Chow Town

Cold temperatures, rain delay farmers’ local food production

Updated: 2013-06-15T12:36:33Z

By ANDREA SHORES

Our climate makes selling produce in the Midwest a tricky business.

Early warm temperatures and drought last year caused havoc. This year, we suffered from prolonged cold temperatures and rain.

Curious to see how the weather this year affected farmers, I looked back on Brookside Farmers’ Market records.

One year ago this week farmers sold the last of their blueberries and blackberries. This week those same farmers are bringing their blueberry harvest to market for the first time this season.

What farmers will have, and when, varies by market and vendor based on market guidelines and vendor growing practices. But any way you look at it — local food production is weeks behind where it was last year.

The last appearance of local strawberries in 2012 at Brookside Farmers’ Market, for instance, occurred the first week in June.

Although they are in limited quantities compared to a few weeks ago, here we are mid-June 2013 and farmers are still bringing strawberries to market.

I often favor simple recipes with anything I bring home from market. Some good technique and basic seasoning goes a long way when applied to organic, local produce that is often harvested the day before it’s brought to market.

Strawberries are no exception. I bought a quart of small, bright red beauties from Red Ridge Farms and made a quick and easy dessert for a dinner my aunt hosted.

First I washed, drained, hulled and halved or quartered the strawberries depending on their size.

Remember locally grown strawberries aren’t the giant, hard orbs you find at the supermarket. They are delicate, juicy and delicious straight off the plant.

Then I crumbled a pecan scone from Bread of Life Bakery, topped it with strawberries folded into fresh custard, and added more fresh strawberries and fresh lemon zest.

I think it went over well — my sister ate two servings and my uncle talked about it for days.

Of course, an easy alternative to making fresh custard is use store-bought whipped cream, which I’ve done in summers past when it was too hot to fire up the stove and stand stirring for 15 minutes. Custard or whipped cream, it’s a fresh, vibrant dessert for summer.

Fresh Custard Recipe

1 cup heavy cream

3 egg yolks

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 teaspoons all-purpose flour

Zest from one lemon

Whisk together heavy cream, egg yolks, granulated sugar and vanilla extract over medium heat. Whisk in flour and continue to whisk, not stopping, until custard becomes thick (up to 15 minutes). Place lemon zest into a bowl. Remove custard from heat, pour into the bowl with lemon zest, stir, and allow to cool in the refrigerator.

Source: Andrea Shores

Raised by generations of cooks, farmers and green thumbs, Andrea Shores is an enthusiastic eater and curious cook. She loves sharing her passion for local food by telling farmers’ and food purveyors’ stories.

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