March 30, 2011 10:49:00 AM
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.
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.
SUNBURST CARROT SALAD
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
FRESH APRICOT THAI SALAD
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
ORANGE AND RADISH SALAD
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
SIMPLE SPRING SALAD
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
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.