Finds from a local farmers market can add variety to weekend gatherings. Left: Kale, tomatillos, and oyster mushrooms in three varieties: golden, pink, and summer whites. Right: Kombucha is a fermented tea drink that comes in a variety of fruit flavors.

Weekend quality time with friends and family often coincides with enjoying our favorite foods. While preparing for these gatherings, don’t pass up the opportunity to shop at the local farmers' market where freshness and variety are within easy reach.

Whether trying something different, making new acquaintances, or simply wanting to avoid the big grocery store, visiting a farmers’ market is worth the trip. If there’s more than one in your area, visit them all for more finds.

In recent years, the variety of goods offered at markets have expanded beyond the typical tomatoes and squash. While traditional produce such as zucchini, watermelons, and peaches have their own sacred space, it is refreshing to discover those items that pique the interest of culinary enthusiasts.

Each market has its own distinctive vendors that offer the best of cultivation. Exciting finds like culinary mushrooms, infused honeys, and delicately fermented kombucha have supplied the demand for more unique artisanal interests.

Oyster mushrooms have a texture similar to pulled pork when torn into pieces. They have a stringy, meaty quality to them that makes them great for frying or searing. 

Kombucha (pictured above) is a fermented tea drink that can be flavored with fruit. It’s known for its sweet and sour taste and bubbly essence. Other than a fun, fizzy drink, it's sometimes used as an aid for better digestion. Kombucha comes in an endless variety of flavors. For persons curious about the taste, vendors often offer samples 


Lion's mane mushroom

Lion's Mane Mushroom is an amazing, fuzzy little ball of fungi. It has a delicate mild flavor and can take on just about any seasoning. They can be cooked just like any other mushroom. We cut them into little nuggets and deep fry them in Cajun chicken fry seasoning. Their claim to fame is the ability to improve brain function and cognition.

The joy of visiting such places is the relationships built with local producers. Ask any of them their story and what they are passionate about to learn invaluable knowledge about the ideas they represent and the quality of goods they are selling. Freshness and variety are key to elevating the menu of any family meal or backyard get together.

Tomatillos serve as the base of a refreshing salsa known as Salsa Verde. The secret to adding a delicious charred flavor is roasting them 15 minutes until soft then broiling them for a few more minutes. 


Salsa verde

Salsa Verde Recipe

10-12 tomatillos (about 1.5 pounds), peeled and washed

1 white onion, peeled and quartered

3 cloves garlic, peeled

1-2 serrano chilies (optional)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

4 limes, juiced

1 tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon vinegar

1 bunch cilantro, washed

Preheat oven to 425°

In a bowl, toss tomatillos, onion, garlic, and serrano peppers in oil. Spread onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roast for 15 minutes or until the tomatillos have softened. Broil a few minutes for a charred flavor.

Remove seeds from serranos if less heat is desired.

Put all ingredients into a blender. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.

Allow the mixture to cool and refrigerate for up to one week. Serve with your favorite Mexican-style dish, use as a marinade, or stir into rice for an extra zing of flavor.

Click HERE for a list of farmers' markets in the region.

Lauren Wacaser is the founder of “Let’s Eat Well,” featuring recipes, preparation, and discussion as she and her family create wholesome and innovative meals. She has a cookbook in the works and enjoys growing her own food, and teaching cooking and gardening classes. Her goals include inspiring others to cook at home, connect with their families and friends, and grow their own produce. See more on her “Let’s Eat Well” site.

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