Walking into the farmers’ market pavilion on 2020’s opening days has felt a little different.
The blue-tape x’s spaced out on the ground brought some novel color to the asphalt. The coffee urn and plastic cups had been replaced by a couple containers of hand sanitizer. Many vendors and customers were wearing masks, something that would have been a foreign concept last year.
But you know, different doesn’t mean unpleasant. The faces behind those masks were still friendly; eyes show smiles more than you might think. Kettle corn popping and pecans toasting filled the air with tantalizing aromas, just like always. The temperature was perfect, so we didn’t need the coffee to warm us up anyway.
It all still felt right, in its own way. Marketgoers and vendors care about good food and good people, so I feel at home.
Farmers’ market is inherently tied to this column as well, as I wrote my first article three years ago in conjunction with the market season beginning again. I focus on local, seasonal food, and farmers’ markets are by nature a celebration of those values.
While my article topics are often primarily guided by hyperlocal circumstances – as in what’s happening in my life – I also draw heavily on what produce and other ingredients are made available to the general public through market each week. I make it a priority to swing by when I can, just to scope things out — for work purposes, of course.
I know, what a hardship.
If you’ve never ventured out to 2nd and Washington on a Saturday morning (or Wednesday, later in the season), I highly encourage you to join us sometime. One of the positive ripple effects of the pandemic is that many consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the value of local producers. Though we may not have quite all the diversity or flair of big city farmers’ markets, we have the incredible blessing of having so many quality growers and makers right here. The middle of the Midwest isn’t often considered a lush Eden, but when we focus on what Kansas does well and what local food sources we have available, we can truly thrive.
Sure, papayas and avocados are hard to come by around here, but where else can you find a table rowed with jars of sand plum jelly? Heads of lettuce so beautiful they almost belong in a vase, radishes so red they almost shine, homemade bars of soap so pleasant they almost deserve a place on display. Strawberry fry pies, thyme starts, sausage sticks. Woodworkers, beekeepers, bakers, artists, ranchers, gardeners.
Hutchinson, we are rich.
Though the growing season is yet young, the harvest is already rich as well. I am always pleasantly shocked by the spring produce that shows up at market in the first weeks; splendid vegetables of all types are already available while my peppers feel as short as they did when I planted them (I suppose the roving rabbit isn’t helping their height) and some of my green beans are just curling out of the ground.
So yes, this year’s market, and most things in general, might look a little different. But don’t let that stop you — it’s totally worth it. Local treasures await.
Jennifer Randall, a Hutchinson artist and organizer of Third Thursday, writes an arts and entertainment column for The Hutchinson News. Reach her at email@example.com.
Open-face Herby Omelet
Eggs are my favorite, because they’re so versatile, nutritious, tasty, and at least for us, excessively plentiful. I still have a stock-tank bursting with mint and a jungle of cilantro out back, so the Middle Eastern habit of combining the two struck my fancy. I snagged some peppery arugula at market Saturday, and its strong flavor is a marvelous complement to the rich creaminess of egg dishes. Why open-face? Because it’s one step easier even than folded.
Prep tips: though I adore my cast-iron skillets, now is not the time to use them; nonstick is crucial for getting the easy slide out of the pan. If you don’t have these same herbs available, just throw in a couple handful of other herbs or greens. I didn’t put cheese into the omelet itself, but you can bet we mounded cheese onto it while we ate it.
8 eggs, preferably farm-fresh
a couple handfuls cilantro, chopped
a couple handfuls arugula, chopped
a handful mint, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, halved and sliced pole-to-pole
Whisk eggs, milk, herbs, and ½ teaspoon salt.
Heat half the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, sprinkle with salt, and sauté to your desired doneness. Remove from skillet.
Add remaining oil, heat over medium again, then pour in the egg mixture. Stir the edges toward the center with a heat-safe spatula until soft curds are forming, about half a minute or so. Smooth eggs out, remove from the heat, top with the sautéed onions, and cover with a lid. Let set for several minutes, until center is set (return to gentle heat if necessary).
Slide out of the pan onto a cutting board, wedge, and eat.