Let the Market Decide

Green Victoria rhubarb at the Portland Farmers Market

The farmers market, not the financial market.

A recent visit to my farmers market was a good reminder of what a delight it is to turn control of your meals over to the season, whatever that season is. Living in a place of year-round markets means there’s almost no excuse not to flow with what grows right here, right now.

And yet it’s easy to forget. You turn to Epicurious or a cookbook for inspiration and then try to gather the ingredients. It seems backwards, but when you let the market decide, it actually makes meal preparation easier, not to mention more fun.

There’s a saying that what grows together grows together. It couldn’t be more true. Great examples are spinach salads with strawberries, or tomatoes and basil.

At the grocery store, I resist the pull of asparagus in November or strawberries in January, knowing I’ll be disappointed. We live in a time where we don’t need to deny ourselves much. So I remind myself that having tasted a dirt-c0vered Oregon strawberry in June, I’m bound to be disappointed by that berry that traveled thousands of miles in winter—one that’s hard and white inside.

I was hosting a cookout on our first nice day of the season. With no decisions made on what to cook, I bought what was available and figured it out when I got home. This is my favorite way to cook.

My finds included green rhubarb (pictured above) that threw people for a loop. Green rhubarb is just a different cultivar, no less sweet than red. You’ll never find green rhubarb in a grocery store because most people won’t buy it. At a farmers market, you can talk to a farmer or another shopper stuffing a bag for more information. (There’s a finding that a shopper will experience 15 to 20 times the number of interactions at a farmers market versus a grocery store.)

I scored a back of small Peruvian potatoes that I knew would have to become a purple potato salad. Asparagus is in top form at this time of year so I grabbed a bundle, pan roasted it and added it to the potato salad. You can’t go wrong with a purple and green color combination. I had chives in the garden so they went in as well.

Peruvian purple potato salad with chives and pan roasted asparagus with dijon, cider vinegar and olive oil dressing.

What did I do with the rhubarb? I’m not wild about 81 degrees in April in Portland but the weather called for popsicles. I cooked down the rhubarb with sugar and water and added frozen marionberries from last year’s picking. I would have liked to see a green rhubarb popsicle. Next time!

You’ll never be disappointed letting the farmers market decide what to cook. It’s the perfect combination of practicality and discovery. Happy eating!

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