Writer, cooking teacher, television host, and author of an award-winning book, Amelia Saltsman is passionate about getting everyone into the kitchen.
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Secrets of Winter Farmers Markets, Part 1

Turnips Siena Farms Raise your hand if you think farmers’ markets and “buying local” are only for summer. How many of you live in California and think that? I’ll get to you later.

A summer-only mindset is a missed opportunity for farmers and shoppers alike. Shoppers, what do you think farmers do the rest of the year? Farmers, why limit yourself?

Even in the coldest climates, there are intrepid growers who realize summer’s way too short a selling season to sustain a farm and are figuring out how to provide better local ingredients through the “slow season.”

Siena Farms

One of my heroes is Chris Kurth of Siena Farms in Sudbury, MA. He is married to talented chef and cookbook author Ana Sortun of Oleana and Sofra. Their farm, a delicious mainstay at the Copley Square Farmers’ Market in Boston, is named for their daughter Siena.

For years, Chris has been lobbying farmers and market operators to think year-round. He reports that after almost two decades of preparation, the Boston Public Market Association is about to build out a large, multi-vendor year-round farmers’ market in the Quincy Market neighborhood. Although most existing farmers’ markets in the Boston area run mid-May through Thanksgiving, more winter markets are popping up every year, including ones in Somerville, Jamaica Plain, and Wayland. The issue is whether winter markets offer enough to make the trip worthwhile for farmers and shoppers.

Three winters ago, Siena Farms began operating its own very small year-round farm store in Boston’s South End. “We’ve given a lot of thought to this ‘winter question’ over the last few years and are trying to ramp up our winter production as well as sales each winter,” Chris says. “One significant step we made was going year-round with our CSA distribution” (which you can learn more about here).

Carrots Siean Farms

“The more we focus on winter vegetable production, the more we learn about how to store things in the root cellar (dirty rather than clean, for example), how surprisingly long and well a lot of crops do actually store, and also what fresh crops we can grow (micro-greens in the greenhouse, Belgian endive forced in a warm, dark environment from field grown root stock, and so on.). It’s a fun, tasty, and profitable challenge.”

Don’t tell me there’s nothing good and local to eat during a northeastern winter. This week’s Siena Farms CSA share includes rainbow carrots, parsnips, turnips, cabbage, kohlrabi, winter squash, watermelon radishes, potatoes, and sweet potatoes. Storage crops, yes, but it’s up to the farmer to believe it’s worth doing the job well enough to keep those foods appealing and salable.

Radish salad Siena Farms

That, plus locally grown fresh salad greens (instead of ones shipped from afar whose shelf life is almost spent before arrival), should brighten even the grayest winter day.

For southern Californians who think eating local is a summer activity only, you are missing three fabulous growing seasons right in your back yard. Please join me on my next farmers’ market tour, February 19, when we uncover the secrets of a glorious winter market.

Siena Farms harvest

If you’ve got a winter market you’d like people to know about, please share it in the comments section below, and include a bit about what’s on offer. The first 10 people to share will receive my “5 Smart Things to Do with Winter Greens.” And let me know here if you have photos. I’ll share the best in a future post.

Tune in next time when we look at more winter markets from different areas of the country to inspire you to support and encourage your own local, brave farmers.

Here are a few tasty recipes to get you through the season:

All photos in this post are courtesy of Siena Farms, Sudbury, MA

9 comments to Secrets of Winter Farmers Markets, Part 1

  • Susan Haymer

    I am roasting up cauliflower from the Santa Monica Farmers Market. I found a new recipe where I poach it first in wine and spices, and then roast it with a special spicy sauce. Quite delicious and very impressive. Could be the centerpiece of a meal.

  • Lisa Lenthall

    I have been so happy with the citrus I have been buying lately at the Larchmont Farmer’s Market! Not only have the grapefruits, lemons, and variety of oranges/tangerines been consistently sweet and juicy, but I have not seen any price increase that I have been hearing about in the news due to recent local freezes!

  • Elizabeth Winslow

    Winter is my favorite season for local food here in Austin-we see abundant greens, hearty cauliflower and broccoli, and crunchy earthy root vegetables like carrots, beets, radishes, and sweet potatoes. We’re also lucky to have beautiful Texas grapefruit, oranges, and tangerines!

  • Jill O.

    Such a great point and a reminder that we all have to plan our food and not count on corner fast food convenience. I grew up with a root cellar in my childhood New England home and we were able to ‘put up’ carrots and other delicious root vegetables. The other aspect of enjoying and supporting winter veg. is re-teaching people how to cook! I LOVE kohlrabi salad and slaws and butter braised turnips – let’s teach others how to cook these delicious menu items…

  • Catheryn

    Since all root vegetables are wonderful roasted, I am never disappointed with my Sunday morning Farmer’s market in Larchmont!

  • Susan Dietrich, Minneapolis

    Hi, Amelia, come on back to Minneapolis and visit a real winter Winter Market:
    Join us on Saturday, February 8th for our Indoor Winter Farmers Market celebrating a surprising abundance of local and seasonal produce, pasture-raised meats, eggs and cheeses, and plenty of locally crafted gifts and sweet things for your sweetheart this Valentine’s Day!

    When: Saturday, February 8th from 10 am to 1 pm

    Where: inside the beautiful Mill City Museum Commons

    What: A bustling marketplace of over 40 local vendors where you can shop for everything from squash and spinach to wild rice, local honey, maple syrup, pastured meats, eggs, specialty cheeses, baked goods, kimchi, preserves, hand-made artisan gifts, heart-shaped chocolates and other indulgences for Valentine’s Day!

    Produce Planner: potatoes, onions, carrots, shallots, cabbage, beets, parsnips, rutabagas, spinach, frozen raspberries, and MORE!

    • Amelia Saltsman

      Susan, I love the Minneapolis market! I always use it as an example of how different markets are from region to region–hello, real wild rice from real foragers–a shopper really knows where he or she is by looking at what’s on offer.

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