I don't think I've ever been so excited to attend a farmers market as I was last weekend.
I've missed going to the farmers market. And yes, I did go last year. I fully appreciate all the hard work that went into putting together virtual markets and then, socially distant farmers markets. But they weren't the same; there was something missing ... I missed having the freedom of walking around a market and being able to browse each vendors offerings before making your final selections. I missed the social aspect of the farmers market — talking with the farmers; stopping to chat for a few minutes with people we don't see that often.
You don't know what you have until it's gone. I, for one, took farmers market — a normal part of our summer routine — for granted.
Last summer, when we were still only making essential trips out of the house to the store for grocery staples and medication, I was grasping at straws (like everyone else), trying to catch and hold on to any small sort of normalcy. Looking back, my saving grace became the weekly trip to our CSA in Lanesborough, for vegetables, as well as egg and chicken shares.
Each Tuesday evening I waited for the Veggie CSA Newsletter to arrive in my email inbox. Lisa, our veggie CSA manager, would announce what to expect in that week's share — radishes, hakurei turnips, Swiss chard, etc. She'd also update us on how the crops were doing and most importantly, share a recipe for how to use one of the items. One time, when there was an abundance of green cabbage, she shared a recipe, similar to her mother's own, detailing how to make boiled dumplings from scratch.
At first, our CSA was a little foreign; our shares prepackaged and waiting for us to pick them up from a table at a selected time. As summer progressed and COVID-19 restrictions began to ease ever so slightly, we were able to choose our items from bins filled with that week's veggies and talk with Lisa or one of the other CSA farm hands. Going to the farm for CSA pickup was the only time my 16-year-old son left the house last summer. It became "our thing." Together, Isaac and I would get excited when Lisa's email arrived, often with the promise of picking green beans or plucking ripe tomatillos from the vine. We came home from those visits, triumphant, with small paper bags, filled to the brim with green beans, peas and cherry tomatoes.
I became determined to save some of our summer harvest. I blanched and froze cabbage, green beans and zucchini for the coming winter. I canned tomato sauce. I dried out herbs. And, because of those recipe links Lisa sent each week, I became more willing to try vegetables that I'd never had before. One vegetable I never would have tried without her urging, both in an email and in person, is the hakurei turnip (also known as a Japanese turnip). This small white turnip can be eaten raw or cooked, with or without its greens. It's now one of my favorite root vegetables, and I know I did a little hand clap last Saturday when I saw bunches for sale at the farmers market.
If you haven't tried hakurei turnips yet, here's a simple recipe for sauteed hakurei turnips and greens, courtesy of Glenn Bergman, executive director of Berkshire Agricultural Ventures, who suggests serving sauteed turnips and greens with grilled items or with light brown rice. He said, in an email, that this recipe is "excellent with pan fried halibut."
He also suggests: adding chopped garlic and minced fresh ginger right before the turnips are finished sauteing or adding a splash of soy/Tamari sauce and toasted sesame oil at the end to finish the dish.
SAUTÉED HAKUREI TURNIPS AND GREENS
1 large bunch of hakurei turnips, cleaned and sliced
2 tablespoons of olive oil or 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter/butter alternative (butter will help carnalize the turnips)
salt and pepper
Trim off leafy tops off of the turnips, trimming off the stems. Wash the green tops well and then cut into 2-inch lengths, set aside. Wash but do not peel the turnips. Slice turnips into wedges, two or three slices per turnip.
Add butter with olive oil (or just olive oil) to a heated a medium-size pan. Sauté sliced turnips until lightly brown on both sides ... you want that caramelization to give some sweet taste to the turnip (some people like to add a sprinkling of sugar).
Add greens on top of turnips and reduce heat. (At this point, some like to add a little water and cover the pan to steam the greens and finish the turnips. But this isn't necessary.) Turn a few times as the greens wilt. Season with salt and pepper. Serve alone or as a side.