Strolling through the noisy parking lot, flanked by food hawkers, chatting with a granola guru, watching a man sharpen knives on a graduated series of sanding wheels while his customers shopped, sampling everything from fat juicy Obsidian blackberries berries to boutique drinking vinegars to yak pepperoni sticks, I watched money and produce change hands.
And I was struck by this thought: Food is a type of social currency. It can buy satisfaction, health, pleasure, relationship, entertainment, even social status. Food unites us. Farmers markets all over the country help close the gap between urban and rural America. And we all participate in that currency exchange every day in one form or another, regardless of where we live.
The value of this currency, for me, is doubled when I know its source.
“Know your farmer” is a familiar slogan in Montezuma Valley, and it supports the notion of social currency. My money goes farther than the mere purchase of nutritious food when I know where and who it came from. The greenbacks that I swap for fresh locally grown produce are a social investment that works both ways.
The Cortez Farmers Market, like the one in Portland, is approaching its peak season. You can expect to find greens, beets, garlic, radishes, carrots, basil, young summer squash, spinach, and swiss chard. New special items include freshly shelled baby peas, sour cherries, and carved fruit from newcomer, Lincoln Bias. Watch him turn a beet into a pinecone or a zucchini into a spray of flowers and you will be amazed. Catch him on YouTube.
And don’t forget to stop by the Montezuma School to Farm booth and meet some ambitious middle-schoolers who have jumped into the food currency exchange and are selling the food they raised in the Cortez Middle School garden project. In addition to cherry tomato plants and herb gardens, they also offer pots of 4 o’ clocks and wild roses. Their student-made cards are also on sale.
And speaking of currency, my thoughts turn to Greece. This recipe may not solve Greece’s problems, but it will delight all comers at your table. I call it Greek Meets West.
At least once every summer I make this spin-off from Greek dolmas, stuffed grape leaves, but with Swiss chard standing in for the grape leaves. Although the basic ingredients remain the same each time, it always varies. It can be altered easily with a change of herbs and spices, sometimes curry, and last minute additions like minced toasted nuts, sunflower seeds, currants, raisins, even apple. If you want to make it more Greek-like, try adding a little cooked ground lamb. In other words, feel free to experiment with the stuffing. It’s more fun that way.
This dish works well all by itself or accompanied by a Greek-style salad with lots of olives and feta cheese.
If you want the best selection of produce, plan on getting to the marketplace early. Produce goes on sale at 7:30 and vendors are prohibited from any early bird sales. Many booths run out by 9, and by 10, some vendors are pulling up stakes and going home.
The Parsnippet hopes to be a slice of life. Real. Nourishing. And 100 percent homegrown. See you at the Farmers Market.