'Tis the Season for Summer Markets
Portland’s outdoor farmer’s market in Deering Oaks Park got off to a good start this weekend under a spring sky of bright blue painted with puffy clouds and pleasant 60-degree temperatures.
Daffodils and honey, chives and bags of salad greens filled vendor tables. Local farm mainstays like pastured pork, chicken, raw-milk cheeses, and cream from Jersey cows prevailed as well, offered by such familiar vendors as Swallowtail, Thirty-Acre, Sumner Valley, Summit Springs (great pastured eggs) and Fishbowl farms.
For me it’s a rite of spring when the markets move outdoors from their indoor winter confines. I’ve gotten used to buying local vegetables year round since the advent of these year-round marketplaces, but there’s nothing better than sourcing local in-season food outdoors.
By this date, however, the crops of wintered-over root vegetables are either getting a bit tired or nearly depleted. Carrots were almost gone as of last week, and the potatoes were getting a bit long-eared too. One crop hallmark of the season is spring-dug parsnips, which are at their sweetest now and prized by professional and home chefs alike.
Larry Matthews at Back Bay Grill and Steve Corry at Five Fifty Five always create beautiful cream soups from these sweet, earthy-tasting roots. It will be at least another month before we start seeing the pristine crops of spring asparagus, new potatoes, and baby carrots thereafter. But you know summer has really arrived when local strawberries hit their stride at the end of June.
The market was relatively quiet this past Saturday with about 10 vendors in the park. Meanwhile farmers are stocking their greenhouses with all the seedlings that will be the summer bounty. Arugula, kohlrabi, and tomatoes are in the making. Reports are that we’ll probably have a fleeting crop of asparagus this year since the spring weather has been so cool. But keep a look out for it.
While the Portland markets on both Wednesdays and Saturdays combined offer the full spectrum of locally grown foods, consider visiting other markets. Crystal Springs in Brunswick on a working farm that’s part of the Brunswick Topsham Land Trust has over 40 vendors offering the gamut of local Maine products from all kinds of vegetables, crafts, and lamb to lobster rolls to delicious baked goods.
Visiting the Midcoast markets makes for a good day trip if you’re traveling from Southern Maine. Camden, Rockland, and Belfast have great markets as do Bath, Boothbay, Damariscotta, Dresden, and Waldoboro.
For a town by town directory go to: getrealmaine.com. Along the way, good lunch pit-stops include two of Camden’s newest eateries: 40 Paper in the Knox Mill compound and 57 Bayview across from Camden Harbor along the busy shopping strip. More casual spots include: Five Islands Lobster at the tip of the Georgetown Peninsula, the Rockland Café on Main Street, Thomaston Cafe on Thomaston’s Main St., Miller’s Lobster (gorgeous waterfront setting) in Spruce Head off route 73, Chase’s Daily in Belfast, or the iconic Moody’s on routes 1 and 220; or head north on scenic route 220 to Morse’s Sauerkraut, who offers an intriguing and very hearty country lunch menu.
John Golden makes no bones about sharing his opinion. If you'd like to share yours, email him at email@example.com.