The Oklahoma State University in Oklahoma City Farmers Market had its grand opening of the Wednesday market last week. The market is open year round on Saturdays, and the Wednesday version will stay open through the peak of the growing season and wind down in late fall. The pavilion, in the John E. Kirkpatrick Horticulture Center, 400 N Portland Ave., is home base.
A visit to the farmers market is my own personal trip to bountiful, firing up wonderful memories of the family gardens of my youth. Helping cook, can, freeze and stuff ourselves with fresh from the garden foods: English peas with new potatoes and spring onions in the spring to the patty pans and pumpkins later on it is a feast to remember each time I get to a farmers market. It feeds my soul while bringing great food to our table.
Each year I'm more amazed by the variety and volume of vegetables grown here in Oklahoma. Despite late freezes, hail, high winds, flooding and even killer tornadoes, Oklahoma farmers still manage to produce beautiful vegetables. Most do it sustainably and chemical free. Others are certified organic growers.
My years of writing about Oklahoma foods and the folks who grow and produce them has led me to a number of farms across the state. As those huge storms made their way through the state, I couldn't help but worry that some of them would be devastating for folks like Bud and Lita Leatherwood, who raise beautiful produce at their farm near Yukon.
Bud said they followed the early warnings to leave if they didn't have underground shelter. They did just that, fully expecting to return to their farm and find everything gone. Fortunately for them, the massive storm changed course and missed Leatherwood Farm, which had been right in its path. They were lucky.
Susan Graff, of Crestview Farms, east of Edmond, also was not far from the storm. Crow Farms near Shawnee also managed to miss the storms. Robert and Barbara Stelle, at Sunrise Acres near Blanchard, also missed the most recent havoc. The Stelles raise certified organic bedding plants and beautiful produce including a variety of veggies ahead of season in their greenhouse.
Wonder Acres, not far from Will Rogers Airport, also was spared. This beautiful garden is obviously a passion for Jasper and Gloria Phipps. They grow everything from elephant garlic and shallots to blackberries.
The Crow family, who also run the Main Street Market at 730 E Main in Shawnee, bring an amazing volume of vegetables and plants to the OSU-OKC Market throughout the year. Claudia Crow who grew up in Bogota, Colombia, had never farmed or gardened before she married Ricky.
When asked about a favorite way to prepare vegetables, she spoke the mantra that those of us who love them feel: “Just fresh steamed, roasted or fried — you don't need much extra when the vegetables are fresh.”
The Crow's son, Brandon, transports a large load of produce and plants to the Wednesday and Saturday markets at OSU-OKC. Their greenhouses yield large vine-ripe tomatoes, and if you can think of it, they seem to grow it. I was impressed by their cabbages, cauliflower and broccoli. If you haven't had broccoli truly fresh picked, you are in for a treat.
Brandon came back to help in the family business after attending OU.
“Most people don't realize how much there is to growing vegetables and farming,” he said.
“You have to put some effort into marketing and promoting the things you grow. Then there's the business side of it — knowing how to make a profit takes a lot.”
The Crows also have a variety of their produce canned and frozen available year round and at the Saturday market.
I so enjoy visiting with the growers, asking about their favorite ways to prepare and cook the foods they grow.
Lita Leatherwood sent me home with some of their fresh dug Yukon Gold potatoes and onions, reminding me how good they are sliced up and fried together.
Just ask her about to prepare some of the beautiful Asian vegetables they grow.
I couldn't wait to get home and fry up a couple of gorgeous green tomatoes they had.
Wayne Jesco, of W-Bar-M Sheep and Wool, says their farm is a whole family operation from three farms in Yukon, Mustang and the Marlow/Bray area where they grow melons.
He, his parents, brother and family bring eggs, produce and often other things like 25 flats of Stilwell strawberries he transported for the Saturday market last weekend or designer-quality wool hats created from the Oklahoma sheep thriving on their Mustang farm.
Jesco had fresh-shelled peas for the Wednesday grand opening when the fields were too wet to work.
I find there is always something new to discover at a farmers market. The Wednesday grand opening at OSU-OKC included a baby kangaroo on hand in the new petting zoo.
Cheryl Camp, the market's manager, said they have some event or activity planned for almost all the markets this summer. It's a good reason to bring along the whole family. It's so wonderful to involve the next generation.
Speaking of the next generation, J.B. Pratt does a great job of inspiring interest in creating and offering a variety of wholesome Oklahoma-grown chemical-free foods. Products from across the state populate the shelves of the Wednesday market. On Saturday the offerings expand with even more creations from heat-and-eat foods like pizza rounds made with local whole-wheat flour, breads and baked goods, salsas and sauces.
Check their website for details: www.earthelementsfarm.com.
I found organic wheat grass from a new vendor John Faulconer ready to take home and blend. Darren Holly brought some beautiful free-range eggs from his Twisted Feather Farms in Midwest City. Soon they will have produce, fruits and berries. You could put all that fresh produce in a handmade basket from Pauline Hogan Asbury, of “Habasketry” who was on hand and making baskets right there in the market. Ask her about classes.
If I said “I'm just here for the food” at the OSU-OKC Farmers Market, I would be not telling the whole truth. I love getting to know the folks who grow your food.
They begin to feel like family. As always, it feels so good to help support Oklahomans by buying locally grown produce. These days I feel as though it is all a part of what helps keep us “Oklahoma Strong.” We not only survive but thrive.
I hope to see you at the market.
Getting seasonal at the farmers market
The utility poles that snapped off are repaired and the power is back on at the OSU-OKC Farmers Market. Here are just a few of my favorite seasonal, garden-fresh vegetables I found at the market.
Dippers Sugar-snap peas, (get them before they are gone), carrots, cauliflower and broccoli make great fat-free dippers. They are really nice with
hummus, salsa or your favorite ranch dressing.
Kohlrabi Never had kohlrabi? Just snip off the stems slice and saute in a wok or skillet with a little bit of oil (canola, olive, safflower or grape seed.) Don't let the oil smoke as this creates a less healthy veggie. Sliced turnips, potatoes, onions or combinations are yummy. Or simply coat with olive oil and roast on a baking sheet in 400-degree oven.
Cauliflower Try it coated with olive oil mixed with a little melted butter then powdered turmeric and a sprinkle of garlic salt makes a nice side dish for super healthy snack. Roast on a baking sheet in a preheated oven at 400 degrees on middle rack for 20 to 30 minutes.
Onions So many ways, varieties and sizes. Slice large-bulbed green onions in half lengthwise and saute with tops on, snuggle them up to a pan steak, or coat with olive oil and a little kosher salt and roast alone or with other veggies. Slice them into multi-sized rings for salads and sandwiches. Compost the peelings or put them around roses to discourage aphids. (That's an old wives' tale, but it might help.) Onions just make everything else taste so good from potatoes to pot roast.
Cabbage Cabbage is a cool one so there's not a lot of time left to enjoy it. Try my quick guacamole dressing on cabbage alone or add some
Fried green tomatoes
Beets Grate them raw over a salad, peel and slice them for a saute, steam them then transfer to a plastic bag, allow them to cool then rub away the peeling keeping the bag between your hands and the beets. The tops are full of nutrients too, so slice up the stems and leaves and saute them in oil. You can always combine the sauteed tops with the cooked sliced beets for a super side dish. You will find several colorful varieties of beets at the OSU-OKC Farmers Market.
Garlic Wrap it whole in foil and roast it in a 300-degree oven and use the cloves to flavor any and everything. You can cut off the top to open the cloves, then wrap in foil keeping it upright also if you want some ready to spread on a hot crusty baguette or toast. Mince or press cloves and add to sauces and spreads. Like its onion cousin, garlic is a real flavor enhancer.