Farmers’ Market Finds: Chard and Asparagus

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My local farmers’ market here in Leavenworth, Kansas has reopened for the season. The cinnamon rolls made with freshly ground wheat are to die for. Oh, and we also go for the produce fresh from the ground with the dirt still on it. There’s something about buying food from the farmers that grew it that helps me feel connected to what I’m eating. One day, I’d like to learn to grow a garden of my own, but we’re at this duty station for less than a year so I didn’t get beyond planting some bulbs and perennials for the next military family that comes to live in this house.

It’s still fairly chilly in my area so there’s not a huge variety at the market quite yet, but a couple of veggies that we have featured in our food challenges were abundant. There is plenty of chard since there are really only a few months when it’s not in season.  And asparagus, though it peaks in April, is still making an appearance. If you’re not sure what to do with these veggies, be sure to check out the food challenges for storage and preparation tips, as well as recipes.  Here are some of my favorite ways to make these veggies:

Chard

Greens are traditionally cooked for a very long time, and I thought I didn’t like them cooked, so I stuck with eating things like spinach raw in salads.  But then I found that I could cook them for a shorter time and enjoy them.  So, when it was almost time for the market to close, and the farmer offered to double up my greens for the same price, I loaded up and knew what I wanted to make.

  • Cranberry Rainbow Chard - This recipe originally showed up in Leslie’s Swiss chard food challenge and I have been making chard and collards this way ever since for a quick side dish.  We traditionally think of eating cranberries in the fall, but they are delicious dried year-round.  I look for the elusive fruit juice sweetened variety at specialty grocery stores like Natural Grocers.
  • Lentil and Greens Casserole with Millet-Amaranth Crust - This recipe calls for kale and collards, but I find myself using collards and chard interchangeably.  Peas are in season in April and May so you might throw fresh peas into this dish if you have them on hand. I originally tried this because I’m trying to use up my messy pantry items like millet and amaranth for my upcoming PCS, but I find myself coming back to this recipe when my family is feeling a little run down or under the weather.  It is so healthy, I feel like it offers a great pick-me-up.

Asparagus

There was a woman at the market buying asparagus for the first time, wondering what to do with it.  She was concerned about not liking it.  I gave her more ideas than she was probably expecting. I really love getting asparagus at the farmers’market because it is so fresh that the ends of the stalks aren’t even dried out yet.

  • Roasted - If you’re worried about not liking veggies that have a reputation for being a bit bitter, then roasting is a great way to go because the natural sweetness comes out.
  • Steamed - Some veggies become really unappealing when they are overcooked and asparagus is one of them. When you steam, you can have a lot of control over how crisp your veggies remain.  Just be sure to remove the steamer basket right when you’re pleased with the texture, otherwise it will continue cooking on you.  I like to drizzle a little olive oil and fresh lemon juice over my steamed asparagus spears and then top with freshly ground salt and pepper.  Super simple and delicious.
  • Raw - Sometimes we get stuck in the traditional preparations of veggies and forget that they can be eaten raw, providing additional health benefits.  Many years ago, my husband encouraged me to eat my corn on the cob raw. But asparagus? It took him awhile to convince me on that one.  Then I found a salad with asparagus, rhubarb, lentils, and berries.  I was sold!

What are your favorite items that are starting to show up in farmers’ markets right now?