I hear blackberries are coming this weekend to the Sunday farmers' market in Columbia.
The tastiest parts of a farmers' market are the fragile items about to go out of season and the rumors about what will come next. Last Sunday morning, Homestead Farm was selling the last of the spring seaweed. (Hydroponicly grown in Calvert County. I was so surprised I bought a bundle to chop into a salad and steam for a side dish.)
I also bought chard, some Brandywine heirloom tomatoes, four kinds of summer squash, and a citrus-tasting green called waterleaf greens. The tomatoes are thin-skinned. They look too fragile for middlemen and supermarkets, which makes them extra-special and basically demanded that I buy red onions and sandwich baguettes to grill hamburgers that night. (Burgers with tomato and onion slices with grilled squash and a salad made of waterleaf greens.)
The Sunday market in Oakland Mills is one of three in Howard County. Don't expect the JFX market in Baltimore, which is so large people post about the optimal way to explore. But the Sunday market had three produce stands, a bakery, and a flower-and-plant stand last week. The Bonaparte Breads bakery items alone are worth the visit -- chocolate croissants, elephant ears and other sweets for breakfast, plus rolls, sandwich loaves and nut- or fruit-filled breads for later. The flowers were beautiful, and the farmers' -- well, that's why you go to a farmers' market.
Nothing is cheap. I buy because the tomatoes ($3 a pound) were picked two days ago and the blueberries ($6 a pint) are so good that you can eat a handful without checking for a spoiled or tart one. At first, the chard looked wrong to me. Limp leaves instead of the huge, stiff stems that I normally see in the grocery store. That's when I realized that this was younger, more tender chard. Again, it wouldn't last in a packing crate. But lightly sauteed, it will make dinner.
And this Sunday? Who knows?
Check out an update from the farmers' market in August. There are also farmers' markets on Thursday afternoons in Columbia and on Saturday mornings in Cooksville. Definitely check out the South Mountain Creamery at the Saturday market.
If you want ethnic or organic markets, check out this comprehensive listing. If you want unusual and high-quality produce, check out the H Mart -- my favorite place for food.
If you want to visit Homestead Farm, consider the pick-your-own season that starts in about August. The farm has a niche in African produce.
(Updated: The East Columbia market appears to be on THURSDAY, not Tuesday as I had originally written. I fixed it below. Thanks Wendy! Sorry for the error.)
The Sunday Farmers' Market at Oakland Mills
9 am to 1 pm, May to November (May 4-Nov. 23, 2008)
Oakland Mills Village Center
5851 Robert Oliver Place
Columbia, MD 21045
NEAR: Just east of Rte 29 and south of Rte 175. The village center is off Stevens Forest Road.
The Saturday Farmers' Market at Glenwood Library
9 am to 12:30 pm May to October (May 3-Oct. 25, 2008)
2350 State Road 97 (Roxbury Mills Road)
Cooksville, MD 21723
NEAR: Just south of I-70, west of Rte 32.
The Thursday Farmers' Market at East Columbia Library
2 pm to 6 pm, May to November (May 1-Nov. 20, 2008)
6600 Cradlerock Way
Columbia, MD 21045
NEAR: Just off Broken Land Parkway, north of Rte 32 and east of Rte 29.
For more information, this is a link to the state listing of farmers markets.