News that Medford is home to yet another farmers market proves the interest in locally grown and produced foods is still going strong. Over the past few years, we’ve seen markets founded in nearly all the valley’s small communities from Talent to Jacksonville to Rogue River to Eagle Point.
The New Heritage Public Market at Eden Valley Orchards is getting off the ground, so shoppers should go with realistic expectations. You’re not going to accomplish the entire week’s grocery shopping there — or even stock up on produce, at least for now. When I was writing this week’s story, Eden Valley still was working on a partnership with Southern Oregon Sales to provide locally grown vegetables in season.
It’s important to keep the seasons in mind whenever shopping at growers markets or farm stands. Sure, summer tomatoes and corn are a long way off, but this is the most exciting time at the markets, when small quantities of new crops pop up on a weekly basis. If shoppers take them for granted, they could be gone the next week.
One of those is fiddleheads — not a crop in the strictest sense but rather a foraged, extremely limited commodity. Mushrooms All Year sells these succulent tops cut from unfurling ferns for just a few short weeks this time of year at the Rogue Valley Growers and Crafters Market. Why would you want to eat these, you might ask? Why not?
There are few accompaniments more suited to fresh, wild mushrooms than a “vegetable” that grows alongside it and intensifies that pungent, earthy, fungus flavor. Some people liken fiddleheads’ flavor to asparagus. I say they taste just like the coastal conifer forest smells after a light rain.
I prefer fiddleheads lightly sauteed and tossed with pasta or a cooked, whole grain for pilaf, stirred into risotto or topping pizza. Last night I crisped them slightly in some anchovy butter and appointed them as the bed for a poached egg and some crispy crumbles of prosciutto.
Another short-season product, actually the byproduct of growing garlic, is green garlic shoots. I purchased some from Runnymede Farm a couple weeks ago and substituted them for scallions in a stir-fry. I finely minced my second bunch in the food processor and stirred them into mayonnaise to smear on toast with last night’s egg.
These little morsels don’t seem like much, but they foreshadow the bounty in store. To plan your market trips, go to the newspaper’s updated farmers’ market guide and check out the seasonal produce calender. Then find the market nearest you on our interactive map.