harvest of items such as asparagus, strawberries, plump, spring chickens and fulsome peonies to grace the dining table, please contribute your sightings to these lists!

According to Don, Early Spring ends Wednesday. (See how late things are this year?) On Thursday, we're mid-seasonal although many vegetable growers are either just about to return to their markets, or still waiting for crops to mature.

Thus far:

  • Green garlic (from greenhouses)
  • Asparagus
  • Watercress from rushing streams
  • Nettles
  • Garlic Mustard or mustard garlic greens (as heard on NPR, Morning Edition, April 18: a foraged salad ingredient or weed, high in nutritional value. Evensong's selling it.)
  • Hakurai turnips with their greens (getting big and plump!)
  • Ramps (wild leeks)
  • Spinach (mature and baby--perfect at this time of year!)
  • Chives!!!
  • Parsley (some other herbs available in small bunches, too, or potted)
  • Arugula and mesclun mixes
  • Earth-grown lettuces--a few
  • Radishes
  • Variety of fruits and root vegetables still coming out of storage including carrots and apples
  • Leeks
  • Chard (seems to be year-round crop nowadays)
  • Collard greens
  • Scallions
  • Cured onions (but all the cured garlic's long gone!)

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Okay, folks, it's time to start this thing over again and see if we can keep it up throughout the year.

First things first:

  • Watercress--foraged from streams and whatnot since late March
  • Stinging nettles--ditto
  • Ramps, same
  • Asparagus--around for three weeks now, though quantities severely limited. Details below
  • Pea vines, but no grown-up peas yet
  • Herbs growing in diversity, including chives, parsley, thyme, sage and dill
  • Spring onions (several weeks)
  • Leeks (ditto)
  • Green garlic, though no scapes yet
  • As of this week, strawberries, but this is an anomaly

Greenhouses are producing heirloom varieties of tomatoes, including big and small, cherry varieties. Same on cucumbers, Persian and otherwise. Starter plants abound.

N.B. As a reminder for future reference, this is a very dry season with early drought-like conditions. A prolonged, June/July type spell hit us early, coaxing fruit trees bearing early varieties to bloom prematurely. A severe dip in nocturnal temperatures followed w a frost for the past three weeks. Asparagus in some parts continues to grow, then freeze. Too dry for much in the way of a morel around here, though the fungus seems to be thriving in places like Michigan.

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Past April 20, I know, but this year is different. It's still early spring. We had one brief interval of 80 F plus heat, but mostly unseasonably cool weather.

Might I ask others here to work together in documenting seasons as they appear in your local markets?

I always start with good intentions, but drop off quickly and might be more motivated to continue were others pitching in.

So, the lag in spring foods means that we have seen the first appearances of the following during the past week:

  • asparagus
  • ramps
  • nettles
  • morels
  • watercress (foraged from streams vs. cultivated in high tunnels or hydroponic farms)
  • chives
  • sorrel

Week 2 for green garlic. No signs of rhubarb for a couple of weeks more. Greenhouse tomatoes have been around for a while. Same with Persian cucumbers, both a few weeks.

Radishes plump in markets, too, for a few weeks, though most in gardens still could use more warmth and sun.

Little tiny zucchini and female zucchini blossoms.

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Ramps at Big Riggs last week. They were on the longer side, which in my experience tells me they've been around for a couple weeks by now. Mr. MV is at the Old Town Market (I'm a bit under the weather this morning) hoping to score morels from the same.

Spring Valley had asparagus last week.

No local strawberries, although a couple vendors (and yes I do mean vendors, not producers) had them, along with corn :unsure:

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Strawberries!! B)B)

At the Foggy Bottom freshfarm market, which has changed up its configuration this year (now in the pedestrian plaza next to the hospital rather than west of 24th street), so I do not know which farm. I got the last punnet.

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I saw basil at Dupont this morning (although maybe greenhouse grown? I didn't ask), and several folks had flowering kale (kale raab) and collards, which I don't recall seeing before.

Greenhouse-grown, yes, on basil. Chicano Sol has Thai basil from greenhouses and Mock's, big, bushy greenhouse basil; both in Silver Spring. Endless Summer (numerous markets) carries hydroponic basil which is on sale, too. The flowering raabs or rabes of kales and collards seem to be a new marketing thing for farmers this year, sort of like selling the tiny carrots you have to remove from rows when thinning, or the thinned, flowering branches from fruit trees. But, I've also been told the proliferation of these raabs has something to do with the prolonged cold this spring and here's a dandy explanation from Ballard Farmers Market blog:

The start of spring also signals the approaching end of kale season. Yeah, I know. Around here, it is always kale season. But the fact is, this time of year, kale wants to reproduce, just like any other healthy species. So, the kale plants in the field, as well as the collards, cabbages and many roots, start to bolt, sending out their flowers in pursuit of procreation. The result is raab. Yes, this time of year, we get to enjoy any number of different kinds of raabs as these plants reach the end of their lifecycle and get on with the job of producing the next. Raabs, those tender, flowery tops of these plants, are lovely simply sautéed with some garlic, and they can be great grilled, too.
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