Friday, December 4, 2009

Tomato Tasting at Howe Meadow Market

Anyone who has been reading my blog for even a short period of time knows that I am a supporter of local, sustainable, and seasonal products. As I have talked about in the past, I am also a huge fan of markets that can connect the consumer as directly as possible with the farmer / grower. In fact, I've already written about two markets over the past summer, my trip to the Shaker Square Farmer's Market and Coit Street Market and my trip to the Homerville Wholesale Produce Auction. I'm not going to go and rehash the meat of those entries again; there is no point. If you want to read what I had to say about each of those markets, click on the respective links.

However, knowing that both of those markets are not local to Akron natives, I wanted to offer up a third alternative, the Howe Meadow Farmers Market located on Riverview Road in Peninsula on Saturday mornings and at the grounds of Stan Hywet on Thursday late afternoons and early evening. The website details the hours and dates of each location along with various programs and offerings that happen during the summer. Today, being in the midst of corn and tomato season, I decided to visit the Howe Meadow location on Riverview. After arriving shortly after 9 AM, I was directed to park in a meadow by the only major structure on the property, a barn:

As I walked towards the market (which would be just to the right of the barn in the above photograph), I almost felt like I was walking into a medieval fair. It wasn't that people were dressed in period costumes or musicians were playing period pieces, but I felt like I was communing with my natural surroundings. Here was a shot of the market as I approached it:

Just inside the entrance was a Welcome tent where I discovered that while cash was perfectly acceptable, they had a way where you could get "credits" if you needed to make an ATM withdrawal or needed to use your WIC coupons. The credits were used just like regular cash at the various stands in the market. Fortunately, I had enough cash on me that I didn't need to take advantage of the offering.

I'm not going to necessarily comment on the next series of photographs as I think they do an excellent job of telling their own story. I will really only say this: I remain extremely impressed with the bounty of all the wonderful fresh fruit and vegetables that we have available to us at this time of year and I wish I could convince more people to take advantage of this amazing opportunity to buy local and keep the money in our local economy.

That said, here we go ...

(This is probably my favorite photo ... look at all the colors!)

Today in the middle of the square were a duo of musicians playing the dulcimer and flute:

One of the other reasons for my visit today was a free tomato tasting. Market goers were encouraged to try as many flavors as they wanted from the twenty varieties of heirloom tomatoes that were present for todays tasting:

Each group was labeled and the two ladies running the tasting conveniently had a sheet of paper with all of the varietals on them so that you could keep tasting notes if you so chose. I probably ended up trying about half of the tomatoes on display before deciding on the Sun Golds as being my favorite. The balance between the acidity and sweetness was absolutely perfect.

In what turned out to be a pleasant surprise, Jonathon Sawyer, his wife Amelia, and several of the crew from the Greenhouse Tavern (which I've written about before) showed up in conjunction with the tomato tasting to put together several salsas prepared with the ingredients available right there at the market.

Here was a shot of Chef Sawyer putting together his salsa as well as doing some public relations work for his restaurant:

Another shot of the Chef:

Not to be outdone, the crew from the Greenhouse Tavern were eager to each build their own salsas to compete with Jonathon's:

Here were the finished salsas, each highlighting different elements of sweet, tart, and savory:

After all of the salsas had been prepared, shoppers were encouraged to try them all and tell a woman standing at the end of the table what our preference was. Today my vote went for Dan. His salsa had a wonderful blending of tomatoes, corn, garlic, lime juice and seasoning. That being said, it was kind of like trying to pick your favorite child. Of course they were all good, but Dan's really stood out as being well balanced.

Having finished the tomato tasting and the salsa competition, I gathered up my produce and headed up to my friend Diane's house for a fantastic dinner of grass-fed beef from Millgate Farms, a panzanella salad made from some of the tomatoes that I had bought today at the market, and finished off the meal with some amazing Ohio sweet corn that we simply boiled until tender and delicious. I know that our farmers markets won't be up and running again very soon, but once June 2010 hits, I encourage you to seek out a market nearest you and learn what great produce is supposed to taste like. The fact that you'll be helping to support a local farmer and cutting out all of those emissions from having to truck or fly produce from halfway across the United States, or for that matter from another country, is just a big plus in my book.


MikeV @ DadCooksDinner said...

I'll second the joys of the Howe road farmer's market. I don't make it down there as often as I would like, for two reasons.

The first is: my CSA share from Crown Point keeps me stocked with vegetables for the summer.

The second is: When I do go down there, everything looks so good that I wind up buying way too much. Not that there's anything wrong with that...

Mike V

Tino said...

@MikeV: I completely hear you on the whole buying too much thing. Although its even more applicable to my situation since I am usually only buying for myself. Five pounds of really great tomatoes? SURE! I can finish them off before they go bad!

I can just picture the coroner's report right now: "The cause of Tino's death can be attributed to the overconsumption of perfectly ripe heirloom tomatoes. Sadly, he had just one peck too many."

BONNIE K said...

I had no idea this stuff was available in December!

Tino said...

@Bonnie K: Ok, ok, a little snark may be in order given that my visit obviously happened a few months ago and it is only now appearing. That being said, there are some markets in Cleveland (primarily the Coit Road Market) that actually are still open, although the produce has obviously change to seasonal winter vegetables and such.

Think of my post today as inspiration for six months from now when the rest of the markets re-open for business.

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