It’s no surprise that the Food section staff likes to shop at farmers markets all around the Washington area. Here’s a rundown of some of the items that keep us coming back:
Around here, the little oblong orbs called kiwi berries come along for only a few weeks in the late summer or early fall, depending on where they’re growing. But what a luscious few weeks they are. The berries are super sweet with smooth skins, and barely reminiscent of their larger, fuzzier relative (kiwi fruit) found in grocery stores. They are perhaps best eaten out of hand or sliced into bowls of yogurt and granola, and they also make excellent jam.
Spring ramp kraut
The excellent purveyor of fermented foods Number 1 Sons has added ramps to its seasonal sauerkraut, giving the cabbage an extra funkiness. Eat this on salads, in grain bowls, on sandwiches and tacos and wherever else you want crunch, spice and garlicky pungency.
$7 for 12 ounces and $15 for 32 ounces at 24 area markets, including Tuesdays at the Crystal City FreshFarm Market, Saturdays at the Arlington Farmers Market and 14&U Farmers’ Market, and Sundays at Columbia Pike Farmers Market and Bethesda Central Farm Market.
Wildflower honey and honeycomb cap
This is raw and unfiltered, with a complex flavor and amber color. Save it for drizzling on any dish where it can be truly showcased. For another treat, try chewing on a little of the honeycomb cap — it’s like an all-natural gum, with health benefits — or use it as an unusual garnish on frozen desserts.
If you’ve never had freshly made pocketless pita — soft and a little spongy, so unlike the supermarket variety — try the lovely version made by a purveyor of excellent Greek sweets, dips and breads. Use it for wraps, obviously, but also as a pizza crust substitute; alongside salads and soups; or as a vehicle for hummus and other spreads.
Dried apple slices
Why settle for out-of-season apples that been moved in and out of cold storage since they were harvested in the fall? Their texture and taste suffer. Better to have apples dried at their peak, such as these chewy, sweet slices from Quaker Valley Orchards. Eat them out of hand, add them to granola or yogurt, cut them up into salads, and more.
$5 for a 5-inch clamshell box, at six area markets, including Saturdays at the H Street FreshFarm Market and Mount Pleasant Farmers’ Market, Wednesdays at the Rose Park in Georgetown, and Sundays at the Dupont Circle FreshFarm Market.
La Ratte fingerling potatoes
These creamy little beauties are wonderful just about any way you cook them, but they happen to make the best smashed potatoes ever: Just boil until tender, then flatten and roast with olive oil and salt until crisp.
Peking Black Southern Peas
Farmer Heinz Thomet is growing several staples unusual for these parts, such as flours and grains (including rice). The latest addition to his whole-pantry approach is dried beans, including black turtle and red kidney beans, plus black-eyed peas and these, their mahogany cousins. They were dried after last fall’s harvest, making them much younger than supermarket beans (which can be several years old) and therefore much quicker to cook.
Grass-fed strip steaks
For those who have sliced into only grain-finished beef, the grass-fed variety can be a revelation — sometimes not a pleasant one. Grass-fed beef doesn’t have as much intramuscular fat, which means it’s leaner and more minerally than the meat from its grain-based cousins. An acquired taste, you say? Perhaps. But you might also think of it as a more refined taste.
$18.99 a pound from Smith Meadows on Wednesdays at the Crossroads Farmers Market; Saturdays at the Arlington Farmers Market, the Del Ray Farmers’ Market and the Falls Church Farmers Market; and Sundays at the Columbia Pike Farmers Market, the Dupont Circle FreshFarm Market and the Takoma Park Farmers Market.
Chicken masala pasties
A pasty is a working-class English meal-in-a-crust: sort of plain, sort of delicious. Welsh native Nyall Meredith, the man behind Celtic Pasties, says that none of his offerings are particularly traditional. Try the chicken masala pasty stuffed with chicken, potatoes, mushrooms and onions in a wine sauce. The pocket must be warmed up (12 to 15 minutes at 350 degrees), which is good. At home, you can perk up the pasty with salt, pepper or a pool of ketchup for dipping.
This type of French cheese typically is made with cow’s milk, but Suzanne Behrmann of Shepherd’s Whey Creamery uses goat’s milk, which helps contribute to its super-runny texture and earthy flavor. Like brie, it’s shaped in wheels, covered in mold and aged. Bake it into bread, melt it on crackers or eat it straight up in generous wedges.
About $8 per 8-ounce wheel, on Wednesdays at the Foggy Bottom FreshFarm Market, Saturdays at the Downtown Silver Spring FreshFarm Market and Leesburg Saturday Market and Sundays at the Mosaic Central Farm Market.
Orange cardamom bread
Old World Breads owner Keith Irwin introduced this loaf as a holiday special but ended up keeping it on permanently. Now one of his best sellers, it’s made with an organic seven-grain blend and whole-wheat flour and studded with candied orange peel. While great on its own, the hearty, aromatic loaf makes killer grilled cheese and french toast, too.
$7 per 24-ounce round loaf at the Penn Quarter FreshFarm Market on Thursdays, St. Michaels FreshFarm Market on Saturdays and the Annapolis and Dupont Circle FreshFarm markets on Sundays, plus at the shop in Lewes and a variety of markets in Delaware.
#Trending pepper plants
Seekers of homegrown culinary heat find their way to the Tomatoes Etc. Produce Farm market table, where 19 varieties of 4-to-12-inch-tall pepper plants await. The Carolina Reaper, holding the current title of world’s hottest pepper, is among them, as are Maryland’s fish peppers and those also-rans of a few years back, ghost peppers. Farmer-owner James Crebs does his research, evident on his stand’s “shelf talkers.” He carries at least 15 kinds of tomato plants, too.
$6 to $20 (depending on the variety), Tomatoes Etc. Produce Farm of Westminster, Md., on Sundays at the Baltimore Farmers’ Market and Bazaar in Baltimore; on Saturdays at the West Frederick Farmers Market in Frederick and at the downtown Westminster Farmers Market; and on Thursdays at the Towson Farmers Market.
These add terrific crunch and bite to salads, and they’re good for pickling — plus, they’re conversation starters. The ones shown here are grown by Russ and Meg Testa of YourChefsTable.net in Brookeville, Md., and are of the tiller variety, similar to a daikon.
$4 per pint, on Saturdays at the Farmers Market at River Hill in Clarksville, Md.; on Sundays at St. Camillus Church, 1600 St. Camillus Dr., Silver Spring; and on Wednesdays at Bethesda Towers Farm Stand, 4340 East West Hwy., Bethesda.
Ewe creme with herbs
Colleen Histon of Shepherds Manor Creamery makes a variety of hard sheep’s milk cheeses, but we’re a particular fan of her soft ewe creme. It’s silky but spreadable, with a tang that’s milder than what you might find in a goat cheese. The herb version with chives, garlic, pepper and onion is superb on crackers, in eggs or atop pizza.
$8 for 7 to 8 ounces or $10 for 10 to 11 ounces, at the Kenilworth Farmers Market on Tuesdays, Penn Quarter FreshFarm Market on Thursdays and every other Sunday at the Dupont Circle FreshFarm Market and Olney Farmers & Artists Market.
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated the incorrect weight of the loaf from Old World Breads. This version has been updated.
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