The peas are absolutely delicious at the Sunday farmers market in Columbia, but I'm always over eager for the taste of summer.
Howard County's three farmers markets have opened for 2009, and they remain a wonderful way to buy really fresh vegetables, breads, milk, plants, and more. The weekend markets are also just a great way to start a day -- browse for food, devour a chocolate croissant.
On Sunday, the market in the Oakland Mills Village Center was pretty empty because of the cold. There were four farmers and two bakeries. More than enough for me to fill two bags and help create a terrific dinner. The star was Penn Farm from Colonial Beach, Virginia,
which showed up withh peas, onions, greens, purple kolrabi, and other early-season specials. The peas were spectacular. I shelled them and dropped them in boiling water for a minute, then warmed them later with a pad of butter and chopped mint.
Right now, Treadelphia Lake View Farm is selling herbs and vegetable plants. They looked hardy if you're still planting your garden. I bought two basils to replace some plants mangled by last week's wind. I had already filled my last vegetable garden slots at River Hill Garden Center, or I would have bought tomatoes from another farmer (whose name I didn't write down). For $8.50, he had two-foot tall plants already starting to fruit. Great fun to harvest your own tomatoes so early in the year.
For the 2009 season, the new draw on a Sunday morning will be bread. Savage's Bonaparte Bread has been a farmer's market regular, selling baguettes, croissants and other goodies. This year, Atwater's bakery from Belvedere Square has also set up shop. I bought a delicious rosemary loaf from the Atwater's table. Perfect crust. Light white bread inside. Light rosemary touch. A great bread to bring home for dinner. (The Bonaparte chocolate croissant, I ate in the car.)
But respect the seasons. I was entranced by a package of small tomatoes. They were real tomatoes, greenhouse grown and beautiful in their irregular, natural shape. They looked like summer. But really, they tasted like tomatoes in the middle of May. Fine, but not the produce that nature intended from a Maryland farm at this time of year. I'm sure they'll get sweeter and more delicious as the true warm weather arrives, so I'll eat peas now and go back for tomatoes in a while.
Click here for my 2008 post about the Saturday farmers market on Rte 97, which had the South Mountain Creamery last year. Does anyone know if South Mountain is back on Saturdays in 2009? [Update: HowICook says in the comments that South Mountain was at the Saturday market on May 16, 2009. He notes that it was slim pickings, but I think vendors thicken once the warm weather lets them grow more.]
Click here for the WPost's interactive map that includes all three Howard County farmers markets or here for all the posts about those markets. Click here for my take on vegetable shopping in the county.
As always, don't expect a farmers market like they have in DC or Baltimore. This is a handful of vendors in a parking lot, but it is great fun and certainly enough to fill some bags with fresh produce. For an adventure, consider the JFX farmers market in Baltimore -- discussed lovingly on Chowhound.
East Columbia Library
6600 Cradlerock Way, Columbia
Thursdays, May 7th to mid-November
2:00 p.m.-6:00 p.m.
Oakland Mills Village Center
5851 Robert Oliver Place, Columbia
Sundays, May 3rd to mid-November
9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
2350 Route 97, Glenwood
Saturdays, May 9th to October 31st
9:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.