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Al's Market Report

August 25, 2015 - Radio Kitchen - Al's Market Report

If you love local produce, this is the Happy Season.  You'll never see greater abundance as you'll see now, and every year our Maryland farmers are working hard to bring exciting new food to the market.  Here's an idea of what's out there that will give you a fun day at the market.Knopp Greenhouses in Severn has a marvelous collection of heirloom tomatoes.  Here's some I haven't seen before:  Carolina gold, which is as rich and lustrous as its name; Great White, which is a nice-sized pale yellow tomato; Pineapple, boasting orange and red stripes; Black Velvet, which is a dark blackish red; and a wide assortment of tiny cherry tomatoes in all sorts of colors and shapes.  A couple other things caught my eye:  purple bell peppers, whose color always fascinates me; exotically shaped crookneck eggplants; and big baskets of okra, one of the most overlooked veggies out there.

Another stand had grow-your-own hot peppers, including the fabled ghost peppers of India and the lethal scorpions from the Carribean.  If you want to try these at home, you'll need a lot of asbestos to handle the flames.  These little bullets of bad news are not for the faint of heart.

If you are, like me, a little faint of heart when it comes to peppers, you can chow down on the milder banana, poblano or cubanelle peppers.  Far more manageable.

Martins Farm in Perry Hall has a marvelous collection of heirloom carrots:  the Mixed Rainbow varieties come in standard orange, pale green, wine red, snow white and sunshine yellow.  They have big beets that are yellow or cotton candy pink, and baby beets that are red, yellow and cherry.  Don't miss out their baby leeks, a new product for me, that are tender, tasty and perfect for grilling.

This is a great time to stock up on kitchen herbs, for both immediate use and for drying.  Go online for specific directions on how to dry various herbs.  You're going to find assorted parsleys, peppermint, lavender, rosemary, all the thymes in the world, oregano, and one of my favorites, tarragon.

Pine Grove Farm, run by my friend Billy Caulk has an astounding variety of fresh summer produce.  Let's talk about his white eggplants, some so round they look like a cue ball.  Or how about his neon purple eggplants that glow so intensely you'd think they come with batteries.  Bill has a great assortment of tiny pattipan squashes, tender, flavorful and great for grilling.  One of my favorite veggies this summer has been the yellow wax beans, built along the lines of a green bean, but with a soft yellow color and a unique flavor.

Lewis Orchard is offering a nice set of plums, including the very tasty Methley plums and the sweet and succulent Shiro, which glow with golden goodness.

Our friends at Two Straw Farms have all this and more.  Their tomatillos are green and papery and begging to go into your favorite mole verde.  What can be more colorful than red chard?  The bright stalks contrasting with the sedate dark green of the leaves are a delight for the eye.  They also have a mess of wonderfully bizarre oriental eggplants that come in bewildering shapes and colors.

Big City Farm, operating out of downtown Baltimore, is offering lovely little white radishes and a variation of chard called Oriole, in honor of its yellow-orange coloring.

My good buddy Dave Hocheimer of Black Rock Orchard has been picking up a storm.  His apples include Dandee Red McIntosh, Green Rambos, and Ginger Golds, which are my favorite apple pie apple.

Don't overlook his sweet Honey peaches, white nectarines, and the funny little donut peaches that look like an old fashioned Turkish turban.  Plums are looking good right now, and I can personally attest to the sweet dark Duartes, the Cardinals and the Satsumas.  All picked at the peak of ripeness, ready for you to take home and enjoy.

And here's a tip if you prefer to buy hard peaches or plums, and ripen them yourself.  Set aside a nice flat space near a window, place a white cloth napkin down on it, put the fruit stem-side down on the napkin, and then drape another napkin over top of that.  In two or three days you will have perfectly ripe fruit.  Trust me, it works.

Al Spoler, well known to WYPR listeners as the wine-loving co-host of "Cellar Notes" has had a long-standing parallel interest in cooking as well. Al has said, the moment he started getting serious about Sunday night dinners was the same moment he started getting serious about wine. Over the years, he has benefited greatly from being a member of the Cork and Fork Society of Baltimore, a gentlemen's dining club that serves black tie meals cooked by the members themselves who are some of Baltimore's most accomplished amateur cooks.
Executive Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Corks restaurant is fascinated by food and wine, and the way they work in harmony on the palate. His understanding of the two goes all the way to the molecular level, drawing on his advanced education in molecular biology. His cuisine is simple and surprising, pairing unexpected ingredients together to work with Corks' extensive wine offerings.