Exceptional Quality, Limited Quantity – Olea Estates at Farmers Markets

Karl Burgart and employee Stacy at Ellisville Farmers Market, 7/21/11

Karl Burgart, President and owner of Healthy Harvest Gardens of Wildwood, Missouri recently announced the long awaited arrival of the Olea Estates  3 liter tins of olive oil and bottles of red and white wine vinegars.

Newly arrived white and red wine vinegars from Olea Estates, Sparta, Greece

If you appreciate exceptional foods you should place your order with Karl ASAP because there are limited quantities of these products.   Karl is the exclusive U. S. distributor for these exceptional offerings from a small family farm near historic Sparta.   The Chronis family has owned these olive groves since 1856.  Karl became friends with the Chronis family after meeting George Cronis at a market in St. Louis in 2009.  Karl tasted the organic olive oil and immediately recognized its incredible quality.  Growing up in a first generation Italian family here in St. Louis, Karl understood and appreciated the unique properties that combine to make Olea Estates olives and olive oil amazing.  To date, Karl has taste tested 142 olive oils and says that he has found none to compare with Olea Estates.  I’m certainly not an expert, but it’s definitely the best olive oil I’ve ever tasted.  I rationed the contents in my most recent 750 ml bottle of Olea Estates olive oil anxiously awaiting the arrival of the 3 liter tins.  As is often the case, shipping delays pushed the arrival date out several weeks.  With only a few ounces of Olea Estates oil left, I finally broke down and bought a bottle of a “premium” Australian olive oil that claimed to be “cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil, acidity less than 0.3% with a fresh and fruity flavor”.  I planned to save the Olea Estates oil for salads and cook with the Australian oil.  I did a blind taste test with the help of my son and I can say the Australian olive oil lost the competition.  In fact, the difference in flavor was staggering.   I’m tempted to pour the remaining contents of the Australian oil down the drain, but my frugal heritage would disapprove.

Olea Estates, 3 liter tin of organic Greek olive oil

So you can imagine how excited I was to finally receive the two 3 L tins of Olea Estates olive oil that I had preordered.  I was able to take delivery when I visited Karl at the Ellisville Farmers Market, Thursday, September 15.  Now that Karl has a portable credit card swipe app for his smart phone it so easy to pay – he swipes the card, you “finger paint” your signature on his phone and Voila!  You don’t have to remember to bring your check book or to stop at the ATM for cash.  Buying two tins reduced the cost to $20 per liter which is amazingly low for such incredible oil.  Now I can face winter knowing that I have a stock of exceptional quality olive oil.  I hope to make it until the 2012 harvest of Olea Estates olive oil.  In the unlikely event that we haven’t consumed all the oil by next season, I know it is certified shelf stable for 30 months.

In addition to the olive oil, Karl also distributes several other Cronis family products – green tea also known as shepherd’s tea, Greek oregano, bay leaves, black and green olives, an olive oil soap and recently available –  red and white wine vinegars. I have been cooking with the oil, vinegars, oregano, bay leaves  and olives as they became available and find the quality to be extraordinary.

olive oil soap, handcrafted by Greek artisan

The olive oil soap is also amazing – my initial concern was that it would have an oily smell.  I was surprised to find that it has very little fragrance; it’s scent is pleasant and it lasts and lasts.

Karl and his distributors offer Olea Estates products through the farmers markets in Byrnes Mill, Kirkwood, Clayton and Ellisville.  Most of these markets will be open until some time in October.  It’s best to check with each one for operating hours.  In addition, Page Williams distributes Olea Estates products on Thursdays from 10 am – 2 pm, outside the Barnes & Noble book store on the Washington University campus.  Approval for winter operations in the lobby behind the book store  is pending.  Page can be contacted at 314-753-6671 if you need more information about the “Wash U” location.

As well as products from Olea Estates, Karl offers a variety of organic produce from his farm in Wildwood.  This season has been difficult for vegetable gardening due to the erratic temperatures and variable moisture.  In spite of the temperature and water hardships, Karl has offered a variety of organically grown fruits, herbs, and vegetables –  basil, kale, chard, tomatoes, turnips, green beans, squash, cucumbers, melons and potatoes.  He is adding irrigation to his farm land in preparation for next season.  An excavation of an existing, sediment filled pond created a larger pond which will provide consistent water for his expanding gardens.  Next season for Healthy Harvest Gardens promises to be bigger and better than ever, with more square footage planted and water readily available from the new pond.

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As the 2011 growing season comes to a close, you still have time to visit Karl or one of his distributors at the various markets they attend.  Fresh organic produce will be available until the weather ends the season and Olea Estates Greek products will be available until the limited quantities on hand are sold.  Then we will begin counting the days until the 2012 season brings us fresh produce and cold pressed olive oil once again.


Bourbeuse Creek Mushrooms

Maureen and Bill Bachmann, Bourbeuse Creek Mushrooms

Recently at the Ellisville Farmers Market, I finally met Bill Bachmann, the elusive Bourbeuse Creek Mushroom farmer.  His wife, Maureen, has been marketing their shiitake mushrooms at the Market for most of the season.

I asked Bill how he got started growing mushrooms.  He said that about 3 years ago, he was planning his retirement from UniGroup, a transportation company that owns United Van Lines and Mayflower Transit.  Maureen let him know that if he was going to retire, he needed to find something to occupy his time.  (Isn’t this a statement we’ve often heard from friends as their spouses approach retirement age?).  In searching for ideas he  discovered information on the Missouri Agricultural Extension Service web site about agroforestry.  The University of Missouri Center for Agroforestry has a 12 page document, Agroforestry in Action: Growing Shiitake Mushrooms in an Agroforestry Practice which offers information on growing shiitake mushrooms as an agroforestry business.  Bill and Maureen own property in St. James with an abundance of oak trees.  Hence, the idea of starting a business that used oak logs to produce mushrooms seemed like a logical choice.  He also got considerable inspiration from their eldest daughter, Rita, who is a successful organic farmer in Charleston, South Carolina.

In 2009, he inoculated 100 logs and tried a variety of gourmet mushroom types.  His best results were with the shiitake variety, and he has since focused his efforts on them.  During the winter of that first year, he suffered a setback when about half his logs were stolen.  Apparently someone thought they were cut just the right size to be firewood.  In each of the next two years he inoculated between 150 and 170 logs.  This is a small number of logs in comparison with other producers; however, for Bill, it is a manageable number.  Each log is about 40 inches long and 4-6 inches in diameter.

According to the agricultural extension, a log will produce mushrooms for 4 years.  The process involves spawn inoculation  in winter after which the logs are placed on pallets in a shaded laying yard where they are stacked on pallets.  The following year, they start to produce regularly aided by forced fruiting.  Forced fruiting involves soaking the logs in a stock tank filled with cool water for 24 hours.  After about 3-4 days, the mushrooms begin to “pin out” meaning they are starting to grow on the log.

Bourbeuse Creek Mushrooms ready to harvest

In 5-7 days, the mushroom is fully mature and ready for harvest.    After harvesting the mushrooms, they are stored in a refrigerator until taken to the Market.

With the set up he has, he can harvest mushrooms every week, 4 to 5 months of the year, unlike a traditional vegetable crop that has a short growing season.  Throughout the season he brings the soaked logs from St. James to his home in Eureka where they stand in the basement.  The advantage of the basement setting is that it is a controlled environment.  There is no concern about the weather (too much rain, wind, heat or cold), there are no pests and the mushrooms remain clean while they grow. Many commercial large scale operations grow mushrooms in beds of sawdust resulting in a dirtier mushroom with less nutritional value.

Bill plans to add about 150 logs a year with the goal of 600 logs in production.  At that point, his harvest should be about 20-25 pounds a week.  He is about 2 years from that goal.

For further information on shiitake mushrooms, visit this informative web site.  An important aspect of shittake mushrooms that is not widely known are its health benefits.

“In addition to their robust/pungent, woodsy flavor and meaty texture, shiitakes provide high levels of protein (18%), potassium, niacin and B vitamins, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. They have natural antiviral and immunity-boosting properties and are used nutritionally to fight viruses, lower cholesterol and regulate blood pressure. Lentinan, an immunostimulant derived from shiitakes, has been used to treat cancer, AIDS, diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibrocystic breast disease, and other conditions with impressive results. Researchers S. Suzuki and Oshima found that a raw shiitake eaten daily for one week lowered serum cholesterol by 12%.

Excerpts from a 2007 article in Entrepreneur offers some interesting facts about the history of shiitake mushrooms.

First discovered in China, Shiitake have a fascinating history. Professors S. T. Chang and Philip G. Miles (2004), two pioneers in specialty mushrooms, described the first milestone of spontaneous log cultivation in nature. Many centuries ago, a legendary figure known as Wu San Kang hunted and collected mushrooms for food in the wild forest of the mountainous Lung-Skyr village, in Longquan County in southwest Zhejiang Province bordering Fujian. He was an ingenious observer who figured out how to grow wild Shiitake in 1100 A.D. during the Sung Dynasty (Luo 2004). Wu San Kang noticed that Shiitake were found on fallen logs in the woods. When he cut the logs, the mushrooms grown on the logs were larger and better. However, at times to his disappointment, there were not any mushrooms despite his cuttings. One day, in a rage he beat the logs furiously. To his surprise, mushrooms sprang up profusely like flowers all over the logs after several days. This is said to be the origin of the “shocking method,” the cutting and beating practice in Shiitake log cultivation. Today, 95 percent of the farmers in the three-county region where Wu was born (Longquan, Qingyuan and Jingning) continue the tradition of growing mainly Shiitake although today 80 percent use sawdust bags, while only 20 percent still use wood logs.”

The next advancement in shiitake farming occurred in 1936 when a Japanese grower, K. Kitajima discovered that the pure culture method credited to Shozaburo Mimura, a Japanese mycologist, who had published his findings in 1904 and 1915 (Stamets 2000)  could be used with shiitake mushrooms to control production.

The most recent development which has impacted mushroom growing was the sawdust technique conceived and refined in the 1970s – 1980s in China, resulting in large scale production of shiitakes in China and Japan.

“Sawdust cultivation may produce 3-4 times as many mushrooms as natural logs in only one tenth of the time (Royse 2002). “

If you’ve only consumed commercially raised shiitake mushrooms which were most likely grown using the  sawdust method,  then you really ought to get by the Ellisville Farmers Market some Thursday, 4 – 7 pm.  Check out the beautiful, clean and nutritious shiitakes grown on oak logs by Bourbeuse Creek Mushrooms.  You will be amazed!   They are picked the day of market and Maureen does a great job as the friendly and knowledgeable marketing representative for their burgeoning enterprise.

Wildwood Farmers Market – Saturday, July 30, 2011

This past Saturday morning was both a bit of a respite in our on going heat wave and a pain for the vendors at Wildwood Farmers Market.  The morning was overcast, a welcome break; it appeared there was a storm brewing in the northwest.  The storm boiled over with about 15 minutes of gusty winds and a few minutes of isolated showers carrying just enough water to thoroughly wet anything outside but not enough to water the parched ground.  I arrived at the market around noon; the showers had stopped.  Kathy Lober’s tent had blown down and she was packing up, getting ready to leave.  The other vendors had folded up their hanging signs during the brief downpour and were waiting out the remaining hour and a half in hopes that customers would venture back out since the storm had moved on.  Libby and Maia of All the Bows and Whistles were thankful that Libby is tall enough to reach the tent supports.  She held on during the winds and kept their tent from collapsing.

A Couple o' Jerks, German Style Relish - delicious!

Don Self of A Couple o’ Jerks introduced a new product – German Style Relish.  He was offering free samples.  I’m not sure of all the ingredients, but the two I remember are cabbage and red peppers.  I tried some and had to buy a jar.  It’s delicious!  He says that’s been the typical reaction.

Pop Pop and Co was back for a second week.  “Pop Pop” was in New York and his family manned his tent in his absence. Welcome to Wildwood Farmers Market!

Since the market is now in full swing, my blog will be transitioning to more feature stories about specific vendors at the market.  I’m hoping it will be a great way for us to get to know our producers and vendors better.  Hope to see you this Saturday at Wildwood Farmers Market, 8 am – 1:30 pm!

Ellisville Farmers Market – Week 9, July 28, 2011

A new vendor and a favorite of the day was the Kono Ice Truck.  Snow cones, shaved ice, whatever you call them, they seem to be a favorite childhood memory for any one growing up with hot summers.

Thanks to an article in the St. Louis Post Dispatch, The Ballwin-Ellisville Patch blog and a listing in the West County Journal week’s activities, there were quite a few new faces among customers at the Ellisville Farmers Market.  It’s always exciting to see support growing.

Did you know that Ellisville Farmers Market is managed and run by volunteers?  Have you noticed that it’s Ellisville Farmers Market.org and not .com?  Sometimes it’s easy for such subtleties to escape us.   When Straub’s closed its Clarkson and Clayton store, the nascent Ellisville Farmers Market located in its parking lot could have easily been lost so soon after it had begun.  I’m so thankful that Rene Sackett assumed the mantle of Market Master and accepted responsibility for working with the city, finding a new location, developing relationships with producers and building a venue that has become a place to be on Thursday afternoons.  Rene ran with the challenge, recruited her husband George and several others who work at the market each week to create a smashing success.  Their passion for the market and its participants is clearly visible and I believe it is the key to their success.  Keep up the great work!

Speaking of great work, boy was I thankful for George Sackett and his dedication to providing iced water on Thursday!  We’ve definitely had a few weeks of hot and dry weather.

Emily taking advantage of the mister

Just as I walked up, Emily was taking advantage of the overhead misters.  She seemed to find them quite refreshing.  While a few of the usual vendors chose to stay away due to the heat, several had returned from vacations so there was still a nice balance.

Now that we’re in the middle of the market season, I think for the next few weeks I’m going to transition into  features that focus on individual vendors each week, Hopefully  we will learn more about each one – their products, their reasons for being at the market and something fun they’d like to share.

Hope to see you at Bluebird Park this Thursday!

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Week 8, Ellisville Farmers Market, July 21, 2011

Things are really heating up at the market, both figuratively and literally!  While we all would appreciate some cooler weather, the harvest has been bountiful.  Tomatoes, corn, cucumbers, and squash have been plentiful for a couple of weeks.  Peaches and potatoes are also abundant.

Images copyrighted by Dancing Woman Designs

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Bourbeuse Creek Mushrooms, live shitakes

If you haven’t seen Lori Collier’s official Ellisville Farmers Market blog, her post this week is a must see.  She has amazing information about Bourbouese Creek Mushrooms and how the shitakes are grown.

Oscar Rivera, El Chico Bakery

My friend Peg and her husband really enjoy the baked empanadas from El Chico Bakery.  She’ s come up with a great idea – she’s going to buy some in quantity, wrap them individually  and freeze them.  Then when winter rolls around they can enjoy the delicious  sweet without driving into the city to the bakery.

Cherry empanada

Her favorite is the raspberry filled; Oscar has 9 additional flavors – apple, apricot, blueberry, cherry, guava,  cream cheese, peach, strawberry and vanilla.  Peg and I share fond memories of a southern tradition – fried fruit pies which are quite similar to El Chico’s empanadas.  The biggest difference is that El Chico Bakery empanadas are baked which is definitely a healthier method than the fried  pies of my childhood.  I still remember how much I enjoyed the sweet and fruity flavors of fried pies when my mother made them although it’s probably been 50 years since I had one.  It’s amazing how those childhood memories form a person.   Peg and I were visiting about the similarities between the fried pies of our childhood and Oscar’s empanadas with some  friends who grew up in Missouri and Wisconsin.  They hadn’t heard of fried pies and couldn’t believe that pumpkin pie wasn’t a staple at Southern holiday meals.  She and I both agreed, in the South, it’s definitely the original Karo syrup pecan pie recipe and maybe sweet potato pie.  I was probably in my thirties before I ever tasted pumpkin pie.

Brandi Cartwright, Ilya Eydelman - Raintree Learning Community

Raintree Learning Community, a sponsor of the Ellisville Farmers Market, had a tent for the first time this season.  Brandi Cartwright  and Ilya Eydelman have built an amazing preschool, teaching children respect for one another, love of learning and involving them in healthy choices from an early age.  I have visited many times and participated in events there with a friend’s son.  Everyone there has so much fun and the love is palpable.  In March 2010, parents and students built a Peace Garden during their annual garden spring cleaning.  Learning to resolve conflict through peaceful means is just one of the life skills taught at Raintree.  The children have a garden each year, planting fruits and vegetables.  The students prepare the garden, plant seeds, weed, water, and harvest their bounty.  The fruit and vegetables are delivered to Chef Scott, who prepares organic snacks and lunch for the students every day.  They raise 10 – 15% of the foods they eat, support local farmers and buy organically.  They are well aware of the influence of diet on student performance and overall health.

Brandi’s first teaching job was in Houston with Teach for America.  Acting as an agent of change in the struggling education system continues to be one of Brandi’s goals as Dean of Raintree.  Ilya makes sure that the business side of the school functions properly as President of Raintree  and is also eager to make a difference with the younger contingent of the community.   I think they’re well on their way to achieving their goal of making a difference in the world.  I know they’ve made a difference in my life and the life of my friend’s son.  Their dedication as leaders in the educational community  is refreshing and uplifting.

Although it was hot, George Sackett was regularly making the rounds, refilling cups with iced water.  There was also an overhead mister and the usual seating under a canopy for those wanting to sit down and relax, listen to the music, and enjoy some down time.  I  spent two hours at the market, visiting with friends. If you haven’t been to the market yet this season, come on down tomorrow and see what you’ve been missing!  Remember, Thursdays, Bluebird Park, 4 – 7 pm.

Wildwood Farmers Market, Week 8, July 16, 2011

There was lots of fresh produce at the Wildwood Farmers  market Saturday, July 16.

The air was filled with upbeat  rifts from the Maple Jam Band.  These guys obviously enjoy what they’re doing.

Maple Jam Band

Kathy Lober of Sunny Creek Farm was back after taking the previous weekend off so she and Eric could attend an annual meeting  to rejuvenate.  I can only imagine how important it is to take an occasional  break from farm duties, especially as the summer heats up.   I know that I couldn’t handle the daily outdoor grind, especially when it is sweltering before mid morning.

Kathy fielded lots of questions about the heirloom green zebra tomatoes that she was selling.  Everyone wanted to know if they were ripe and how did they taste?  This site, Kalyn’s Kitchen,  offers several serving suggestions  for  the Green Zebra variety of tomato.  I purchased some from Kathy;  I think I’ll try them with the goat cheese.  Sounds yummy!

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Maia and Libby of All the Bows and Whistles were staying cool in the shade, with the help of a fan and a couple of tall, cool drinks.  Maia and Libby have been best friends since high school.  They always seem to have fun at the market and make all sorts of creative accessories.

Maia and Libby, All the Bows and Whistles

If you haven’t been to the Wildwood Farmers market yet this season, make sure you drop in this week, Saturday, July 23, 8 am – 1:30 pm, in front of the Wildwood Hotel.  You’re sure to find some fresh and nutritious food and enjoy  some lively music!

Ellisville Farmers Market, Week 7, July 14, 2011

Lots of new vendors this week!  The market was buzzing with activity and the foot tappin’ beats from the  Maple Jam band.  Tales of excitement from last week’s windy deluge that sagged tents with pooling water while gusts simultaneously lifted the tents from the ground were resounding among vendors.  Some arrived  home from the market last week to discover trees down, plants broken, lambs dead from having been frightened and subsequently tangling themselves in fences.  You just know it is a big time juggling act to be a farmer – there are so many duties on the home front.  To attend a market, typically 50 – 100 miles away, must add another layer of complexity.  They have to harvest, load, unload, load again and unload again at the end of the market.   Somehow all the usual chores have to get done too.  It must help if vendors  can “fill two needs with one deed” by accomplishing delivery of CSA shares  at the farmers market while also offering produce, eggs and meat to market attendees.

New Vendors at Ellisville Farmers Market

Art House Coffee - fresh roasted bean or iced coffee

Art House Coffee, owned by a friend of Rene Sackett, had beans that were roasted Thursday morning, waiting to be ground for your next cup of coffee.   These were organic Colombian Fair Trade mesa de Los Santos (Loads of caramel and chocolate flavor, well balanced).  There was also iced coffee for the person wanting instant gratification.  Art House Coffee supports Turner Center for the Arts with proceeds from their sales.  In the words of the owner,

I love coffee and have a sincere interest in learning about its potential to make a positive difference in the world by treating the earth and coffee grower to drinker with respect, fairness, and kindness.

Commitments and goals: Sell coffee that is traceable from grower to cup, ethically traded, good tasting and fresh roasted using beans from sustainable, earth friendly farming practices that are bird, wildlife, and people friendly. We will use minimal packaging, recycled materials as much as possible and compost our chaff.

Singing Prairie Family Farm from La Plata, Missouri was represented by Andrew, an apprentice from Truman State University.  He is studying agriculture at Truman and is gaining practical experience working with Singing Prairie.  They offer pork from forest and pasture raised, apple fed pigs.  They have free-range, pasture-raised, antibiotic-free, hormone-free fryer chickens and holiday turkeys.  Eggs from their happy chickens are also available.

Kamp’s Peaches from Calhoun County, Illinois had lots of peaches – Saturn – a small, squat white peach, a regular sized white peach and the well known Calhoun County peach.  A taste test of the Saturn peach offered surprising sweetness from such a small fruit.

Kamp Peaches, Calhoun County, IL

Lakeview Farm was also new at the market. They are from St. Charles.  They were offering tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, eggplant, several kinds of peppers and 2 varieties of squash.

Lakeview Farm - beans and squash

Lakeview Farm, St. Charles, MO

  Selecting green beans from Lakeview Farm is a family affair

Laurel’s Florals  are beautiful note cards created from original paintings by Laurel’s mother, Marcia Thorpe.   Laurel, the lovely lady who offers fun and educational activities for children, is selling the note cards individually or in an assortment of four.    There were multiple floral images – I purchased 3 floral note cards and the farmers market note card that was an image of Marcia’s friend.  The images that I made have a blue cast that is not on the actual note cards which are printed on white paper.  You must see them to appreciate their beauty.

Laurel's Florals

Farmers Market note card, artist, Marcia Thorpe

Flower note card, image 2, Marcia Thorpe, artist

Ellisville Farmers Market, images by Dancing Woman Designs

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The warmer weather has resulted in greater quantities of produce  at the market.  If you haven’t been to the market and taken advantage of the bountiful harvests from our local farmers, you should make a bee line to Bluebird Park, Thursdays, 4 – 7 pm.

Wildwood Farmers Market, Week 7, July 9, 2011

It is heating up as we find ourselves in the midst of summer.  We are having fewer cool and breezy days.  The good news is that warmer weather means more species and more varieties of fresh fruits and vegetables are available.

This week at the Wildwood Farmers Market you could have selected from the following:

  • Black berries
  • Blue berries
  • Cabbage
  • Cantaloupe
  • Corn
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Green Beans – if you were early!
  • Onions
  • Peppers – various varieties
  • Potatoes – Yukon Gold and Red
  • Squash – Zucchini & Yellow
  • Tomatoes
  • Watermelon

That doesn’t include the BBQ, beef jerky, jams, relishes, popcorn and small, sweet loaves of bread.  There was also chiropractic information, free massages, Adirondack chairs, trellises, bird houses, jewelry, paintings and accessories.  I’m sure I missed something.

Images by Dancing Woman Designs

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With all these fresh and tasty fruits and vegetables waiting for you, it’s a great time to venture out, drop in to the market and pick up some delicious food while supporting your local farmer at the same time.  Hope to see you at the Wildwood Farmers Market,  Saturday, July 16, 8 – 1:30 pm.

Jackson’s Green Beans – yummy!

Jackson's green beans (grandson of Steve and Evelyn Lucas)

Thursday, at Ellisville Farmers Market, I asked Evelyn Lucas of Hunter’s Ridge Berry Farm what had happened to her grandson helpers.  It seems that  the older two had returned to their home in Pennsylvania and that Jackson was at another event.  However, she pointed out that the bags of green beans for sale belonged to Jackson.  I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that Jackson is maybe seven.  He accompanied his grandparents to their first week at Ellisville Farmers Market three weeks ago where he enthusiastically offered passersby a taste of the  blackberries.  That day, at the children’s activity tent, he created this beautiful square for the Children’s Growing Quilt.

Blueberry Quilt Square, created by grandson of Steve & Evelyn Lucas

Blueberry Quilt Square, created by grandson of Steve & Evelyn Lucas

I wanted to share with Jackson that I purchased a bag of his green beans  at Thursday’s market.   Saturday evening, I washed and trimmed them and simmered them along with 3 cloves of garlic for about 7 minutes.  I peeled the cooked garlic and pressed it into a bowl containing a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, a tablespoon of Olea Estates olive oil and a grind of pepper.

Olea Estates olive oil from Healthy Harvest Gardens & Jackson's green beans

The beans were delicious with our dinner Saturday night.  We finished off the leftovers tonight, along with some of the chicken-pesto pasta from Thursday’s dinner.  Still yummy and oh so easy to zap in the microwave for a super quick dinner.

Jackson, I hope you continue to be enthusiastic about gardening.  Perhaps you will be a farmer when you grow up!   You certainly seem to have a knack for growing tasty green beans.   Hope to see you again soon at the Ellisville Farmers Market.

I’m thankful for those who provide my family with fresh food!

When the skies opened up Thursday, unlike Market Master Rene Sackett and her husband George, the market volunteers, vendors and farmers,   I was safely at home admiring my day’s finds and planning dinner.  When I left for the market that afternoon, I had a couple of ingredients that I knew were going to become dinner – the cooked chicken breasts and basil pesto prepared a day or two earlier.

Dinner ingredients from Ellisville Farmers Market

I planned to supplement the chicken and pesto with produce from the market in Bluebird Park.  Indeed, I was able to prepare a quick dinner using  the following additional fresh ingredients from the Ellisville Farmers Market:

  • Hunter’s Ridge Berry Farm, yellow squash and  blackberries
  • Vesterbrook Farm, fresh garlic
  • Larry Schonert, Jr., ripe tomato
  • Bourbeuse Creek Mushrooms, shitakes
  • Healthy Harvest Gardens, creamy organic Greek olives and Olea Estates olive oil

Wow!  A few minutes sauteing onions, garlic, mushrooms and squash in Olea Estates fabulous olive oil, stir in the basil pesto and cooked chicken breast prepared  a couple of days before, add a dash of cream, salt and pepper and toss with some pasta.  Voila, the evening’s entree.  Stir in the chopped tomato or as in my case, slice it and serve it on the side.  Add a small bowl of Hunter’s Ridge Berry Farm blackberries with a spoon of cream  sauce, garnished with a sprig of mint and dinner is ready and on the table.

Hunter's Ridge Berry Farm blackberries

Fresh, healthy, quick and spontaneous!  I offer my thanks to the efforts of our local farmers.  These folks amend their soil at the end of fall harvest, plan their plantings during the winter months, nurse transplants through the winter and early spring months, set them out only to have them washed away by heavy rains, toil in the heat to weed, and rise early to water when the rains stop and the ground is dry.  Many deal with equipment that requires constant maintenance but lack the extra cash to buy new.  They use expensive fuel to bring their crops to market and deal with occasional weather or mechanical issues that impact their presence at the market.  I’ve heard more than one farmer mention a vehicle problem that delayed his arrival to the market.   I know the young women who bring Odelehr’s Farm Produce to the markets on Thursday and Saturdays are driving further to catch a ferry across the flooded river so they can get from Illinois to West County.  Many thanks also to the efforts of the Sacketts, their corps of volunteers, all who make the market possible.  Thank you all for your dedication, passion and energies given to this way of life!