Gardens + farmers markets = happy SoupAddict

Hello, June!

For months and months you’ve been awaited and now you’ve arrived [muah!].

Here. Take a seat and stay a while. A long, long while. Please? Okay? Pretty please? With cheese?

Because you are ever so lovely.

Last night, I watched fireflies sparkle and glow until the air turned the sweet scent of rain and low, rumbling thunder shooed the symphony of chirpers and croakers for cover.

Dinner was a salad of garden fresh herbs and vegetables, and local eggs cracked from freckled, latte-hued shells. Later, frozen strawberries (local, of course) were blended to thick, creamy goodness with a little maple syrup (also local) and homemade Greek-style yogurt.

This is June at Casa SoupAddict.

June also signals the official kick-off of farmers’ market season.

A friend pointed out to me recently that our fair city now has more farmers’ markets (45) than Walmarts (20). On any given day, there will be at least one open somewhere in the city (including a 7-day market that’s on my way home from work).

This is progress.

Cincinnati is very suit-and-tie suburban (P&G lives here, ya know), but we’re happily surrounded in all directions by farmland. I’m grateful that so many small farmers are willing to pack up their goodies, drive an hour north/south/east/west and share the amazing fruits of their hard labor with my community.

The inspirational Joel Salatin from Polyface Farm (of Food, Inc. fame) posted a piece on Polyface’s Facebook page about the hazards of the USDA’s organic certification program, including a link to an article exposing recent corruption.

The peeps in my personal circle — folks who spend considerably less time than I do researching industrial agriculture (and understandably so), and who politely stifle yawns and eye-rolls when I launch into an impassioned recount of the misdoings du jour of Big Ag and their co-horts (also understandably, if not a tad disappointing) — they happily chant “organic!” at every turn, accentuated with random fist-pumpage and an outer glow of good intentions. Which makes me both cringe and stifle an eye-rolling of my own.

I’m thrilled that they embrace the no-chemical-no-gmo-no-crazy-ingredients motto, but … to sum up years of tangly downslide into one simple sentence: the organic packaged food industry is a hot mess. Trusting any brand on any given day is an exercise in risk if you’re not willing to keep up with the news. As Joel points out on his FB page, the best way to ensure safe food is to shop locally and know your food producer (and make your own granola bars … looking right at you, Kashi).

I hope you live near a farmers’ market so you can do just that.

Memorial Day weekend welcomed the opening of my own neighborhood’s market, the Anderson Farmers’ Market.

Along with a three-day sustained heat wave of over 90°F.  Brutal.

May came in like a bull with a mission and was dead-set on going out with a whoop and a holler.

But that’s okay. Thanks to May’s brash warmth and abundance of sunshine, the summer crops are well ahead of schedule.

When I was young, my older brothers were the gardeners in the family and each spring was a race to have the first red tomato by the 4th of July. And not just a cherry tomato, because that’s too easy. But a big, ripe beefsteak.

Now, every year, from habit, I find myself wandering the tomato gardens most days in June, lifting leaves and peeking deep into the foliage canopy, trying to spy a candidate.

For the past few years, external events have conspired against a July 4th tomato, making it not just unlikely, but clearly impossible. This year, however, things are looking mighty promising.

Promising, indeed.

More on that as June progresses. But first, a few scenes from a farmers’ market:

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