What’s in Season in Wisconsin?
Communities around the state are bustling at local farmers’ markets. Within the last week, I visited two of them, one in Sheboygan and the other in Madison, Wisconsin. The fruits and vegetables at Farmers’ Markets can sometimes be overwhelming, and it can be a challenge to think of no-fuss ways of getting that fresh market food onto the table. This article features what’s available and shares a few ideas for meal planning.
Berries and Rhubarb: The Pies Have It
Rain hit the earth strong in the spring, and there is a noticeable difference between this year’s strawberries and last year’s. In mid-July, local strawberries look like they are beautifully ripe. The bold red color of their centers and their juiciness give rise to an expectation of sweetness, but many strawberries this season are decidedly tart. Make sure you ask to taste a strawberry before you buy.
If they are tart, you don’t need to pass on this high in anti-oxidants and good-for-you, fiber-filled fruit (think pectin). Instead, consider quartering the strawberries and drizzling honey or sprinkling sugar over them. Serve over a bowl of ice cream or top with whipped cream for a quick dessert.
The strawberries this season are perfect for pie, particularly in combination with rhubarb that is also in full growth at the end of June through July. To make the pie filling, macerate the berries and rhubarb with enough sugar to produce liquid and to suit your tastes. Then, thicken the mixture to make sure your pie filling has good structure and squeeze in a little bit of lemon juice and a touch of salt. Pour into your crust, bake, and cool. Add a favorite topping.
Door County cherries are available at the Madison farmer’s market and are wonderfully sweet with few blemishes. You will want to devour them as is.
It is also a good time to stock up on rhubarb and Michigan blueberries. Freeze rhubarb and berries for a taste of summer in the middle of our Wisconsin winters. Frozen blueberries from Michigan have been available at the Sheboygan farmers’ markets.
Sugar Snap Peas, Pea Pods, Shelled Peas: Vine Vegetables That are Divine
Vegetables that grow on vines have loved the consistent heat of July. The sugar snap peas are sweet, plump, and crisp. They are beautiful when served raw on top of a light summer salad. Try them with a ginger-sesame vinaigrette.
Pea pods are available in large bags at farmers’ markets and are perfect for a simple stir fry with some of the other vegetables available. Stir frying or quick steaming are some of the best techniques to maintain most of the nutrients in these low calorie, high flavor foods.
Shelled peas are also available for a vegetarian split pea soup made from fresh, rather than dehydrated split peas. Fill a small soup pot with approximately 1 lb of peas and pour water over to cover. Bring water to a boil, cover with lid, and simmer. When peas are fully cooked in approximately forty minutes, strain out liquid. In a blender, add cream to liquefy, salt, and add ¼ packed cup chopped basil to liquid. Add ¼ cup parmesan cheese. Serve with basil garnish and parmesan cheese.
Garlic, Onions, Turnips, Kohlrabi: Back to Our Roots
One of the best finds of the summer is fresh farmed garlic. On Saturdays in Sheboygan, fresh young garlic, garlic scapes, and a multitude of garlic bulb varieties are available at the Mullet River Garlic Farm stand. Used raw, young garlic is perfect in any vinaigrette you might make for salad. It is a singular white bulb not much wider than a dime in circumference and has a top similar to that of a scallion. Both the young garlic and garlic scapes are mild yet flavorful and excellent cooked or raw in vinaigrettes and pestos.
Medium-sized red onions abound this time of year and make a beautiful addition to any platter of grilled meats.
Turnips are some of the early root vegetables to pop up out of the ground. Remember that if harvested young, the leaves are great sautéed, while the root is nice when roasted until fork tender.
For those, who don’t want to turn on the oven in this incredibly hot and humid weather, Kohlrabi is perfect when sliced and soaked in chilled salt water. It is a great low calorie snack that has an addictive crunch. A few varieties are available. The purple skinned ones often have a little zing to them.
Zucchini and Patty Pan Squash: Put it on a Pan Squash Varieties
Small-sized and tender zucchini and patty pan squash are simply prepared and full of flavor when lightly coated with oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper and roasted at a temperature of 400 degrees for approximately 20 minutes. If you would rather be outside, then grill them on the wire rack above the grill grates. Be sure to slice zucchini into thick pieces. The greens and yellows look great with grilled red onions!
Greens, Basil, Purslane: Enjoy the Greenery of the Farmers’ Markets in Wisconsin!
Young kale, young lettuce leaves, and greenhouse tomatoes make for a perfect salad. Lettuce leaves at this time of year are often tender and sweeter than they are later in the season.
Fresh basil is fragrant right now and robust, perfect for pesto. Freeze your pesto in an ice cube tray, when frozen, pop them out and store in freezer bags to add to your tomato sauces or party dips, and make pesto pasta any time of year.
Purslane, a less commonly known green, is now more widely available. Use it fresh as a garnish to salads or sauté and season it for a stir fry. The large bags you find at the market cook down significantly.