June brings more products and special events to farmers market

Published 9:07 am Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Albert Lea Farmers Market has been open now for about four weeks, with new products coming each week. We are set up in the municipal parking lot on North Broadway each Wednesday from 4 to 6 p.m. and each Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon.

Because of the early cool wet weather, planting was delayed, germination of seeds was poorer than normal and growth was slow. Early garden crops were at least two weeks or more behind. With temperatures now getting closer to normal, more garden vegetables are becoming available at the market, including radishes, lettuce, spinach and green onions.

In spite of the cool weather, there was still a nice variety of items available at the market. We have had several new craft vendors join our market, so you will want to come out to check them out. In addition we have had a lot of delicious home baked items, bedding plants (annuals and perennials), potted plants, jams, jellies and honey, local meats and farm fresh eggs. In the next week or two, you will see strawberries coming in, and it appears there will be a bumper crop. We are planning to have our annual Strawberry Festival on Wednesday, June 18, so mark this date on your calendar and watch for more details. This has become an extremely popular event at the market, and if you have not attended this previously, don’t miss it this year. The flavor of home-grown strawberries is unrivaled, and the season for June bearing strawberries is only a few weeks; so don’t miss out.

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Several exciting things are happening at the market this year. Albert Lea Transit is offering free rides to the market on Wednesdays from various locations throughout Albert Lea. This program is sponsored by Sanderson Auto and the Albert Lea Medical Center. For more information on this, call Joanne at 379-1111.

The market has purchased a “red barn” storage shed, which should be on the lot this week. This will be used for serving food, as well as storing market supplies. We plan to have our free coffee on Saturday there, as well as the free market basket drawing on Wednesdays. The market basket consists of items donated by vendors. By entering your name, you may become the winner of a very nice variety of items sold at the market.

You will also see more ready to eat foods served at the market this year. We encourage any non-profit philanthropic group to come to the market (at no cost) and carry out promotional or fund raising activities. We even have extra tables to loan them. We are also encouraging businesses to come and serve local food favorites. Piggy Blues has been there the past two weeks with some excellent food. There are quite a few picnic tables on the grassy area to the north of the market lot, and we will be having entertainment there whenever possible, too. What a pleasant place to have your evening meal! If you are interested in scheduling an event at the market, call David Courey at 373-1945 or 318-0665.

If you are a gardener, crafter, baker, or farmer, and would like to become a seller at the market, call Verlys Huntley at 297-5546 for further details.

To help our customers find items they are looking for and to become more familiar with all our vendors, we will be making up a vendor listing sheet. This will give the names of all our vendors, along with information on what they sell, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, etc. You will be able to pick up copies at the market, and possibly a few other locations in Albert Lea.

In order to become more environmentally friendly, we are encouraging our customers to bring reusable shopping bags to the market. Most of us have these handle type bags now, but if you do not have one, the market has some very attractive heavy-duty canvas bags for sale at a reasonable price.

Rhubarb is one of the earliest vegetables in the garden. Although we think of it and use it more as a fruit, it is actually a vegetable related to the common dock plant, a weed. It probably originated in China 4,000 years ago, where it was used widely as a medicine. In Europe it was cultivated as a decorative garden plant. Russia may have been the first to use it as a food, and by the middle of the 18th century, the English also began using it in tarts, pies, and sauces. Part of the reason rhubarb was not considered edible earlier may come from the fact that the leaves themselves are toxic due to their high oxalic acid content. Rhubarb is considered a “spring tonic” by some, and is high in vitamins A and C and a variety of minerals, including calcium. It is also considered to be a blood purifier and digestive aid.

Rhubarb can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week stored in a plastic bag, or wrapped in a damp towel. It also freezes well raw, and can be cut up as desired and put in sealed plastic containers or bags.

Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler

1 pound fresh chopped rhubarb

3 to 4 cups fresh strawberries

3/4 to 1 cup sugar

2 tablespoon flour

1 teaspoon grated orange zest


1-1/4 cup flour

2 tablespoon sugar

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

5 tablespoon cold butter, cut up

1/2 cup sour cream

3 tablespoon milk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place first five ingredients in a bowl. Toss fruit occasionally while making the topping. Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in another bowl. Cut in butter until bits are the size of sunflower seeds. Whisk sour cream and milk in a small bowl. Stir into flour mixture just until combined. Turn dough onto floured surface and knead 4-6 times. Roll 1/2 inch thick and cut into rounds with biscuit cutter, gathering scraps and cutting again. Spread fruit in a 8 inch square baking pan or dish and top with biscuits. Bake until brown and bubbly (40 – 50 minutes). Serve warm with ice cream.

Rhubarb Marmalade

3 whole oranges, including rind

1 whole lemon, including rind

5 cup chopped rhubarb

3 cup sugar

Very thinly slice the oranges and lemon, removing seeds, and cutting into strips. Place in a large, heavy saucepan, along with the chopped rhubarb and sugar. Bring to a boil and boil rapidly for 15 minutes, stirring often. Reduce heat to simmer, and cook gently until it reaches desired consistency, stirring often (up to 1 hour). Cool and refrigerate. Also freezes well.