Vicki at A Mark on My Wall which, coincidentally, is one of my favorite blogs in the neighborhood, posted a challenge a couple weeks ago to see how far $20 would go at a local farmer’s market. Up for a challenge, but not so much the shopping or cooking part, I thought I’d play along and see how far that $20 would get me in local produce that didn’t require much fussing before tasting good.
Jersey tomatoes are just in and will be sublime in another couple weeks. The four I bought today for $6.13 (ouch!) don’t have much flavor, but mixed with garden-grown basil and my splurge for the day – locally-made mozarella – just under a pound for $8.81 and drizzled with olive oil and a dash of sea salt and black pepper made me very, very happy this evening. Once the supply increases the prices will go down and there is nothing finer than a Jersey tomato, let me tell you! Our growing conditions are perfect for them here, tho we have to wait until August for the really delicious and juicy ones that we make into kitchen sink sandwiches with lots of mayo and pepper. Heaven between two slices of bread!
I was hoping for corn, but there was only Georgia sweet corn for 49 cents an ear. Too steep for my budget today. Last week I bought nice Jersey bi-color corn that I made into corn salad with red peppers. Yummy. Sweet corn should be available by month’s end and is creamy, tender and scrumptious. I know quite a few people who can make a meal of it all by itself. Not me; it doesn’t agree with me and I have to limit myself to just one ear, preferably on the BBQ.
Mid-July is only the start of farmer’s market season here in NJ, so there wasn’t a great variety. Greens are in season: kale, collards and swiss chard, but I think of those primarily as bunny food, so discounted them for today. Beets are local and cheap – just $1.89 for a nicely sized bunch. I love fresh beets, but don’t often go to the trouble to stain the kitchen or my hands purple with making them. Steaming-hot and drenched with butter is the way I like them best, but today I mixed them with some red onion and raspberry vinegar and fresh-squeezed orange juice for a cold salad. We’ll see how that turned out tomorrow once it’s had a chance to pickle a bit.
The real story locally is the berries. These are the most local of berries, grown in the farm fields just off my backyard, and they sit on the bushes until they are at the peak of ripeness and flavor. There are red, purple and black raspberries, as well as blackberries grown out there and were it not for the deer fence surrounding the fields, I think I would raid the bushes on my walks with Luka. I bought a pint of red raspberries for $4.99 and a pint of Jersey blueberries for $2.99 and cooked them gently with sugar and poured the sweet mixture over some vanilla ice-cream. The leftovers will be added to plain yogurt mixed with honey and some granola or eaten anytime I walk through the kitchen!
All that’s missing until the late summer is peaches. Jersey peaches should be available at farmer’s markets by next weekend. California peaches are sweet and juicy now, but I passed on them today in favor of NJ produce.
If you’re a stickler and do the math, you’ll see that I went over budget and spent $24.81. I could have left off the raspberries in favor of being under budget, but I just love them too much! I don’t think my money went very far today, but as I said, it isn’t quite the season of abundance here.
If you’re up for the challenge, I imagine Vicki may be doing this in the weeks to come. Maybe you’d like to join in the fun. Why not at least stop by her place for links to see how others spent their $20? Or read about her adventures as a docent at a zoo in Chicago? Or her home-away-from-home in Florida? Really, her blog is great… stop in and say hi.