It feels like the first week of camp at the market, as we check out which of our friends from last summer are back and how they look this year. A few weeks later than usual, some of the most popular warm-weather farmers, like Keiths Organics and Eckerton Hill, have returned, with tables already full and lots more to come. Its going to be a good summer, we can just feel it.
What to Look For
It seems premature to devour tomatoes while shell peas and asparagus look on, yet it would be wrong to pass up gorgeously fragrant, multicolored tomatoes with as much flavor and firm yet juicy texture as the greenhouse-grown heirloom tomatoes at Cherry Lane. If youre really ready for summer, their rich, complex flavors partner beautifully with watermelon (see recipe) ($4 per pound at Cherry Lane, available Wednesday and Saturday).
The Shunkiyo radish wasnt in the market last week, and so was unfairly excluded from our radish taste-off. A few inches long and purple-pink, it looks a bit like an elongated beet and has a very crisp, watery texture and an up-front peppery heat. The large size of the root makes it ideal for slicing into disks and sauting in butter. The leaves taste aggressively healthy and should be blanched before serving ($1.75 per bunch at Eckerton, available Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday).
Sucrine lettuce, a baby romainetype French variety, likes cooler weather. The spring crop is just getting good, so enjoy the tender, buttery little heads with their sweet, crisp cores before hotter, drier weather does them in. A simple vinaigrette and a radish, as in this recipe, are the only accompaniment this aristocratic green needs ($3 per quarter-pound at Mountain Sweet Berry, available Wednesday and Saturday).
Shell pea pods contain those little green rounds, a.k.a. English peas, that fill freezer cases. Choose full-feeling pods and shell and eat them within a day for the sweetest, crispest taste like corn, they become starchy as they sit. You could put them in a salad or just boil them in salted water for a few minutes and toss with butter and mint ($3.50 per pound at Cherry Lane, available Wednesday and Saturday; $4 per pound at Eckerton, available Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday).
This Just In
Soft-shell crabs just arrived, lengthening the already-long fish-stand line. No one was complaining, and the supply of blue-gray, still-live beauties promises to be even bigger next week. Clean them and then fry them so the shell becomes a crackling crust and the meat steams. You can eat the whole sweet, juicy crab with a little mayonnaise or make a crab bun Momofuko-style via this recipe ($5 per crab at PE & DD, available Monday and Saturday).
Overheard at the Market: Nostalgia Department
Last year was a better year for morels we were bringing in coolers full at $100 a pound, and we sold every one.