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.
Today is Bastille Day. In celebration, head over to the West Bank. You can drive on an avenue named for a French head of State, Charles De Gaulle. He actually visited New Orleans in 1960. And while you are there, why not pop over to the Gretna Farmers Market to purchase a bottle of Henry Amato’s orange wine. With it, you can prepare a refreshing French cocktail in honor of the occasion.
If your holiday barbecue embers are still glowing with heat, consider joining the throng of chefs who have discovered the joys of grilling fruit.
A decade ago, it was exciting to simply taste savory salads that feature watermelon, peaches and figs. Today, that seems pedestrian. I marvel at how chefs are finding ways to grill summer fruit and how to pair them. Among the surprises is grilled watermelon.
Each year, food system solutionaries attempt to eat within 200 miles of New Orleans as part of the Eat Local Challenge. This is a marvelously interactive addition to our local food revolution.
However, the Challenge triggers deeper questions about local self-reliance. While you may find Louisiana rice on sale, why is it you don’t find local rice vinegar? Rice wine or rice syrup? The same could be said of pecans and sugar. This raises questions about economic development priorities at the state level.
With farmers market tables piled high, watch the produce fly. These are peak season weeks crying out for fun in the kitchen. But, if the fresh aroma of peaches, blueberries and basil is not enough to inspire you to cook, consider next Saturday’s annual cookbook swap.
At the Saturday morning market in the New Orleans Warehouse District, festivities centered around the launch of the 2012 wooden token. At market, this is how shoppers convert plastic credit and debit currencies into market money. Last year, the market converted almost $400,000 in wooden coins.
I noticed this morning at market a most welcome site: squash blossoms for sale.
I don’t know whether you grow vegetables. I do. Well, let me correct myself: I try to. Mostly, I seem to raise snails. Yes, I too have tried to grow squash. Unfortunately, the squash borers appear to be in cahoots with my snails. They eat them before I can.