What a great time of the year for fans of Maryland's farmers markets. This is high summer, and the stalls in the marketplace are groaning with fresh produce. Al made a tour of the Waverly farmer's market last week and took some notes. And Chef Jerry Pellegrino will tell you, at this time of year, if you can't find it in the market, you probably don't need it.
First, if you love asparagus and strawberries, you'd better move fast because those spring favorites have all but disappeared.
Taking their place, however, are the three big stars of summertime, white corn, cantaloupe and tomatoes. If you can get a peek at a corn cob, look for plump kernels with a pearl-like sheen. Tomatoes should have a little give to them, and Al buys the darkest, most fragrant melons he can find.
Along with classic beefsteak tomatoes, all of the dozens of heirloom varieties are clamoring for attention. And you'll also find a wide assortment of small cherry tomatoes, perfect for an appealing salad.
Other regulars are out in force: brussels sprouts, spring onions, cucumbers, green beans and their waxy yellow cousins. We are now growing a wide variety of beets in Maryland, classic big fat red ones, multi-colored and candy striped as well.
While strawberries have faded from the scene, it's prime time for blueberries, raspberries and blackberries. Al advises you to look up a couple recipes for cobblers and rolly-pollies and enjoy these tasty treasures.
Health conscious-Marylanders will be happy to see no fewer than five varieties of kale out there. And it is a great time to spice up your pantry with a wide assortment of fresh herbs. Al saw copious amounts of cilantro, parsley, thyme, sage, mint and rosemary...just to name a few.
Daily staples like onions of all sizes, potatoes both great and small, tasty salad greens (so necessary for light summer eating) and good old broccoli are filling the farmers stands.
If you love mushrooms, make your move right now for chanterelles which are close to being finished. But you will still find a ton of oyster, hen-of-the-woods, shitake, and portobello mushrooms available for purchase.
When it comes to fruit, we've been having a terrific growing season. Cherries, both sweet and tart, are in season. Clingstone peaches, pears and nectarines are out there in great variety.
And please don't forget your dedicated purveyors of protein! Lamb, beef, pork, poultry and seafood are waiting to go home and steal the show at dinner time.
Finally, easily overlooked items abound: cut flowers, black beans, purple rutabagas, garlic scapes and patty pan squash are all waiting for your market basket.
All in all, it's a great time to be a hungry Marylander.