The Ingredients: Veggie Tales

Our local farmers markets are ripe with unexpected produce.

Bushels of bright red apples, baskets of juicy strawberries and rows of yellow corn — all locally grown and freshly picked await you at a plethora of farmers markets this summer. But discovering what's in season is half the fun of walking among the stands. "You have to be a little bit more adventurous in terms of being willing to experiment with the vegetables that are there," says Market Connect director Jenny Kelley, who helps operate the Lakewood, Kamm's Corners and Broadway farmers markets. Explore the area's different markets to discover unusual greens such as dandelion and nettle, varieties of cabbage including kohlrabi or multicolored carrots. "The vendors are a fantastic resource for understanding the best ways to prepare [something] you've never used before," Kelley advises. She also suggests showing up early to get first pick of popular items such as eggs and fruits with short growing seasons or coming toward the end of the day for great deals (many farmers will offer a discount on surplus food). "The last thing that any of the vendors wants is to waste food," she says.

Stand Strong

Vendors are touting more than just fruits and vegetables.

Knife Sharpening

Dull knives are dangerous to use and can bruise tender produce. Bring yours to Chef Sharp, where owner Pat Hartman will sharpen and hone your edges for just $5 the first Saturday of every month at Coit Road Market.

Specialty Desserts

Coquette Patisserie is best known for its macarons, but owner Shane Culey recommends trying the pate de fruit. These fancy treats, made from fruit puree, sugar and pectin, come in a box of six for $7 at the Shaker Square market.

Creative Spread

Elevate the classic PBandJ with fun jellies such as lavender and concord grape or ginger peach with jaggery (a type of cane sugar) from Abby's Orchard Preserves. Pick up the latest creations at the Tremont market on Tuesdays.

Course Work

If you're stumped on dinner ideas, chances are there's a local chef at the market hosting a cooking demonstration. Fresh Fork Market chef-in-residence Parker Bosley, who's a regular instructor at the Downtown Farmers Market, loves to show visitors how to make dishes using local produce such as his linguini with cream using fava beans from Por-Bar Farms in Homerville, Ohio. "Fava beans require some busy work to prepare them for cooking," he says. "Have faith. The resulting product is worth your investment of time."

Linguini with Cream and Fava Beans

1 cup of fava beans, shelled and blanched
1 ounce butter
1 cup of cream
2 portions of linguini
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, minced fresh sage or rosemary
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Melt butter in a nonstick saute pan over low heat. Choose a pan large enough to accommodate the pasta when finishing the dish. Add one-fourth of the beans to the butter and mash with a fork. This will create a paste. Add the cream. Raise the heat.
2. While the pasta is cooking, boil the cream to thicken slightly.
3. Add the herbs, salt, pepper and remaining fava beans.
4. Drain the pasta.
5. Add a couple of tablespoons of the pasta water to the cream and then toss in the pasta.
6. Season to taste and serve.

Exchange Rate

Leave your wallet at home, but be sure to bring your best bourbon blueberry jam or caramel apple pie. Countryside Conservancy's food swaps, held at rotating locations near Akron on the third Tuesday of every month, let participants barter and exchange creative homemade goods such as lemon-herb ricotta agnolotti or pomegranate molasses with other aspiring local Betty Crockers.

Click here for a complete list of local farmers markets. 

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