|Early Birds in the Rain|
|Features - Farmers and Markets|
|Written by Michelle Collins|
It may have been thundering and lightning, but that did not stop local farmers and vendors from standing in the rain to share their homegrown products and stories.
The Waltham Farmers' Market held its Early Bird Market Day last Saturday to preview the upcoming season. Select vendors showcased their products in the Sovereign Bank parking lot on Moody Street, each of them enthusiastic about their work and eager to share their stories despite the dreary, wet weather they had to stand in from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Vendors included Smith’s Country Cheese from Winchendon; Warren Farm Sugarhouse of North Brookfield; Bart’s Farm Stand of Leominster; and Nature Photography based out of Waltham. For being a sneak preview of the Farmers' Market to come (the season starts June 12th and goes until November 6th), the Early Bird Market had quite the impressive selection. Cauliflower, yellow and red cherry tomatoes, pineapple sage, and aloe were all available for sale, as well as fresh herbs like rosemary and basil. A variety of vibrant flowers were also present, including bubble-gum pink non-stop begonias.
Some of my personal favorites from the day included Warren Farm Sugarhouse, who displayed an array of maple-infused delicacies, all made by husband and wife team, Dale and Janice Wentworth. Items included real maple syrup, along with homemade maple candies, cranberry maple syrup (which Dale recommends serving over orange sherbet ice cream), maple syrup infused with fresh vanilla, and even maple mustard sauce.
Smith’s Country Cheese was another vendor that stood out. Smith’s cheese is made from the milk produced by their Holstein cows, and on this day, they were even selling their ground beef – 90 percent lean and hormone-free. Smith’s stand allowed market-goers to sample every kind of cheese they had for sale, ranging from Sundried Tomato and Basil Gouda to Havarti with Dill to Smoked Cheddar. Back at their dairy farm in Winchendon, Smith’s has even become an industry leader in renewable energy - they cut their power supply by 50 percent through a combination of photovoltaics and conservation.
Another highlight at the Early Bird Market was Christina’s Ice Cream and Q’s Sweet Roasted Nuts, a local, family-owned and operated business. Like Smith’s, Q’s Nuts allowed visitors to sample anything they desired, ranging from cashews, almonds and pecans, with innovative nut flavor combinations such as Cayenne Mango, Key Lime Ginger, and the extra spicy Sweet and Sassy, made with habañero and cayenne.
Before I left the Farmers' Market, I purchased some creamy Vegetable Havarti cheese from Smith’s, along with some Cayenne Mango cashews and "Sweet and Sassy" almonds from Q’s Nuts. The cheese was only $4, and the nuts were $3.50 a piece. Across the entire market, the prices were extremely reasonable – to be honest, I would have paid more to support these local, hard-working business owners and farmers.
As I talked with Mr. Wentworth, it was easy to realize why the unfortunate weather made no difference that day. As he described Warren Farm’s products, the hard work and dedication in his voice and eyes proved that he wasn’t just there to make a living; he was there to share his food, which he worked hard to prepare, with the local community.
To make use of my Vegetable Havarti cheese, I modified a recipe suggestion that Smith’s Country Cheese includes on their website for Cumin Cheese Taco Dip. I’m not sure how the original recipe tastes, but my version came out beautifully creamy, slightly spicy, and chocked full of tangy flavors from the Havarti, followed by the vibrant vegetable flavors from the salsa and cheese. You do, however, need to continuously warm up this dip, as it quickly becomes progressively thicker as it cools. I served this with organic yellow and blue tortilla chips for dipping.
Vegetable Havarti Taco Dip
-8 oz. Vegetable Havarti
-½ cup tomato salsa (I used Newman’s Own Farmer’s Garden salsa)
-crushed red pepper for heat (add for desired amount of spice)
-salt and pepper to taste
-splash of brown ale (I used Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale)
Mix all ingredients together and heat, uncovered, on low to medium heat in saucepan. Stir often, and continue cooking until cheese mixture is bubbly and creamy. Pour into serving bowl, and add chopped tomato and cilantro on top for garnish. Serve hot.
Michelle Collins is a freelance food writer based out of Waltham, Massachusetts. She is a regular contributor to The Nashua Telegraph in Nashua, N.H., and her work has also been featured in Edible White Mountains and Parenting New Hampshire Magazines. Outside of print, Michelle also has her own money conscious food blog called The Economical Eater.