Winter Quest: The Tomato-Lettuce Trail
We are just a few weeks away from 2017, when we may just barely allow ourselves to peek very gently forward to the promise of spring and our favorite markets and farms. This 2016 season ended on a somewhat bittersweet note what with the end of the beloved Killdeer farmstand and Echo Hill Farm's stand at the Norwich Market with Craig, Hannah and her mother. It was crushing to hear the news, especially to bid adieu to Tom Thumb, Panisse and the most perfect tri-colored cherry tomatoes ever to be harvested! I know so many of us will miss the sunny, familiar faces at the Killdeer stand too: Liz, Jake, Scott and his friendly crew. I wish to extend my heartfelt thanks. Oh, how we all will miss your bounty!
And so it is at this time of year that I pack the back of my fridge and larder with the last of the Killdeer produce. Some of it does remain available at the Co-Ops in Hanover/Lebanon for a little while.
This is also when I go underground to scout out different tomatoes and lettuce. Of course, they are plentiful in supermarkets, but I want to find a sort of ongoing August flavor as we are so spoiled in summer; so my local hunt for these two staples began about Thanksgiving. As luck would have it, I stumbled on some gorgeous produce at the Upper Valley Food Co-Op, the one with the red sign right in downtown White River Junction at 193 N. Main street. A local farm called Sunrise is planning to grow lettuce and greens all winter-long. Their lettuce was divided into very appealing bouquets standing upright in a little water; I almost wanted to place them as a table centerpiece and not toss the fetching leaves with wooden spoons. The website states that the owners hope to grow kale and spinach as well. Based on what I bought, this is exciting news; the spinach leaves were large, dark green and luscious. Their website is very informative: sunrisefarmvt.com
I am sure that it is tricky to keep lettuce fresh and appealing, but there are many times when it has been overwatered and it starts a slow rotting process in its bag. This is something to look for when buying lettuce. Pete's Greens, based in Cratsbury, Vt., has delicious greens. Their website indicates many stores where the produce is sold; around here it is the Upper Valley Food Co Op as well as the Woodstock Farmers' Market. In this same field, Olivia's Organics out of Chelsea, Ma. and namely their Baby Romaine is crisp and fresh-available all over.
These days, I see alot of local cluster tomatoes and I call them 'tasty with a dull endorsement', some with a Vermont label that are actually grown in Quebec, others from Maine. Yet, for some reason it is the cherry tomatoes post-summer that pack a juicy punch. In clear packaging, the Del Fresco Delights brand is for sale at the Woodstock Farmers' Market and the White River Co-op. If you like small and crunchy tomatoes, Little Guys of Long Wind Farm do the trick.
Have you seen the light blue boxes of 'cocktail tomatoes' from Backyard Farms out of Madison, Maine? These are amazing. They are available at the White River Co-Op most of the time and at Hannaford in West Lebanon all the time. They come on the vine and even allow you a little time travel right back into August. They are no heirloom, but the deep red colour and flavor is rich and thoroughly enjoyable.
We are certainly fortunate with the choice that abounds and this remains a fun and ongoing venture.
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