Baby tomatoes

Baby tomatoes

Friday, July 31, 2015

Summertime and Farmers Markets

It's been such a crummy summer for our garden. The cool wet spring gave way to tomato blight, slow growth, and lots of mildew problems. Weeks of rain and cloudy skies didn't give our plants the sunshine they needed. We had a pretty decent first couple crops of radishes but that quickly ended when we had a couple weeks of blistering heat. In typical Iowa fashion, that was followed by more cold, wet, rainy weather. I had planted a few heirloom tomatoes- all cherry type, most of which were started from seed. This was another year for growing super hot peppers to stock up the shelves again. the time July ended, the tomatoes were pretty much a lost cause and the hornworms turned the pepper plants into a salad bar. 

Homemade treats for sale in Stuart
It's a good thing we have wonderful farmer's markets all over Iowa! My garden might be a flop this year but plenty of other folks are having success in theirs and sharing their goods at the numerous small town farmers markets in the towns surrounding the lake. 

Springtime freshness in Panora
Dexter, the closest town, has two farmers markets every Tuesday. One is in the city park, and the other is an indoor market in the historic Roundhouse. Every week the local residents set up tables in the markets and offer fresh garden produce, homemade baked goods, homemade jams, and even hand-picked walnuts. Just up the road is Stuart, where we get to do it all over again every Wednesday. The Stuart market also features farm-raised beef, eggs, bakery goods and a wide variety of produce from Early Morning Harvest, an aquaponics farm. It's just a short drive to Panora where their market is held on Friday evenings and Guthrie Center on Saturday morning. Each market has something a little different, like handmade jewelry and craft items. Yard decorations, garden plants, quilts and even a food truck sometimes appear at the farmers markets. 

Freshly baked quick breads in Panora
Since I primarily garden in containers, some vegetables just don't grow as well- like winter squash and zucchini. I never try to grow them anymore and rely on the farmers markets for all my zucchini and cucumbers for making pickles. In Stuart I can get great deals on pickling cucumbers and always get plenty to last through the winter. 

Live music in Guthrie Center
Some years we grow green beans at the Little Lake House and other years we don't. We have a pretty cool deck with some latticework that is perfect for climbing plants like Kentucky Wonder pole beans, which is one of our favorites. Letting the plants grow up the deck looks really pretty too- the blossoms look so cute and we get lots of butterflies and bees buzzing around. Most years we don't actually, because so many local growers have them. Green beans and wax beans are probably my favorite summer vegetable to can so I buy lots of them. Sometimes I get extra lucky and get a decent score of peas too. Of course every farmers market offers at least one if not more vendors selling Iowa sweet corn. It wouldn't be summer without it. Peaches and cream corn is pretty readily available but the last couple summers I have seen some different varieties as well. A blogger friend of mine even found pink sweet corn- so I'm on the lookout!

Guthrie Center's market
Summer in Iowa is all about the tomatoes. At the markets you can find any kind of tomato you could possibly want- grape and cherry tomatoes, all kinds of heirlooms, great big giant Beefsteaks, and every size in between. Since I do a lot of home canning, I often buy tomatoes in bulk, either at the pick your own farm or from the farmers market vendors. I don't have to worry about planting dozens of plants and I can get great prices! I just have to load the box in the car and head home.

Each Stuart vendor has a great variety
It's not just vegetables at the farmers market, there are plenty of fruits available too. Vendors offer spring berries like strawberries and raspberries and one guy at the Stuart market even offers gooseberries. I hadn't seen fresh gooseberries since I was a kid. These are wild gooseberries he forages for in the woods surrounding the lake. I'll gladly pay him to go tromping through the woods! Later in the season we see apples, plums, peaches, cherries, pears and more. While I have always wanted fruit trees in my yard I know I can get plenty of fresh fruit right at the farmers market.

Early Morning Harvest sells aquaponics
and much more
Of course when I want a more big and bustling market experience I can head to Des Moines every Saturday morning for the Downtown Farmers Market. It's a HUGE deal, covering several city blocks, at least three different streets, dozens and dozens of vendors, live entertainment, sidewalk brunches and all kinds of food- fresh vegetables, Indian food, breakfast burritos, cocktails, Asian foods, pizza- anything you could possibly want. It's an experience everyone should check out at least once.

For me though, nothing beats our small town farmers markets.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 55: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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