It is always a joy to visit the local Sunday Farmers’ Market. Especially on a Spring morning under a sunny blue sky. I had been to the same exact site the day before for an Edible Gardens show. The wind was strong then, but on this morning it had fortunately died down and was a perfect temperature for strolling around and enjoying the local culture while tasting, buying and learning about local organic produce www.hawkesbayfarmersmarket.co.nz
We arrived only 10 minutes after opening, but already the place was buzzing. The regulars, knowing exactly what they want, had stocked up on supplies such as goats milk and organic goods, and were already leaving. The first thing we did was line up for a Bay Espresso coffee www.bayespresso.co.nz While we were waiting I was eyeing up the colourful cupcakes at a stall nextdoor www.sweetascupcakes.co.nz But….in my last blog on the Farmers’ Market I mentioned that we had a plan to get a coffee and then compliment it with a Damson Plum chocolate, so we made our way around the stalls until we arrived at the Damson plum stall www.thedamsoncollection.co.nz At $2 a chocolate, filled with sweet gooey damson plum filling, it is well worth it. Mission accomplished, we continued our way around the stalls.
We bought plant seedlings at the Links Gardens stall. Their plants all looked fresh and incredibly healthy. I bought soy beans – edamame beans, and Mum bought a sweet pepper called ‘Greek golden’. I have never tried growing edamame beans before, so I asked for instructions. The plants like the heat of summer and full sun. They take about 90 days to develop into a bush over knee-height. Then the bush produces pods and the weight of the bean pods will pull the stalks downwards. The pods are best picked when young and the beans can be eaten fresh or boiled.
Next we happened upon a stall with fresh fruit and vegetables, one of which was artichokes. We are growing artichokes for the first time this year, but they are a mystery – we have no idea what to do with them or how to cook them. Mum and I stopped to have a look at the pile of artichokes and compare the size of them with the one we have growing on the bush at home. The ones on the table ranged from about 16-19 cm circumference. Ours is at a similar size and we must pick ours, but what do we do with it? As we were discussing this, an elderly European woman with a walking stick came up to us and said “When I was in Algeria we used to eat those twice a week”. I would have liked to have asked her story of what in life had led her to Algeria. She nodded to the lady behind the stall and said “she will tell you how to cook them”. The lady behind the stall recommended picking the artichoke when young and boiling or steaming it for 20 minutes. Just long enough until a sharp knife can be poked into the stem near the base of the artichoke. Then take the leaves off one by one and dip the fleshy end into melted butter. If the artichoke is young enough the whole leaf can be eaten. Remove the hairy choke and throw it away and remove the heart which is edible. (See my following blog on artichokes).
Before we left her stall we bought two bunches of very fresh asparagus. One green and one purple. She gave us a handy tip that the purple variety retains its colour if a bit of lemon juice is added to the water when cooking.
We were getting instructions left-right-and-center. It was great.
We arrived at the Orcona Chilli stall www.chilli.co.nz My friend is a seasoned hot chilli eater. The hotter the better. He tried a few samples and got talking to a man next to him trying the samples as well, who said this chilli was hotter than the hottest Indian curry he had ever had. The man was going red in the face and a bit of a sweat was breaking out. We bought ‘Fire in the Hole, Super Hot Chilli Sauce’, which my friend says is mild (to his acclimatized taste-buds. It is actually quite hot).
Chocolate. We couldn’t go past this – and there were samples. My friend went straight for the Chilli chocolate. Mum and I tried a sample too. We learnt that it was made using local dried chillis from Orcona Chillis (the stall we had just visited). The chilli flakes and the seeds went into the chocolate. It was a very smooth chocolate and I was enjoying it immensely when an overpowering chilli heat took over from the chocolate, then more fiery heat, followed by a rise in temperature. “Boy, this is hot” I managed to say, while struggling not to look affected by the burning sensation. Apparently they are going to make a milder chilli version in the future. Mum said she didn’t strike any hot chilli in her sample. My friend said he didn’t strike any hot pieces of chilli either. I was the “lucky” one. This is not to detract from the chocolate at all. It is beautiful rich, organic and fairtrade chocolate. It is all handmade too. There were lots of flavours to choose from and we bought a couple of nicely packaged blocks. I am eating it now. Do I like the Orange and Toasted Sesame Seed or the Peppermint? Both are great. The chocolate has a satisfying ‘snap’ sound when bitten into. The consistency is smooth and incredibly edible and it is hard to stop. It even feels like a ‘healthy’ chocolate, because the pieces aren’t too big and the chocolate is dark and is made of quality ingredients. I think it is one of the nicest, if not the nicest chocolate I have ever tasted. It was pricey, but I would definitely make a special trip to buy more. www.lapetitechocolat.co.nz
We found the muesli company that used to be called Aunt Celia’s is now known as Peggy Daring www.peggydaring.co.nz We have bought their Pear, Almond, and Ginger muesli before.
We were fascinated by a mobile cart containing a cast-iron fireplace to make woodfired pizzas www.pizzaguy.co.nz and stopped to have a look.
Just before we left my friend bought some local bacon from Holly Bacon www.hollybacon.co.nz which apparently is the best (I don’t know, being a vegetarian). And Mum ducked off to buy a punnet of strawberries.
And, I saw my ex-barista. He used to make my coffees just about every morning in the city I live in, before moving to the Bay www.hawthornecoffee.co.nz I miss his coffee. Everyone else must like it too judging by the line of at least 20 people at his coffee cart.
By now the place was getting very busy, and it was getting very hot. In the middle of the grassy area between the stalls a gazebo had been set up to provide shade with seating, cushions and tables. It looks very comfortable and civilized.
We had a really enjoyable, and informative time. I love going to this market as there is so much to see and do and you can have very interesting conversations with friendly people.