Cambridge 1st & Hamilton 2nd June

I had some extra helpers with me on my stall this weekend, which enabled me to scout around the market early on Saturday morning and I was able to net some really cool photos of the stalls at their best. The flower stall from Cardalue is a joy to behold on a dreary winter’s morning. Margaret’s fiery orange and red winter gladioli coupled with some of her scarlet ‘monkey paw’ flowers could be transformed into a warm and cosy flower arrangement representing a ‘floral fire’ perhaps. Her flowers are very reasonably priced at $5 or $10 for a bigger bunch. When you think about it, $10 is the cost of a couple of coffees which are gone and forgotten within minutes but beautiful flowers will give you visual pleasure for days on end. So if you think you deserve an unbirthday treat, give yourself a bunch of flowers – no one else will - they don’t know it’s your unbirthday.
Burton and his wife Alison who own the attractive Locavore seedling and vegetable stall have a interesting array of organic seedlings which are planted up in biodegradable containers. The idea is that you pop the seedling, container and all, straight into your prepared soil and Bob’s your uncle! The root ball remains undisturbed reducing transplant shock, the containers do their biodegrading thing and the resulting plant grows vigorously with no further effort from you except a bit of watering every now and again. The soil is still just warm enough to put in winter plants and the cabbage butterflies are long gone so choose some Miners Lettuce, Cabello Nero Kale or Sprouting Broccoli and see what love can do.
Burton also had my favourite floury cooking potato Agria. As it is one of the best mashing potatoes it is more expensive but it is streets ahead of any of the nameless multipurpose spuds you see in the supermarkets. Agrias are a good size so less peeling required overall, they have yellow flesh and are fluffy, not slimey, when mashed. Here’s a lovely recipe for winter Colcannon. Make it with Agrias from Burton or Desirees from Clif’s Garden or Jack’s Orchard and Kale from Cato’s or Silver Beet from Clif’s Gardens.

4 quality mashing potatoes peeled and cut into large chunks
5-6 Tbsp unsalted butter (with more butter for serving)
3 lightly packed cups of chopped kale or silverbeet
3 finely chopped spring onions including the green parts.
1 cup milk or cream
1 Put the potatoes in a medium pot and cover with cold water by at least an inch. Add 2 tablespoons of salt, and bring to a boil. Boil until the potatoes are fork tender (15 to 20 minutes). Drain in a colander.
2 Return the pot to the stove and set over medium-high heat. Melt the butter in the pot and once it's hot, add the greens. Cook the greens for 3-4 minutes, or until they are soft and have given off some of their water. Kale or Cabello Nero takes longer than silverbeet to cook. Add the spring onions and cook 1 minute more.
3 Pour in the milk or cream, mix well, and add the potatoes. Reduce the heat to medium. Use a fork or potato masher and mash the potatoes, mixing them up with the greens. Add salt to taste and serve hot, with a knob of butter in the middle. – Comfort food without a doubt.
People complain that winter is a bit of a lean time for fruit but in fact there is lots about. Just check out Fruition at Cambridge. Gill grows masses of weird stuff just because she likes to see what happens when she plants seeds or cuttings of exotic fruits. I talked about her Galangal last week. In fact the tuber that she gave me looked too good to eat so I have to admit I brought it home and popped it straight into the garden. Fingers crossed it will take and give me a lifetime’s worth of this essential Thai cooking ingredient.
Gill has persimmons, tamarillos, passionfruit, avocados, lemons, mandarins, oranges and figs and right now she wants to encourage people to get their lime fix. She has over 100 lime trees and the crop this year is terrific. They will never be cheaper. For only $5 you will get a big bag of lovely ripe juicy limes. Grate off the zest and freeze in ice cube trays and put the juice in snaplock bags for freezing flat. This way it takes up less room and stacks neatly. Lime juice can be used wherever lemon juice is called for but use less as it has a much stronger citric hit. Squeeze it over steamed vegetables, on rice, on stirfries and of course in your Thai curries or as an addition to your coleslaw mayo or homemade coriander and lime dipping sauce. Have it with Sweetree honey as a hot drink or use it to enhance a stiff gin and tonic. (My favourite tipple. No surprises there).
Gill’s lime marmalade is also delightful to behold, as it is an inviting bright lime green colour. Usually when lime is cooked up with sugar goes a dull yellow /green. Her tip? A little spinach in a muslin bag put into the lime marmalade as it is cooking - a natural colour enhancer – brilliant.
The City to Soil initiative was started at the Hamilton Market about 3 years ago by Annie Wilson from Miranda who used to have an organic stall at the Hamilton Market. It continues on and is now available at Cambridge as well as Hamilton. City to Soil is an opportunity for environmentally aware people who do not have a compost heap, to recycle their kitchen scraps instead of sending them off to the land fill with the weekly rubbish collection. Simple bring your weekly bag of peelings and food scraps (including coffee grounds) to the market where a City To Soil Recycler (me actually) will feed the contents to the 4 Tigerworm farms on my property in Te Kowhai.

Within 6 months or sometimes less, a lovely dark mound of vermicast is produced from the breakdown of the scraps and this is a quality natural fertilizer for the soil containing all the mineral and nutrients required for healthy vegetative growth. If you wish, you can receive a large bag of vermicast for your own use in return for being a regular supplier of scraps.

Biodegradable bags and holders can be purchased from the Market Information Tent for about $20 all up, but these are not essential. A supermarket bag is fine. It is easy to get into the habit of popping all your kitchen scraps into a separate bag and if you remember to bring them to the Information Tent or straight to me at the Celtic Cuisine stall at the Farmers’ Market you will feel very gratified that you are doing your bit to reduce the land fill problem. This service suits apartment dwellers or townhouse owners who don’t have access to enough space to have a compost heap of their own or for people who are simply beyond compost making. At the moment 6 people a week are making use of this service. I would be able to take another 10. So get in quick!

I haven’t enough space to tell you about another exciting initiative which is beginning to take the market by storm – The Travelling Book exchange. Will talk more about this great idea next week.

Gotta go feed my worms! See you at the markets.

Meg Daly
Celtic Cuisine