Researchers at Washington State University have been carefully testing shelling bean varieties over the last decade to see which ones grow best here. After all, different crops will succeed or fail based on a region’s climate, soil conditions, etc. The result is that many of our market farmers now offer all sorts of shelling beans to us at the Market. This was not the case just five years ago. Above is an example of black turtle beans from Alm Hill. And below are cranberry beans from Stoney Plains. And, of course, you can usually get many of these beans dried from Stoney Plains or Alvarez.
Shelling beans are great in succotash, soups and salads, or whatever you are used to using dried or canned beans for, and you can't beat the flavor of them when they are fresh. You can also buy them fresh, take them out of their pods, and freeze them for use in the fall and winter. I have been told to blanch them first, but honestly, the beans I froze last year without blanching were just fine when I cooked them months later. I recommend packaging them in small freezer bags, like pints, so that you use a whole bag at a time later, which reduces the air and moisture exchange into the bag in the freezer. Then, I put several pint bags inside a gallon freezer bag for extra protection. Seems to work pretty well for me. And unlike store bags of frozen vegetables, you can rinse your freezer bags and use them again next year!
Of course, anymore, our farmers like to confuse us about the seasons, with their advanced growing techniques and research on crop varieties that can extend farmers' seasons. Take these new-crop sugar snap peas from Stoney Plains, for instance. Don't know how long they'll be around, but hey, none of us expected them to be around now at all, right, so enjoy!
Chef Maria Hines from Tilth Restaurant will be performing a cooking demonstration today at 4 p.m. Chef Hines won the prestigious 2009 James Beard Award for Best Chef Northwest this past spring. She always gives us great cooking demos, with lots of technique and simple ideas that are easy to replicate.
Another family of crops being championed by WSU researchers are melons, and in particular, the small melons categorically referred to as “ice box melons.” Again, the result is that we are seeing many more melons in the Market than we used to, because local farmers have many more reliable seeds to work with, courtesy of WSU. Take these French Mush melons from Full Circle Farm, for instance. They are so small, they fit in the palm of your hand.
Sweet corn can also be frozen for later use. Why pay big bucks for frozen sweet corn that won't taste as good this winter when you can pull out a small bag you saved from summer? Two ears of corn from the market is the equivalent of a grocery store bag of frozen corn, so do the math. The store bag will cost you $1.50 minimum, plus all the greenhouse gasses to get it processed and to you. Two ears at the Wallingford Farmers Market will cost you maybe $1, will taste better, and you'll know where it came from. Just shuck the corn and remove the hairs, then, over a large cutting board, preferably with a rim to reduce escapees, hold the ear point down and cut the kernels from the cob. Then fill pint freezer bags with it, putting several of those pint bags in a gallon freezer bag for added protection. It will last for months and still taste better than anything from the big box store.
As summer wanes, and the kiddies head back to school, we get to enjoy apple and pear season. Just check out these beautiful Lorry apples from ACMA Orchards. Tree fruit is one of those crop areas for which you need to check the Market every week, as farmers like ACMA and Tiny's have so diversified their orchards now that they literally will have different varieties of apples, pears, plums, pluots, etc., every week.
Let's finish off today's stroll down deliciousness lane with this porktastic image from Sea Breeze Farm. These cats sure know how to through down some luscious, forest-raised pig for us. Great beef, milk and other stuff, too.
Okay, you know the drill by now. For a full accounting of what's fresh at the Market this week, check out "What's Fresh Now!" in the upper right-hand menu, and we'll see you at the Wallingford Farmers Market.