Newcomers at the farmers market

Thursday, March 23, 2017 5:10 PM

One of the beauties of the Cortez Farmers Market is the cycle of veteran vendors returning season after season.

Each year we get to know them a little better and watch their produce selection adapt to the demands of their customers.

New vendors sprout up every year. They establish a presence by contributing to the patchwork of local food and products while being absorbed and integrated into the mainstream culture of the market. And like all the vendors, they delight in sharing what they know and relish your curiosity about what they are selling.

Gray and Emily Mason, of Dolores, are new this year to the Cortez Farmers Market. In addition to their bags of basil, purple bush beans, shelling peas and haricots vert, they have a special new offering: quail eggs. Tiny, exquisite, brown speckled eggs, each one’s pattern unique, lay tucked into teeny egg cartons like enchanted river stones. It takes 3-5 quail eggs to equal one chicken egg but, says Emily, they make a terrific omelet and taste delicious atop a burger or pizza. Soon their chickens and ducks will be laying too.

Newcomer Hillary Swortwood of Aprilia Alter Lite offers beautiful, strikingly original combinations of stones, silver, beads, shells, pearled oysters, and wood that she’s crafted into wearable art. Her jewelry is substantial yet delicate, expressive and free yet meticulously crafted. Vintage restoration is another of her specialties.

Michelle Pitts, of Pitts Family Ranch, is selling raw milk shares and taking orders for chickens and Christmas turkeys. Her animals are pasture-raised, fodder-fed and antibiotic-free. She also has an 80-year-old organic apple orchard of 500 trees. She hopes to bring apples to market soon.

Joe Clayton, of JC’s Aquaponics and Fish Hatchery, designs custom home gardens and commercial greenhouse systems that utilize fish kept in an aquarium, usually tilapia, to grow food. Clayton explains that as the fish produce waste, bacteria in the water converts the ammonia from the waste into fertilizer. The waste then gets pumped from the aquarium into a contained gardening system that sits above the aquarium. The plants pull the nitrates out of the water, cleaning the water and fertilizing the plants. The clean water is then returned to the aquarium to repeat the cycle. The system uses substantially less water than conventional practices, and the food they produce grows faster than a teenage boy’s shoe size.

As for seasonal produce, cabbage and melons are the new kids in the neighborhood. Who can resist the call of the Crenshaw melons and their cute out-of-town cousins, Collective Farm Woman melons? Their small, round, mottled green exteriors hide pale green flesh inside.

Cabbage – enormous, slightly menacing, and not too bright – is the bully on the block and comes from a clan of vegetables called crucifers. Broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, kohlrabi, radishes, turnips, mustard greens and arugula are some of the more popular crucifers. What do they have in common? Their flowers have four petals arranged in the shape of a cross. Now you know.

Another common feature among crucifers is their nutritional benefits. Crucifers are rich in antioxidants and high in vitamin C, making them very healthful when fresh. Time spent in shipping and refrigeration, as with most produce, can negatively impact their health benefits. So buy them fresh, and eat them soon.

If you’re wondering what to do with that lunkhead of a cabbage from the market because you couldn’t resist its imposing size, here’s help. Try this instead of a conventional green salad.


Remove outer leaves.

Shred or chop cabbage thinly.

Soak in ice water for 5 minutes to crisp it. Pat dry.

Whisk together some minced garlic, and equal parts vegetable oil and rice or apple vinegar (a couple tablespoons each more or less depending on the size of the cabbage.)

Toss together.

Season with salt and pepper.

Toss again with chopped cilantro (optional).

To cook cabbage

Shred or chop as above.

Rinse, but don’t shake off the water (you’ll need to cook it).

Cook in a heavy skillet with a couple pats of butter and salt and pepper.

Steam, covered, about 5-7 minutes or until the cabbage starts to wilt.

Add a grated apple or two (This idea comes from Lee Hill).

Coming up: Meat. What’s in it for you?