When I moved to Holland two years ago, one of the first things that sold me on the city was its farmers market. Even now that I have my own garden, the farmers market is still one of my favorite destinations, for two reasons:
- I can buy the things I didn't have the space (or know how) to grow.
- I can get great suggestions about how to use the bounty of my garden.
Right now, sugar snap peas and zucchini are my most plentiful crops. You can find them at your local farmers market, if you're not growing your own. While sugar snap peas are fantastic raw, here is another way to enjoy them:
Stir-Fried Sugar Snap Peas
3 tablespoons peanut oil
1 1/2 pounds snow or sugar snap peas, washed and trimmed
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 to 2 tablespoons soy sauce
Place 2 tablespoons peanut oil in a large, deep skillet or wok and turn heat to medium-high. When oil is hot, toss in peas and cook, stirring almost constantly, until they are glossy, bright green, and begin to show a few brown spots; about five minutes. When peas are almost done, stir in ginger and garlic, and cook another minute or so. Turn off heat and remove peas to a platter. Drizzle with oils and soy sauce before serving.
There is an old joke about not leaving your car unlocked during the height of zucchini season, lest you return and find some desperate gardener has "gifted" you with the bounty of their garden. To prevent zucchini overload, pick them when they're small (a little larger than a popsicle) and use them as a platform for other goodies.
Grilled Zucchini Pizza
Zucchini, cut in half, lengthwise. Trim a little off the back, too, so that they don't want to roll over when you lay them flat.
Pizza fixings: sauce, cheese, veggies, pepperoni, et cetera.
Heat your grill or oven to medium-high (about 375 degrees). Dress your zucchini with whichever fixings you like, and cook for five to ten minutes, until zucchini is tender. Use a cookie sheet if baking in the oven, or a grill tray or large spatula for easier transport if you're grilling.
Michigan strawberries are another item not to be missed. R.F. Johnson & Sons Farm, which provides produce to the Fulton Street Market and Rockford Farmers Market, offers this great recipe for preserving them:
Strawberry Freezer Jam
1 quart (4 cups) strawberries, cut in half
4 cups sugar
3/4 cup water
1 package (1 3/4 ounces) powdered fruit pectin
Mash strawberries with potato masher or in food processor until slightly chunky (not pureed) to make 2 cups crushed strawberries. Mix strawberries and sugar in large bowl. Let stand at room temperature ten minutes, stirring occasionally.
Mix water and pectin in a 1-quart saucepan. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir one minute. Pour hot pectin mixture over strawberry mixture; stir constantly for three minutes.
Immediately spoon mixture into freezer containers, leaving a 1/2-inch headspace. Wipe rims of containers; seal. Let stand at room temperature about twenty-four hours or until set.
Store in freezer up to six months or in refrigerator up to three weeks. Thaw frozen jam and stir before serving.
Written by Jennifer Reynolds, the staff writer for West Michigan Woman. She may leave her extra zucchini in your car, if you're not careful!