You know spring has arrived in earnest when the seasonal farmers markets start blooming. Most are in full swing now, or soon will be, and you can find the ones nearest you with our interactive market map for 2014.

This week in Food we introduce two new features: From now through the fall, Cathy Barrow, a.k.a. Mrs. Wheelbarrow, will share her canning expertise with instructions on how to preserve seasonal bounty. Lesson One: artichokes, which turn out velvety, flavorful and nothing like the acidic store-bought canned variety we’re used to. And Vered Guttman becomes the Ethnic Market Scout, exploring our area for unusual and intriguing finds. She kicks off the series with a look at Middle Eastern markets, plus some recipes that use what she discovered there.

Also this week, Kathy Gunst shares Mother’s Day memories, with a poignant look back at a ritual her children cherished — until they didn’t.

We’re in luck: All three of those writers will be joining us today for the weekly Free Range chat, so get your reading done and stop in for what promises to be a lively hour. It starts at noon sharp, as usual. Bring your questions, and we’ll answer as many as we can during the allotted 60 minutes. Just to get you in the mood, here’s a leftover question from last week’s chat:

I really like poppy seed dressing but don’t love the typically high sugar and/or mayo (blech) it usually contains. I’m hoping you can help with some substitutions or maybe even a healthy bottled one.

I’m in your camp! One of my guilty pleasures is Brianna’s Poppy Seed Dressing, which I like on fruit salads, green salads, crudites, etc. But oh, the fat: 14 grams of it in a two-tablespoon serving. So here’s what I do: I dilute the Brianna’s with orange juice at about a 50-50 ratio. It still tastes good to me, and I feel virtuous.

As for making your own: Our Recipe Finder, sadly, contains but one poppy seed dressing recipe, a component of Summer Slaw With Poppy Seed-Mustard Dressing. I made a small batch of the dressing, and while it’s good, it’s not the creamy variety that a lot of people like. So with my Brianna’s bottle at my side for inspiration, I fiddled with the ingredients in the slaw dressing, made a few additions and subtractions (didn’t have any tocopherols on hand) and came up with these ingredients for a small test batch: 2 tablespoons of canola oil, 1 tablespoon of cider vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon of prepared Dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon of fat-free Greek yogurt, 2 teaspoons of honey, 1/4 teaspoon of poppy seeds and a pinch of salt. You could try that, adjusting the ingredient amounts to suit your taste and eliminating the yogurt if that touch of creamy dairy isn’t really what you’re after. The Brianna’s contains white onions in very small dice, which might be a nice addition but of course would take more time. (A little chopped shallot, I suspect, would be equally good.)

Give that a try, and see if it measures up to what you like. And if it doesn’t, there’s always Brianna’s — and orange juice.