Week 16 : A is for Autumn, Apples and Acorn Squash

Ok, so it’s not quite autumn yet (the first day of fall actually coincides with next week’s market). But, as I write with mug of tea in hand, its presence is certainly starting to make itself known. So as we say “see you next year!” to peaches and berries, please join me in extending a warm welcome to our good friends apples, apple cider, and acorn squash, all of whom will make an appearance this week. There’s even been talk of sweet potatoes… come find out for yourself!

I’m in awe that more than two-thirds of the way through the 2010 season, the Crossroads Farmers Market continues to grow. To date, we’ve already distributed over $20,000 in Fresh Checks, a 25% increase over last year’s record-breaking season, to 949 households. And we’re not slowing down– 49 new families participated in the program last week! As demand increases at the market, we’re committed to also increasing supply. Please stop by tomorrow and give a warm welcome to our two new vendors! Engaged Community Offshoots (ECO), a PG-county based urban farm and close partner of the Crossroads Farmers Market, is bringing honey (it’s a must try– I’ve already given three jars as gifts) and phenomenally flavorful bagged greens. We’ll also be joined by a Guatemalan prepared foods vendor, bringing tacos, tostadas, horchata, atol de elote, and other delicious snacks. Let us know what you think!

Speaking of good food and good fun, please mark your calendars for our upcoming Mark’s Kitchen Third Tuesday fundraiser– Tuesday 9/21, 9am-9pm!!! 10% of all proceeds from the day will go directly to the Crossroads Farmers Market. We hope to see you there with family and friends in tow!

Crossroads Summer Concert Series: If you’ve missed the Malian music this summer, you get one more chance! From 3-7 pm this Wednesday, the air will be filled with sounds of traditional music from Mali, West Africa. It’s worth heading to market just for the free concert– Musician Cheick Hamala Diabaté and friends are coming to put on a show!!
Musician Cheick Hamala Diabaté is recognized as one of the world’s masters of the ngoni, a Malian traditional instrument. A sought after performer, lecturer, storyteller and choreographer throughout Africa, Europe, Asia and Canada, Cheick Hamala mastered the ngoni, a stringed lute and ancestor to the banjo, at an early age. His international performing career has included performances at the Smithsonian Institution and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Cheick Hamala shares the oral history, music and song of his culture as it was passed on to him from birth by his parents.

As always, we’ll be open Wednesday 3-7pm at 7676 New Hampshire Avenue, rain or shine. Looking forward to enjoying a lovely end of summer afternoon with you!

This 4th of July: Cherries, White Corn and Blueberries

Ah, D.C. summers! For me, part of the decision to just revel in the heat and accept the gifts of the season has been fully appreciating raw, whole foods. The idea of standing over a stove is probably wholly unappealing to most of us right now (and baking is clearly out of the question!), but the lettuces, kale, chard, broccoli, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, snap peas, apricots, and blueberries that came home with me from the Crossroads last week have kept my tummy sated and my kitchen cool. While the heat wave is expected to break tomorrow– just in time for a perfectly sunny and much cooler market on Wednesday– now’s a great time to play with new ways of not cooking your favorite produce. Try switching up your salads by mixing in some berries, or add some green to a smoothie (strawberry, apple, and rainbow chard is my current favorite). I’d love to hear what you’ve been not-cooking this week!

Though we may all feel like we’ve slowly melted over the past few days, this heat and vibrant sunshine have been prime nourishment for all our favorite summer fruits. Cherries and berries are out in full force, and Three Springs has just let word leak that this week is the first for peaches– even earlier than expected! Perfectly tart, juicy apricots from Tuckey’s Mountain Grown were in high demand last week. If you’re craving hot food or sweet food but don’t feel like making it yourself, pick up a few pupusas from Jireh Restaurant and pastries or sweet breads from Chapina Bakery. And don’t miss last week’s highlight– sweet ears of corn– back from Musachio Produce, just in time for grilling out this weekend. Speaking of this weekend…

Join the Crossroads Farmers Market float for the Takoma Park 4th of July parade!
We’re looking for some veggie loving folks– especially kids– to ride with us on the truck and proudly carry signs showing off their favorite vegetables. Please email us if interested. We’ll be painting signs for the float at market again this Wednesday– bring your kids, your friends, your paintbrush, and come get colorful with us!

Crossroads Summer Concert Series/Special Events:
This week, the ever-talented Zoe Kurtz will be back on violin covering a wide range of songs and sound. We’ll have a painting corner for kids of all ages. And we’ll be raffling off another $25 gift certificate to the Takoma Park/Silver Spring Co-op! Stop by the market tent and leave your name and telephone number for our weekly drawing.

Looking forward to seeing familiar and new faces this Wednesday, 3-7pm at 7676 New Hampshire Avenue– come find us to say hello!

Week Six: Cool as a Cucumber Melon

Hope you all enjoyed a wonderful weekend filled with fresh food, friends, family, fireworks, and sunshine– we certainly did! Yesterday, the Crossroads Farmers Market participated in the City of Takoma Park’s 121st annual 4th of July parade. With the help of an amazing team, we cruised the streets of Takoma in style, perched atop a flat bed pick-up truck carrying a tractor, a manure spreader, and a group of cheering kids carrying hand-painted fruit and vegetable signs. The Jazzy Juggler, a local favorite, also brought his antics to our float, revving up the crowd as he successfully juggled a tomato, a cantaloupe, and a large butcher’s knife! Such a great morning of community, celebration, and laughter was a prize of its own– but it was made all the more exciting when we learned this morning that the Crossroads Farmers Market float placed second in the Wacky Tacky Takoma category! Huge thanks to all who participated and to all who cheered and waved along the way.

The celebration will continue at market this Wednesday. After all, with the forecast hinting at triple digits, what’s there to do but celebrate summer at its fullest?! All of our vendors will be there this week, ready to supply you with a mid-week pick-me-up. Early July is an interesting time for local produce; the cooler weather plants are starting to fade out, while the heat-loving blooms are just getting ready to burst through. So while tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and other summer favorites are just around the corner, take this opportunity to try out something new– you might be very pleasantly surprised!

My top picks for the week:

  • Peaches and apricots! Need I say more? Also, check out this great guide to peaches from Three Springs Fruit Farm. They explain the differences between different varieties and offer some great tips for selection and storage.
  • Black raspberries– Nope, they’re not blackberries. But they’re equally wonderful. Smaller and a bit sweeter than their notoriously tart cousins, these have me hooked. Delicious on their own, and perfect for the fruit crisp I’ll be making this weekend!
  • Red and golden beets– Full of magnificent flavor and color, beets are one of my favorite additions to a summer salad. Roast them, shave them raw, or check out one of these great recipes. And don’t forget about the greens! Cook them as you would chard or kale, and enjoy!
  • Sugar snap peas– these have quickly become my snack of choice, and I’m stocking up before their season ends– don’t miss out! True to their name, these are perfect for satisfying a sweet tooth and provide a crisp, fantastically refreshing crunch. Eaten whole or shelled, raw or boiled, on their own or in stir-fries or pasta, snap peas are the perfect way to add both sweetness and green to a meal.
  • Fresh herbs- While one of the great joys of eating fresh foods is that their natural flavors are so distinct and vibrant, a touch of complimenting basil, thyme, sage, cilantro, dill, or parsley can draw out subtle undertones and transform the simplest meal into a culinary celebration. I can say honestly that not only are the herbs I’ve had at Crossroads among the freshest I’ve found at other area markets, but they are far and away the least expensive!

Special Events: Summer Concert Series and Volunteer Opportunity
Our good friend Yousef will be back with Conga drumming this Wednesday. Grab your hand drum or something to bang on and come join in!

Help get the word out about the Crossroads Farmers Market! Join us next Wednesday, July 14th, to flier Crossroads area neighborhoods and businesses and potential shoppers know we’re here. We’ll meet at 10am in front of 7676 New Hampshire Avenue, and will reconvene at noon for treats from Chapina Bakery.

As always, your thoughts and feedback are always welcome– please don’t hesitate to let us know what’s working, what we could improve upon, and what else you’d like to see.

See you Wednesday, 3-7 pm at 7676 New Hampshire Avenue! And make sure you stop by Three Springs to check out their cucumber melons. That combination of cool and refreshing sounds about perfect right now, doesn’t it?

Week 4: Beet the Heat!

Only three weeks into market season, it’s incredible how quickly we’ve settled into our new home, and how warmly our neighbors and friends have welcomed us.

A few highlights:
– Last week, the USDA Food and Nutrition Service Mid-Atlantic Regional Director drove down from New Jersey for the sole purpose of visiting the Crossroads Farmers Market and seeing federal nutrition benefits programs in action! She was accompanied by the Maryland WIC Director who came in from Baltimore for the occasion.
– Also last week, we set a record for the most SNAP (the program formerly known as food stamps) transactions in the four years of this market- a huge sign of the market’s growth.
– Within the past week, Crossroads staff have participated in and presented on our work at large urban ag and food access events in Silver Spring, Beltsville, and the Appalachian region of Kentucky!

This is just the beginning. If you haven’t seen it yet, check out the article on Crossroads in last week’s Gazette. And then come by 7676 New Hampshire Avenue tomorrow, Wednesday 6/23 from 3-7pm, to see what the article calls Crossroads’ “winning formula!”

Must-tries this week:
* If the subject of this email didn’t give it away, beets are back! Don’t know how to cook them? Ask any of our vendors for tips. Beets’ deep magenta flesh, crisp texture, and juicy sweetness are a delicious addition to salads, especially when paired with a soft goat cheese. Save the greens to saute, steam, or stir-fry! Speaking of purple, check out Truffula’s purple-top turnips too.
* Now that summer is official, let the berries bonanza begin! Three Springs Fruit Farm, Musachio Produce, and Tuckey’s Mountain Grown will be in with blueberries and raspberries fresh from the field. Sweet and tart cherries are also waiting with your name on them! Pie, anyone?
* One of the greatest things about cooking real foods is joy of exploring the rich fullness and flavors of fresh herbs. My favorites right now: Sligo Creek’s garlic with an amazing long stem and fantastically pungent white-purple bulb, and Truffula Seed’s sage. Ask Josie how she and Shawn flash-fry their sage to make chips!
* Get your greens on! All of our vegetable growers will be back with more beautiful bunches of kale, chard, and raddichio– with a special deal on lettuce from Three Springs. If you’re stuck in a kale rut (though I never get sick of a quick garlic-ginger kale saute), try out the summery recipe included below.
* For dessert or a late-afternoon snack, give your taste buds a shake-up with Chapina Bakery’s new guava bread.

This week, we’re getting crafty! Over the next two markets, we’ll be painting signs and decorationsfor the Crossroads Farmers Market float in the upcoming Takoma Park 4th of July Parade, and we need all hands on deck! So feel free to come on over, grab a brush, and start painting– and bring the kids! We’ll be spending the afternoon enjoying the sounds of Zoe Kurtz on violin as this week’s Crossroads Summer Concert.

Finally, make sure to stop by the market tent and put your name in our raffle. This week’s winners will receive gift certificates to the Takoma Park-Silver Spring Co-op, Pollo Campero, and Domino’s Pizza.

See you tomorrow at the Crossroads– should be a beautiful day!

Leafy Greens, Raisins and (optional) pine nuts

adapted from the cookbook Greens, Glorious Greens.

This recipe is great with any dark leafy green such as kale, collards, chard, mustard greens or a combination.

Ingredients:

1 bunch kale (or other dark leafy green)

1 onion or bunch of spring onions

1-2 cloves garlic

1-2 TBS olive oil or butter

handful pine-nuts (optional)

handful raisins

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Sautee onion in olive oil or butter (or use combination of both) until lightly browned. Add garlic and saute for only 30 seconds.

Meanwhile, bring small amount of water to boil in a large flat saucepan. When water is boiling, throw kale (stemmed and torn into bite-sized pieces) in water. Boil for 3-5 minutes. Watch for color to turn bright green and remove from water at this point.

If using pine nuts, toast in toaster oven or use a broiler. Alternately pine-nuts can be toasted in pan that onions are sautéed in, once onions have browned.

Shortly after garlic has been added to onions, toss in a handful of raisins and sautee for about 1 minute, until raisins start to swell and brown. At this point, turn off heat, add cooked kale and toasted pine-nuts and toss all ingredients in frying pan to coat with olive oil. If needed add more olive oil at this point. Also add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Sweet, Sweet Summer: Cherries, Berries, and Sugar-snap peas

The official start to summer may still be a week away, but the unmistakable heaviness in the air, soaring temperatures, and subtle slowing of our rapidly paced day-to-day make one thing clear: DC summer is here to play.

While our summers here are fairly notorious, they are also a time of such abundance– and of abundant sweetness! The end of the strawberry season is fading into the beginning of cherries, cherries, and more cherries from Three Springs Fruit Farm and Tuckey’s Mountain Grown, with the occasional blueberry thrown in. Not to mention, of course, sweet, crunchy snap peas from Musachio Produce, magnificent rainbow chard from Truffula Seed Produce, refreshing lettuces and greens, fantastically flavorful basil, cilantro, dill, and sage, and the list goes on…
Plus, as always, we’ll have pupusas and elote loco, “crazy corn” on the cob from Jireh Restaurant, and delicious Guatemalan, Mexican, and European baked goods from Chapina and Cazuela bakeries. This week, try the sweet breads from Chapina (at 50 cents each, you can’t go wrong) and Cazuela’s churros, if you haven’t yet!

So join us tomorrow from 3-7 to celebrate summer, community, and the 4th season of the Crossroads Farmer Market! The Takoma Park Library will be offering kids games and activities, and a surprise musician will get things shaking for the third week of our Summer Concert Series.

Also, if you haven’t already, please VOTE now for your favorite farmers market– Crossroads, of course– in the American Farmland Trust’s annual contest. We placed 4th last year. And we need your help to do it again!

Vote For Your Favorite Farmer’s Market-Crossroads, Ofcourse!

We came in 4th last year, and we’re ready to do it again– but we need YOUR help! Please take a moment to vote for Crossroads in the American Farmland’s Trust annual America’s Favorite Farmers Market contest. And spread the word!
Need convincing?

Top Ten Reasons to Vote Crossroads Farmers Market as the Best in the Country:

10- The first market in the country to launch a “double-dollars” program!
9- Munching on pupusas while listening to live world music, performed weekly through the Crossroads Summer Concert Series
8- What other market has been managed by three people named Michel/e?!
7- Ridiculously cute kids each week- without fail
6- Seemingly endless varieties of hot peppers from Sligo Creek Farm
5- A farm named after Dr. Seuss’ book, “The Lorax” (Truffula Seed Produce)
4- The opportunity to practice your Spanish, French, Arabic, Chinese, Korean, or just the universal language of smiles, dance, and laughter
3- Vendors whose produce tastes of love, dedication, and passion for sustainable agriculture and social justice
2- Diverse year-round educational programming that extends beyond the market
1- Community in its purest form: a place that bridges the urban and the rural, gaps in income and language– where people come to celebrate nature’s bounty and each other

Week Two: A Fruitful Begining

It’s official. Never have I been more excited to be a part of the Crossroads Farmers Market team than I was last Wednesday. Not that there haven’t been amazing, gratifying, memorable, or downright delicious days in the past– there certainly have. But the vendors that comprise the 2010 market lineup– and the abundance they brought with them– sent me home with a full stomach, an even fuller fridge, and renewed energy for the next twenty-one weeks!

Want in on the action? Here’s what’s cooking this week:

  • Scapes! Those who have discovered the garlic scape will back me up: the scape, known for its starring role in garlic scape pesto, is a seasonal delicacy not to be missed. Snatch them up at Musachio Produce and Sligo Creek Farm.
  • Lots of greens from all of our produce vendors. Kale was an especially big hit last week. Stop by Truffula Seed Produce and Tuckey’s Mountain Grown to stock up. Once you’ve stir fried and sauteed as much kale as you can muster, bake up a bunch of kale chips! Drizzled with olive oil and (optional) seasoning of your choice and baked at 400 degrees for about ten minutes, kale chips make for a quick, tasty, and fantastically healthy snack.
  • Strawberries from Sligo Creek Farm. I type this email with the smell of strawberry rhubarb muffins baking in the background. Need I say more?
  • Speaking of fruit, Three Springs Orchard’s empire and fuji apples still had the perfect crispness and crunch. Their fuji apple juice was an amazing thirst quencher on an exceptionally hot market day!
  • For dessert this week: try a caramel churro from Cazuela Bakery or a banana cream pastry from Chapina bakery. But really, there’s no going wrong.

Crossroads Summer Concert Series
This week, market favorite Yusef will get things grooving with three straight hours of Conga drumming. Bring your drums, have your kids bring them instruments, and join in!

Vote NOW for America’s Favorite Farmers Market!

We came in 4th last year, thanks to you. Please help us do it again! Click here to cast your vote for the Crossroads Farmers Market in the American Farmland Trust’s annual “America’s Favorite Farmers Markets” contest. Your vote matters!

June 16th Grand Opening Ceremony Postponed
We’ve decided to reschedule the grand opening ceremony for a yet undetermined date this summer. With limited staff capacity, our primary responsibility is to ensuring the success of the market, and right now we’ve chosen to focus our time and energy exclusively on outreach and growing the market. But please still plan on joining us that week for a community celebration with music, prizes, activities for kids, a raffle, and more!

Come down tomorrow from 3-7pm and see it all for yourself! (And grab your umbrella– our vendors will be there rain or shine).

Hasta manana.