Spring is in the air, and everywhere, good stuff is growing! If you’re anything like me, you spend winter looking forward to the special spring produce that only comes around for a brief and glorious window of time. But how exactly do you make the most out of that first fantastic day at the farmers market?
Inspired by the fruit-filled designs of our ModCloth label, I reached out to Quelcy of With The Grains to give us the insider info on how to shop your local market like a pro. Not only did Quelcy give us a ton of insights while rocking our Steadfast Sojourn Top in Cherries, she also created a super-versatile recipe that can be used for brunch AND for bubbly! Read on for her tips and treats.
Quelcy in the Steadfast Sojourn Top in Cherries
Tell us a little bit about yourself, your blog, and your work on an urban farm!
I’m Quelcy (like ‘Quell the sea’), a freelance food stylist, event designer, and food blogger. I come from a long line of Midwestern farmers who knew their way around a kitchen. As a way to indulge my sweet tooth more wholesomely, I took to baking and cooking. My concern for local agriculture plays a major role in my ingredient choices, and my love of writing and photography eventually led me to turn these passions into my food blog, With The Grains.
I call myself a ‘part-time urban farmer’, as I still have much to learn! I fell head over heels for farmer and beekeeper Kyle just as he was launching his dream: Hazelwood Urban Farms. It was a huge privilege to be with him and the farm from the very beginning, especially for my sheepdog Julep. She had been waiting her whole life to be a farmhand!
What’s your favorite part about farmers markets and other local food spaces?
Conversation + flavor. When people plant, grow, and harvest a vegetable, or milk a cow or goat to make cheese, they tend to be very enthusiastic about that product! Whether it be the quirky name of the heirloom seed or the temperament of the baby goats, this dialogue is such a far cry from asking the produce clerk at the grocery store for more details on the fennel. Plus, local purveyors can pick when the produce is ripe, since they aren’t shipping their product across the globe.
What’s your ideal outfit for visiting the farmers market?
I love me some overall shorts! All those pockets make it easy to have cash ready. In the summertime, I also love maxi dresses to keep cool and to move around easily. Hats and big sunglasses are a must, and a structural market basket is a great accessory to have, so those prized berries won’t be squished between market and home.
What produce are you MOST excited for this year?
Local spring and summer berries and fresh herbs like mint and anise hyssop make it worth turning on the oven in the summertime! I’m also really looking forward to the flowers. I’ve come to really appreciate the uplifting power of fresh flowers, so this year, we planned a flower plot on the farm. I can’t wait to pick flowers and fresh veggies for a dinner on the farm, and they support the real heroes — the honey bees!
Do you have any tips on how to get the most out of a farmers market experience?
Shop with your taste buds and an open mind! Many farmers will give out samples, or offer up herbs and fruits to smell. Think of the farmers market like a cooking show challenge. Here’s what is available and flavorful at the moment, now be creative and turn it into tonight’s dinner! Also, don’t be afraid to stick to your food values. Ask the farmers if they grow organically or pesticide-free (even if they aren’t certified, which is often too expensive for small-scale producers. They risk more for their sustainable approach and should be rewarded accordingly.
Okay, so you’ve scored big at the farmers market…now what? Any tips for using your finds in a way that minimizes potential food waste?
Wasting less is a huge priority of mine, so much so that I added a ‘Waste Not, Want Not‘ category to my blog. It comes down to kitchen creativity and experimentation! Use the end cuts of vegetables like carrots and celery to make a homemade stock, or try a version of my Turnip Chips & Turnip Greens Dip as a way to use the entire vegetable. Juicing is a great way to clean out the refrigerator, and there are quick pickling methods that are not intimidating at all.
About Quelcy’s Recipe:
Brunch is my favorite meal of the day, but it’s a meal we often have to forego during the farm season, so as the work is just beginning to kick off, we enjoyed a spring brunch to celebrate one of the first seasonal offerings: rhubarb! Rhubarb is so nostalgic, since my mom was one of the few neighbors who knew what to do with the stalky vegetable when most people thought it was a weed. In the spirit of “Waste Not, Want Not,” the main recipe is for a Rhubarb Simple Syrup, perfect for brunch cocktails or a homemade soda. Rather than strain and pitch the fruit, it makes a sweet and tart topping for waffles.
Strawberry Rhubarb Simple Syrup
Makes about 16 ounces
2 cups chopped rhubarb
2 cups chopped strawberries
1-2 large basil leaves
1 cup organic dark brown sugar
1 cup water
1) Combine all the ingredients in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, and bring to a boil.
2) Lower the heat to a simmer and cook gently, stirring occasionally, until the fruit is soft and the liquid has thickened slightly, about 20 minutes.
3) Set a fine-mesh strainer (or a coarse strainer lined with cheesecloth) over a large bowl. Pour the rhubarb through the strainer until most of the liquid is in the bowl. Press the solids a little with the back of a spoon to extract more syrup.
4) Carefully pour the syrup into a clean bottle. Cover or cork the bottle and refrigerate. It should keep for quite some time in the fridge.
5) Save the leftover rhubarb and strawberry solids to use as a fruit compote. Store them in a clean jar and keep them in your refrigerator for a week or so.
Strawberry Rhubarb Brunch Cocktail
Combine Strawberry Rhubarb Simple Syrup and chilled champagne (or prosecco) to taste.
Compote with waffles and whip cream
Use the leftover rhubarb and strawberry solids as a fruit compote. They pair perfectly with these waffles made with roasted beets and cornmeal. Top it off with fresh-made whipped cream and dig in!
+ Is your mouth watering yet? What pretty produce will you pick up while sporting our ModCloth label?