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Spring salads: April's arrival heralds fresh ingredients, awakening farmers' markets


Carrot Salad

Carrot Salad
Photo by: Courtesy


Spring salad

Spring salad
Photo by: Courtesy



Jan Swoope



Granted, there''s still a nip in the nightly air, but as April makes her entrance, the season''s first produce is beginning to make its debut. Savvy shoppers in the Golden Triangle will soon be heading to farmers'' markets for the freshest and most nutrient-rich vegetables and fruits. 


To celebrate our emerging gardens -- and to mark the first April Spring Market at the Hitching Lot Farmers'' Market beginning Saturday in Columbus -- we''ve rounded up recipes for some pretty salads that will add a distinctive touch to your luncheon, dinner party or family meal. With each passing week, more and more of many of the ingredients needed will be available from local growers.  




Spring market 


Because many vendors who participate in the Hitching Lot season will have produce well before the official May 14 grand opening of the community market located at the intersection of Second Avenue and Second Street North, market organizers decided to open from 7-10 a.m. on Saturdays in April (except April 16, which is the Giant Possum Town Yard Sale).  


"It''s just an extended opportunity for farmers to showcase their produce and for people to start getting fresh foods," said Amber Brislin, executive director of Main Street Columbus. 


Phil Lancaster of Hamilton has been a regular vendor for more than 15 years and will be on hand this weekend. In the height of the season, he''ll have peas, okra, cucumber, tomatoes, peaches and more. 


"I hope to have some greens Saturday -- mustard and turnip greens; it just depends on how fast they grow. I''m watching ''em," said the veteran farmer. "I''ll definitely have free range eggs. Everything''s got a good start. Everything''s budded out; the peach trees even have little peaches on ''em."  


Early shoppers can expect to find Mayhew Tomato Farm''s wide selection of jellies, salsas, pickled squash, beets and numerous other canned products Saturday. 


"We expect to have fresh strawberries to bring by the April 9 market," said M.C. Ellis, who operates the farm with his wife, Frances, and son, Mel. And the plump, ripe tomatoes? Barring a backlash from Mother Nature, they should take centerstage some time in the second half of May. 


Black Creek Farm''s Scott Enlow hopes to have a limited quantity of collards and possibly kale and cabbage this weekend, but looks forward, too, to renewing acquaintances among the market faithful, and meeting new converts at the community gathering place. 


"I''d be there to visit, if nothing else," he chuckled. 


Several local craftspeople are expected with their wares. Daylillies should also be available.  


Beginning May 14, live music and a free children''s activity will be part of market Saturdays in Columbus. Produce vendors will also sell on Tuesday and Thursdays mornings from 6-10 a.m. after the grand opening. 


Elsewhere in the Golden Triangle, the Starkville Community Market will begin its selling season May 7 and be open from 7:30 a.m.-10 a.m. each Saturday at the corner of Jackson and Lampkin Streets. 


In West Point, a farmers'' market will be open on Thursdays in June from 4-7 p.m. at the Mossy Oak Outlet, according to Martha Allen of the Clay County/West Point Community Growth Alliance. 


Welcome, April. The bounty is near. So, for the best of good things locally grown, made or conjured up, plan to stop by your farmers'' market early and often.  






Serves four to six 




Two bunches carrots, preferably spring carrots 


Extra virgin olive oil 


Fine grain sea salt 


One green chile (serrano), deveined and minced 


One lemon, zest and juice 


1 cup cilantro, chopped 


1 cup green pumpkin seeds (pepitas), toasted 




  • Start by washing carrots. Use a vegetable peeler to shave each carrot into wide ribbons. If your carrots have beat up, dirty skins, peel them first before making ribbons. 


  • Heat a big splash of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add a big pinch of salt and stir in the carrot ribbons. Sauté for just 20 seconds or so, barely long enough to take the raw edge and a bit of crunch off the carrots.  


  • Quickly stir in the chiles and lemon zest. Remove from heat and stir in the cilantro, about one tablespoon of lemon juice, and then most of the pepitas. Taste. Add more salt and/or lemon juice if needed. Garnish with remaining pepitas.








Serves four  




2 cups fresh apricots, diced 


2 cups cooked chicken, diced 


1 cup cucumber, peeled and sliced 


1 cup bean sprouts, rinsed 


1/4 cup rice vinegar 


1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped 


2 teaspoon sugar 


1/2 teaspoon chili oil 


1/4 cup vegetable oil 


One lime, cut into wedges 


2 tablespoons peanuts, coarsely chopped 




  • In a large bowl, combine apricots, chicken and cucumbers. Set aside and refrigerate.  


  • In a small bowl, combine vinegar, sugar and cilantro until smooth. With a wire whip, drizzle in oils while vigorously whisking mixture to combine.  


  • Toss salad with dressing and arrange on individual dinner plates lined with lettuce. Sprinkle with peanuts and garnish with lime wedges.










    One to two bunches red radishes, about 1⁄2 pound, washed and trimmed 


    1 1⁄2 tablespoons sugar 


    1 teaspoon orange flower water 


    1 1⁄2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice 


    2 tablespoons fresh orange juice 




    One seedless orange 


    Leaves from two sprigs fresh mint 




    • Shred radishes using a mandoline or food processor, or slice thinly and julienne.  


    • Place in a small bowl and sprinkle with sugar. Stir and set aside to macerate for 15 minutes. Drain off excess liquid. Cover and refrigerate about 20 minutes, until well chilled. 


    • Just before serving, whisk together orange flower water, lemon juice and orange juice in a small bowl, and season to taste with salt.  


    • Pour dressing over radishes and lightly toss. 


    • Peel and section orange. Arrange orange sections over radishes and serve garnished with mint.








    Serves four 




    One and one-half oranges 


    One half lemon, juice only 


    One half small red onion, chopped 


    1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil 


    1/8 teaspoon fine grain salt 


    Four big handfuls of salad greens, washed and dried 


    1/2 cup walnut halves, toasted 


    1/3 cup black olives, (the wrinkly, oily ones), pitted 




    • In a medium bowl, whisk together the juice of half an orange, lemon juice, most of the red onion, olive oil and salt. Whisk together until emulsified, taste and adjust with more salt or lemon juice if needed. 


    • Peel the remaining orange and cut into segments, removing any seeds you might encounter. Set aside. 


    • When ready to serve, place salad greens in a large bowl. Toss very gently with a generous splash of the dressing. Add the orange segments and walnuts. Give another toss. Taste and decide if you need to add more dressing. If needed, add a bit more at a time, giving a good toss between additions.  


    • Make sure the nuts and citrus haven''t all gone to the bottom, help them back up to the top if needed. Serve salad topped with the remaining red onion and olives.




Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.


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