You know those experiences in life that help you to become fully engaged? When you're in the moment and the melody of your life is in "tune" ? For me, it happens on beautiful mornings when the day is new and the growing season here in Minnesota has produced beautiful abundant produce. I am in my element when perusing the tables at the Minneapolis Farmer's Market. I often say there is nothing I'd rather do but visit the bursting market. I practically skip through the isles (not exaggerating), well maybe not skip anymore it's more crowded in the last few years. People are catching on that that eating fresh and local is best, both for your health and your wallet. How fun to actually have a relationship with the people growing your food!
How cool is this. In the middle of the big city - and the local growers bring the farm to us!
I don't know the cute man standing next to the beautiful mums, but I do know these two beautiful people below. Mary and Lester Hall. Their family has been part of the Minneapolis Farmer's Market for over 25 years! It is truly a labor of love and a family affair. They grow my favorite dark leafy greens, green beans, brussles sprouts, and my new favorite, okra. It's not just for gumbo anymore!
With Lester's hearty laugh,and Mary's warm and engaging personality, they not only sell these beautiful vegetables and beans they also give you wonderful tips on how to easily prepare them. You can use them in the traditional Southern ways or listen to Mary's helpful tips on how to use new techniques by sauteing or roasting them to help retain more nutrients. She calls them "Super Foods". Studies prove this, and I agree with her. What better nutrition can you get for $1.00 a bunch? Having wiggled kale into the family's diet, Mary has now shown me collard greens are equally good. These greens and more are grown locally, pesticide-free on the family farm in Princeton, MN.
You can feel the nutrition going straight to your veins just by looking at the deep rich color. Mary explained how to prepare the collard greens the traditional way by long braising them with a ham shank. But she recommended a healthier and quicker way: Saute some onion, garlic, red pepper in olive oil, then add the collards and a splash of broth. you can cook them for 20-25 minutes with a delicious result. My family loved them.
Okra is not something I usually race to buy at the market, but I will now. Mary told me to just roast it with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper and finish it with some parmesan cheese. Here are the results, delicious! Evidently, it's loaded
with fiber and anti-oxidants. The health benefits of this ancient vegetable are too numerous to list here, google it, you'll be amazed!
As far as these gorgeous brussels sprouts go, we all know roasting them seems to be in vogue, but have you ever shredded them and cooked them quickly in a bit of olive oil? Great just like that, but add some toasted nuts of your choice and to guild the lily, a tablespoon of cream and you'll be in love.
Mary's uncle an "old school Southern Gentleman" is a farmer in Louisiana. He ships burlap sacks of beautiful pesticide free dried beans to her weekly and she divides them into one pound bags complete with cooking instructions and her own basic recipes stapled on the bag. Mary loves to encourage people to eat more beans especially for the incredible health benefits. Lester's favorites are the Louisiana "Crowder Peas". I've got a pot cooking on the stove right now (I put a bit of smoked bacon in for good measure). He loves them for their nutty flavor. Pair them with a pot of rice and you have a delicious protein packed meal.
I didn't take a picture of the pot of crowder peas, the photo probably wouldn't do them justice. Let's just say, there was only a bit left in the pot. The bonus is I have a half a bag left for another meal. They made a wonderful creamy pot of goodness.
The Minneapolis Farmer's Market is open 7 days a week through mid November. Mary and Lester are done for the season, but please make a point of visiting them next season. It's such a rich experience when you get to know the faces behind your food. I'll remind you in the spring!
As the market here winds to a close, go get those last few bits of sunshine, and remember to connect with the people you see behind the tables, they have rich stories to tell and you might just make a lasting friend.
I love this quote from Julia Child, "What keeps me motivated is not the food itself, but all of the bonds and memories the food represents"