Each week on the Farmers Market Minute, community development specialist and foodie Richard McCarthy explores the variety of people and produce who make up this delicious region's farmers markets — from uptown to downtown, Covington to Gretna.
With cold weather approaching, are you taking care of your skin? Farmers market vendors are always talking about healthy skin. After all, they are always outdoors.
Recently, I was spellbound whilst listening to celebrated Turkish cook and Covington Farmers Market vendor Nur Pendaz. In conversation with a young mother, she described how important it is to moisturize ones face with “ghee.” I have to admit: I didn’t see this coming.
Some farmers market shoppers plan their visits like sorties, executed with military precision to purchase a set menu of products. Others head to market to learn.
Over the past decade and a half, thousands of market shoppers have learned how to grow butterfly and hummingbird gardens from Folsom’s Mizell family. School trips invariably bend Jim Mizell’s ear to learn about the size of plants and colors needed to attract our fluttering friends.
Have you noticed how fish collars are working their way onto local restaurant menus? Asian cooks have long featured fish scraps and, with with the snout-to-tail phenomena working its way through the species, we’re beginning to see new offerings.
But what exactly are fish collars? Well, when fillets are cut, you’re left with tail and the skeleton holding up bits of fatty meat. These trickier parts of the fish are cheaper than the highly coveted fillets, but they usually wind up on cutting room floors.
Farmers markets are popping up in cities all across the country, and people expect lots of different things from them: Better food, of course, but also economic development and even friendlier neighborhoods.
At its core, though, the farmers market is a business, and it won't survive unless the farmer makes money.
This summer, I have emptied my garden's rain barrels twice to keep herbs, vegetables and flowers alive during our endless drought. I’ve also witnessed spirited debates between farmers, shoppers, and the occasional know-it-all about global warming.
While my uncle may be a meteorologist, I am simply a casual observer, and what I have noticed is this: Farmers return from their fields with stories of extreme and unfamiliar weather. These patterns affect our food.
Have you noticed the unexpected knitting revival? Or how about the new stores devoted to the art of sewing, like Oak Street's Sew Fabulous? Another old-school favorite that’s enjoying a come back is canning.
Farmers markets are contributing to this rediscovery. Sure, any recession-minded shopper knows to purchase products at the peak of the season to get the best deals: say, okra in August versus June. However, it takes a particular set of skills to handle a bushel or a peck of what market vendors refer to as "seconds."
Pontchatoula farmer Heather Robertson standing among the 2012 planting of bananas on her farm. The banana project is funded with support from the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry via a USDA Specialty Crops Block Grant.
A common refrain at New Orleans farmers markets is the novelty song “Yes, We Have No Bananas.” It’s from the 1923 Broadway revue "Make It Snappy.” Though the French Market was resplendent in bananas back in the 1920s, in today's localvore markets bananas are not part of the equation. Isn’t that funny? They grow all over town.
You know, one of the benefits of open-air farmers markets is their flexibility and mobility. By contrast, brick and mortar retail is land-locked, and thus unable to respond to changes in neighborhoods. Farmers markets are nimble. They can pack up and relocate to sunnier spots.
The Louisiana mirliton is disappearing. But, there is hope.
In recent years, Lance Hill has become an unexpected mirliton midwife. He has assembled a fleet of farmers, backyard growers, and foragers to search for and propagate disappearing heirloom varieties of this unique vining, chayote squash. They scour farmers markets, garage roofs, storm fences and other places where fruit can still be found. I just viewed video footage of an incredible mirliton orchard in Harvey.