The word Farmers Market, for most people, conjures up wonderful imagery and aromas. Closing ones eyes can transport you to far away places. You could be in France or Italy or where I was this morning, the Byron Bay Farmers Market.
In the early hours of Thursday mornings vans, pick-up trucks and kombis descend upon a seemingly neglected corner of Byron Bay. The large desolate field with worn out grass and black road gravel scattered throughout, is transformed by coloured marquees popping up one by one. Farmers lovingly lay out their precious produce and anxious villagers swarm around each marquee filling their baskets with fresh seasonal goods.
Blends of people mix with blends of foods. Aromas invade the nostrils. It is strawberry season and there are two stalls that sell them. I want to buy bags of them as they are so sweet and juicy. I get the urge to bake, mmmm Strawberry Shortcake or homemade jam with scones and cream.
Baking would be fun but it is another busy week so lets get real and do strawberries splashed with balsamic vinegar tossed through a salad of rocket or simply sliced and put on top of porridge in the morning or the good old Eton Mess: smashed up meringue combined with hulled and sliced strawberries with a raspberry sauce and whipped cream. What kid wouldn’t love that?
You could also do Strawberries Romanoff (sounds so 70’s), You soak strawberries in orange juice and cointreau and a sprinkle of sugar for a hour or so and then fold through whipped cream and serve in the 70’s champagne glasses What about a Strawberry Granita?
Strawberry Granita: put 1/2 cup sugar in a small saucepan with 1/2 cup water and stir over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved, then bring it to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let it cool. Blend 500g strawberries with the sugar syrup and 2 tablespoons lemon juice until smooth then pass the blended mixture through a fine sieve to remove any seeds. Pour the mixture into a shallow metal container and cover and place into the freezer for 2 hours. Then stir the frozen mixture with a fork to break up the ice crystals. Put it back into the freezer for another hour and stir again. Repeat this process until the mixture has a smooth consistency…yum serve with cream or for grown ups place a spoonful in a martini glass and splash with vodka and cream.
The Byron Farmers Market began as local farmers, growers, environmentalists and consumers wanted an alternative to the large supermarket chains dictating what produce is available to consumers. It started in December 2002 with around 20 stalls, today there are 50. Rain, hail or shine people turn up in force. This is where shoppers can meet the farmers and even exchange recipes.
If you haven’t been to a Farmers Market do yourselves a favour, they are popping up all over; hopefully there is one near you. There is nothing more rewarding than being able to speak directly to the producers and see their passion for their produce, its infectious.