It has been a long mild winter, and while it hasn’t felt like winter to many of us, crops are seasonal whether we are or not. Most markets across the state are not scheduled to open until May, but many of the winter markets are still going, and the larger markets tend to open early.
For those of you who are new to the Farmers’ Market Report, each week we run down what we are finding at Missouri’s markets share need-to-know information and highlight event. Last year AgriMissouri Staff visited over 100 of our farmers’ markets and, just as much as we love sharing what we find with friends and family, we love sharing it with you in the Weekly Farmers’ Market Report.
It is hard to believe, but we have seen fresh strawberries at markets in Springfield, St. Louis and Kansas City – if you get there early enough. Missouri farmers have taken to growing them in greenhouses and high tunnels in the winter as hanging baskets. These aren’t as sweet as what will be available in May or June, but will beat many found in a grocery store. As the ones growing in the ground become available, many of these same vendors will sell the fruiting baskets for you to take home and harvest for weeks to come.
From now until June is one of the best times to find spinach, microgreens, bib lettuce, leaf lettuce and greens such as kale and mustard. Collards will need a little more heat to come on. Cabbage was reported in Springfield last week and bok choy and pak choy should be available from high tunnels.
Several vendors still have beets, carrots and turnips from the fall that have survived the winter. These winter carrots will typically be the sweetest of the season with an extra tender skin for those that don’t like to peel. The turnips will be extremely mild and the beets may be a little ugly but will taste great. Summer crops of these shouldn’t be available for weeks so buy them while you can.
This mild winter should make for one of the best springs we have seen for radishes. With this rain, warm days and chilly nights, there should be a wide variety of radishes perfect for snacking or salads. If you see potatoes, they should be from last year too, except for a few key growers who are growing them in high tunnels. A local potato stored over winter can still be months fresher.
Scallions (green onions) and asparagus are both in season. For those with a wild side, ramps should be showing up in the southern part of the state. Ramps are a garlicy wild onion treasured by chefs that pair perfectly with trout. If you do find some ramps, when you cut off the roots, leave about ¼ inch of the bulb above the root and try planting them in a shady wet spot. You may get lucky and be able to start your own patch.
Sweet corn, beans, squash and peppers are still many weeks away. If you see them, be sure and ask where they are from. Most likely they are imported from southern states or outside of the country.
High tunnel tomatoes are still available. Most growers have pulled last year’s plants to get their June crops in. If you see them, they are probably plants that never died back in a heated structure over the winter. Temperatures below 60 degrees can compromise the texture of a tomato so don’t be surprised if they are a little mushy and watery inside. The flavor will be good, but you shouldn’t expect a tomato to taste like August in March.
Cheeses will be a little short on supply as the season kicks off. Expect to find more fresh varieties than aged cheeses as milk production won’t get heavy until it warms up a bit and most hard varieties are made weeks and months in advance. However, fresh cheeses are great with the wide variety of jams and jellies.
This is a great time of year to test out some meat vendors. While you are not spending that extra cash on tomatoes and sweet corn, try out some interesting cuts of meat. Jowl bacon and fresh side are a nice change of pace, and less inexpensive cuts like skirt steaks and round steaks take on a whole new life when they are kept dry before being cut. There is a reason your grandpa liked these things, and other than a few select butchers you can only find that texture and flavor at a farmers’ market.
AgriMissouri is currently conducting a farmers’ market survey to make sure all of our market information is up to date. This information helps us keep AgriMissouri’s online guide fresh. The count and information collected can be extremely influential in determining the resources sent to our state for markets and farmers.
The department websites are used by dozens of independent sites and publications, so it is crucial your market’s information is correct if you want customers to be able to find it. If you are not sure if your local market is listed correctly ask the market manager to visit http://AgriMissouri.com or phone (573) 522-4170 to have one sent by mail.
If your farmers’ market is having a special event, let us know and we will include it in our weekly report and post it online under MO Events at http://AgriMissouri.com. To submit your farmers’ market event just email [email protected].