Farmers' markets are cropping up all over these days. In the interest of promoting fresh-to-you foods, Virginia and Maryland state governments have each compiled lists of such markets situated throughout their states.
The pamphlets list the markets, their street addresses (state maps in each have numbered sites identified) and what days and times the markets are open.
Both the "Virginia Farmers' Market Guide" and the "Maryland Retail Farmers' Market" pamphlets list 31 of the states' markets, many in the District area (some, in fact, in Washington). The number of markets continues to grow; two years ago Virginia listed 24 markets. The reason, says Maryland marketing specialist Jack Frey, is that "people are becoming more conscious of fresh produce." Studies show that consumers shop these markets because they believe they get better quality produce; competitive price is secondary. "You can't beat locally grown products," adds Frey.
The Arlington County Farmers' Market is just one example of a market where producers sell directly to consumers. This market, like several others, grew specifically out of community interest. A number of requests to the county government inspired the Arlington extension service to organize that market, according to extension agent Francis Lay.
Producer-only markets mean that you won't find bananas or mangoes in the bins, but you will find people who've trucked in Georgia peaches and Pennsylvania cherries in addition to the tomatoes, zucchini, corn, parsley and other produce growing in the Washington area these days. While the Arlington market stays open until noon on Saturdays, Lay says "You've got to get there early," if you want to find popular items such as raspberries and farm fresh eggs. The market opens at 7 a.m.
A prevalence of produce means endless dinner possibilities; many of which are simpler than those listed below. Sliced tomatoes with basil and olive oil is a familiar but delicious combination. Grated zucchini and carrots with dill is another. Top halved tomatoes with bread crumbs and/or grated cheese and broil or bake them. Ditto for green or yellow squash that has been parboiled to crisp-tenderness. Corn on the cob should never be neglected, nor should barely cooked green beans turned with tarragon and butter.
It doesn't necessarily take a stop at a farmers' market to make the following menu, but you can't beat fresh herbs and fresh vegetables. Designed for garlic lovers, meat fanciers might include layers of browned ground beef or Italian sausage among the spinach noodles and cheese.
To obtain a list of Virginia farmers' markets, send a self-addressed stamped legal-sized envelope to VDACS, Division of Markets, P.O. Box 1163, Richmond, Va. 23209. For a list of Maryland farmers' markets, send the same to: Division of Marketing, Maryland Department of Agriculture, Parole Plaza Office Building, Annapolis, Md. 21401. Anyone wanting to set up a market, or include an existing market in next year's directories, should send information to those addresses. Virginia residents should address inquiries to R.D. Plumb, Virginia's direct marketing specialist; Maryland residents should get in touch with marketing specialist Jack Frey.
While you might make an extra stop for farm-fresh produce, you should already have flour, sugar, salt, pepper and butter and/or oil (in this case, olive oil).
EXPRESS LANE LIST: spinach noodles, cheese (parmesan or other sharp Italian variety), garlic, parsley, eggplant, lemon, tomatoes and additional herbs such as basil, oregano or thyme (fresh if possible).
BAKED FETTUCINI (4 to 6 servings) 8 ounces spinach noodles 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil 4 large cloves garlic, minced 8 ounces grated parmesan (or other sharp Italian cheese such as provolone) 1/4 cup chopped parsley or basil
Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil and add spinach noodles. Cook to al dente, drain well, place back in large saucepan and toss with butter or olive oil and garlic. In a food processor or by hand, grate the cheese. Chop parsley. Layer 1/4 of the noodles in a greased 8-by-8-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with 1/4 of the cheese. Repeat the process, adding chopped parsley to the second and top layers. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
EGGPLANT WITH TOMATOES (4 servings) 2 eggplants 1 clove garlic 3/4 teaspoon salt 2 tablespoons lemon juice 1/3 cup olive oil Freshly ground pepper to taste 2 pounds ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped or 2 pounds canned tomatoes, well drained 3 tablespoons minced parsley 1 tablespoon fresh herb (such as basil, oregano or thyme) or a sprinkling of dried herbs
Place the eggplants on a rack or steamer over a small amount of boiling water in a large, covered pot. Steam 20 minutes. As they cook, mash garlic with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Beat in lemon juice, then olive oil and several grindings of pepper. Chop tomatoes and set them in a sieve and toss with 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Set aside to drain. Halve the eggplants and brush with 1/2 of the lemon-oil mixture. Toss the tomatoes with the remaining half, along with parsley and herbs. Spoon the tomatoes over the eggplant halves. To serve hot, bake in a 350-degree oven for about 10 minutes. The dish may be prepared ahead and served cold or at room temperature.