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Sunday, August 28, 2011

MA Farmer’s Market Week Ends and the Tomato Odyssey Begins

It seems that nature has ushered out Farmer’s Market Week with a bang. Thankfully, your intrepid food swap organizers braved the rain and wind on Saturday to visit a Massachusetts organic, community-supported farm that supplies a number of markets in the state including South Station in Boston.  Yesterday Tara and I (Lyn) trekked to Red Fire Farm in Granby, MA for their 11th annual Tomato Festival.  I get my CSA share from Red Fire so it seemed fitting to visit the people who magically make produce with my name on it appear in my town center every week.  The soundtrack to our trip was The Real Tuesday Weld’s “I Love the Rain” because, although it poured many times during our trip, we couldn’t have had a better time among my fellow members, the food demonstrators, the vendors, and the farmers!

When we arrived, the festival was already in high gear.  

 Our first stop was at the Food Demo tent.  We first saw the gang from Wheatberry Cafe in Amherst demonstrating spelt pasta and some sort of whole heritage grain pancake.  The session's highlight was the not-so-subtle pitch for the Pioneer Valley Heritage Grain CSA.  I had heard about the grain CSA concept recently via a Globe article but was a little turned off to the idea of getting all of your grain for a year at once.  Being an urban denizen with a city-sized condo, the idea of storing a whole year's worth of grain gave me nightmares of tripping over tubs of heritage corn to get to the bathroom every night.  Somehow, seeing the live demo and hearing the stories of cooking with local heritage grains (and beans!) has turned my fear of grain overload in to creative how-can-I-make-this-work energy.  Or maybe the onslaught of Hurricane Irene and her housebound promise are making me rethink the organization in my pantry!   Whatever the reason for my change of heart, I'm seriously considering the option in December.  In fact, I have visions of swapping canned garbanzo and kidney beans (minus the boatload of sodium and the BPA lining) at our winter swaps!  If the rest of the food swapping world needed more convincing, people seem to keep grain mills in the city.  One bicycle-powered option that comes to mind is being offered for swap via the Massachusetts Food Trader!

We also enjoyed another amazing food demo by Chef Jose Duarte of Taranta, the Peruvian/Italian restaurant in the North End.  In the vain of their cooking classes, Chef Duarte demonstrated making mozzerella, gazpacho, and bruschetta.  After one sample of the fresh-made mozzarella, Taranta reservations were made via iPhone on site.  Congratulations Chef Duarte for knowing EXACTLY how to get people in to your restaurant!

Although we walked away from the chef demos inspired to try new things, the real star of the afternoon was the tomato tasting area.  The farm tasted over 100 varieties of their heirloom tomatoes.

Attendees could rate their favorite varieties.


When all of the tasting was done, we could go to the farm stand to buy our favorites!

Although 100 pieces of various tomatoes seems like a sufficient lunch, we had to try the fresh sweet corn being grilled in the husk.  Here's to wishing that the almighty iPhone included Smell-o-Vision.  Apple, get to work on that!

Demos, tastings, and gabbing with vendors like the folks at Relish The Harvest made a rainy pre-hurricane afternoon a kick-ass celebration of local food!  Perhaps the most exciting part of the Festival was that it served as a harbinger for my favorite time of year.  When the saucing tomatoes come in next week, I will buy a half bushel for delivery with my CSA distribution and start on the ultimate swap-worthy Tomato Odyssey.  I can't give too much away in advance, but I will admit that there will be hot sauce involved.  Stay tuned to the blog as the journey unfolds!  And for a taste of even better things to come, this last photo is my autumn version of Santa Claus arriving at the end of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. (to music) It's the most wonderful time (great fanfare) of the year!

To see more pictures of the festival, including the farm's early cache of pie pumpkins, check out the Flickr feed for the Boston Food Swap.

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