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My View: Local farmers market sustains us year-round

By Barbara Blackburn

Turning the calendar from October to November, I remember the memories of summer and especially those of Saturday mornings at the Williamsville Farmers Market in Island Park. Some of the food items I have carried home  still preserve those memories.

My first stop is the area of Ben Gehl, who specializes in organically raised animals, the latest being lambs. My husband, Alan, and I buy what some would consider unique: kidneys, heart, tongue – known as offals – that to us are quite tasty if prepared with love and creativity. Lest you think we’re too “weird,” we also buy the conventional cuts. If we don’t arrive close to 8 a.m, all of Ben’s eggs will be gone – sold to a restaurant.

Then we mosey over to Popcorn Man, a name I devised for the vendor who sells different kinds of popcorn, as well as eggs that have a lot more personality in their shades of eggshell colors and sizes.

The Green Heron often has eggs, as well as its legendary shiitake mushrooms. In the pantry, I have a large jar of shiitakes that are dried and sliced, ready to be hydrated and used in a special recipe.

Also, from this friendly farming couple we still have a refrigerated jar of lard; it’s great for deep frying. Since what I’m buying  doesn’t come with unpronounceable chemicals, I’m not going to worry. Sometimes I buy their soup – the beef barley and mushroom or the Thai style mushroom. Among their produce, I’m very fond of those carrots in colors other than orange and having shapes with personality.

Other produce vendors I always visit also occasionally have oyster mushrooms and a unique green known as mizuna. Looking in my “Food Lover’s Companion,” I learned that it hails from Japan and is often found in mesclun salad mix. I discovered here the value of scapes, garlic tops. We have a lot of them in our garden attached to the garlic bulb under the ground in the spring. Before they turn woody, we cut them and use these milder forms of garlic fresh or store them in a large plastic bag. In fact, I have some in my freezer, ready to flavor culinary masterpieces.

Yet another produce area attracts us. This one vies with the others in the size of its cauliflower. Since we’re empty nesters, even though we have been eating a lot of this cauliflower, we have some stored for another day. Also leftover from another meal is a super-sized turnip, which originally looked like a giant red beet. These are vegetables with character!

Saving the carbohydrates for the latter part of our shopping spree, we visit the Quaker Bonnet vendor. What a selection of bread there is, always perfectly baked and so affordable. The generous guy has rewarded us for our purchases with free breadcrumbs and even the famous cinnamon ice cream. There are other vendors selling yummy baked goods.

At the end of the culinary journey is what I consider the pinnacle: Duke’s Doughnuts, reminding me of the ones my father made in Gloversville for my Uncle Lee’s Diner, at 10 cents a fry cake. Still around a dollar for a doughy delight, it’s a bargain. Two flavors of this ethereal dough, apple cider cake doughnut and glazed raised doughnut, are enough for me.

Near my kitchen door I have a sign that proclaims: “No Farms No Food.” I want to thank the farmers for providing me with some tasty memories for the future months and look forward to greeting and being greeted by them next year.

Barbara Blackburn, who lives in Williamsville, is grateful for all of Western New York’s farmers.

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