Sunday, January 17th: Herbs & Spices, Wild Mushrooms, Doggie Treats & Bacon

I have recently encountered  some food writers who are profoundly proclaiming the end of the "bacon trend." Huh? Have they ever heard of the Chicago Exchange? They've got an entire market there for trading in pork belly futures, and it's been there, reliably, for decades. Let's face it. Even many Jews consider bacon to be a condiment or spice in order to justify including this porkalicious product in their diets, in spite of thousands of years of Holy Law. So who are these food writers kidding? Bacon cannot be a fading trend, when it wasn't a trend in the first place. It is simply one of the most spectacular foods on earth, such that it had brought many a vegetarian back to the dark side. And the good news is, you can find some of the best bacon around (above) from Skagit River Ranch, right here at your Ballard Farmers Market. So celebrate bacon, and don't feel the need to rush to unload your pork belly futures that grandma gave you. It ain't like they're bank stocks, after all.

I do hope you are not still spending ridiculous amounts of your hard-earned cash on those little jars of herbs and spices at the big box stores. I mean, who knows when those jars were packed, how their contents were grown, what they are preserved with, or even what country they are from, right? Instead, get your dried herbs and spices directly from a Washington farm -- Pipitone Farms from Cashmere. They've got a great selection of herbs and spices, from oregano to crushed cayenne peppers to sage and more.

Wild hedgehog mushrooms are another mushroom that is still available in the hills of Western Washington this time of year, and with snow levels as high as they have been, they are much easier for our friends at Foraged & Found Edibles to find this year, as compared to last year this time. Of course, mushrooms are a fickle lot, so I suggest you get to the Market early if you want some, and be prepared to be flexible and work with what they've got this week.

Many crops knocked down by our early December freeze continue to recover, like these lovely baby white turnips from Full Circle Farm. If you miss radishes badly about now like me, try slicing they puppies up and tossing them on your salad, if you don't just devour them all first. They are mildly spicy with a sweet, earthy turnipness, and the greens make for a slightly bitter and spicy salad or are delicious sauteed with a little garlic.

There is still plenty of gorgeous winter squash to be had at your Ballard Farmers Market, including these lovely, and delicious, delicata squash from Anselmo Farms. Delicata is one of my favorite squashes, and though I know there are many, many ways to prepare it, I still love just cutting in half, length-wise, slathering it thoroughly with olive oil, and placing it face-down in a glass baking dish in a 375-400 degree oven until it is tender. No water needed. Heck, water just dilutes its spectacular flavor. And don't you dare toss out those little seeds. Clean the pulp from them, put them in a pie tin mixed with olive oil and sprinkled with some good salt, and roast them while your squash is baking. Keep an eye on them so they don't burn, and mix them up a bit midway through. They will come out tender and crunchy -- a salty little pre-dinner snack.

Tall Grass Bakery is back at your Ballard Farmers Market, after a couple of weeks hiatus while they remodeled their bakery over the holidaze. Oh, how so many of us missed their bread so. I think we were all suffering such withdrawal that they sold out of everything last Sunday long before the end of the Market. All I ask is that you don't trample any children, little old ladies or pets on your mad scramble to get your loaf this week.

Okay, I want to be the first writer to pronounce the end of the "lard trend." Just kidding. Lard is still a staple, too. And remember, when it comes from happy, pasture-raised pigs like those of Samish Bay, it tends to be lower in bad cholesterol and higher in good. Ain't it funny how when we treat our farm animals better, they end up treating us better, too?

Did you know that many of the names given to various tree fruit are protected as intellectual property, and that the farmers who grow those varieties of fruit have to pay royalties on the name? That's why Jerzey Boyz sells Cripps Pink apples instead of Pink Lady apples, as the latter is a registered trademark. Ah, corporate agribusiness. Of course, what I am wondering is if Jerzey Boys is going to show up next with Bloods Red apples instead of Red Delicious apples? (If my joke eludes you, ask someone who lived in Seattle in the late 1980s to explain it to you.)

I love rutabagas, both as a vegetable and as a name for a vegetable. In my head, I hear myself saying, "ruta-(say it)-baga." And you remember Arnold Schwarzenegger in Kindergarten Cop saying, "It is not a tumor"? Well, when it comes to rutabagas, it is not a tuber. You know what they call rutabagas in Ireland? They call them turnips. Some people call them Swedes, or Swedish turnips. They are a proud Viking vegetable that the Vikings left behind in Ireland. I like them simply steamed and mashed with butter, or tossed in the pot with spuds and cabbage and corned beef. In any case, the adorable little rutabagas above are from Nash's Organic Produce. Try some, and see if they make you a giddy as they seem to make me.

Don't forget the pooch, especially when you have access to the delicious doggie treats of one of our newest vendors, Methow Dog, all the way from Winthrop. Methow Dog treats are made with only human-grade ingredients, many of which come from Methow Valley and other Northwestern farmers, and all are from the U.S. Their treats don't have any fillers, additives or preservatives, either. Stop by with your canine cohort today and have your buddy do a little "quality control" on a sample treat or two.

Welcome to our newest neighbor, Jhanjay Vegetarian Thai Cuisine. We know them well from being neighbors of our Wallingford Farmers Market, and we are happy to have this marvelous restaurant join the family here on Ballard Avenue. They open at noon on Sundays, so stop by for some delicious Thai food before or after you do your Market shopping.

Remember, your Ballard Farmers Market is chock full of all sorts of goodness for your kitchen and beyond. For a fuller accounting of what you’ll find at the Market today, go to “What’s Fresh Now!” in the upper right-hand corner.