Sunday, May 30th: Happy Birthday Mom! (Oh, Strawberries, Cherries, Pork, Porcinis, Biscotti, Rye Flour, Honey Butter & A Bunch Of Other Stuff, Too.)

When I was a little kid, I always thought it was so cool that the Town of New Paltz, New York would have a parade in honor of my mother's birthday every year. See, back then (I say, dating myself), Memorial Day was held on May 30th, not that last Monday in May. And May 30th is my mom's birthday. So I figured that the annual Memorial Day parade was being held for my mom. Heck, everyone's mom should get a parade, really. I mean, why the heck don't we have parades on Mother's Day? Hmm, maybe next year, we should! Anyway, happy birthday, mom! And it's a good thing you didn't come out to Seattle for it, because it is cold and grey. The good news, though, is that we finally have strawberries at Ballard Farmers Market. The ones above are from Stoney Plains. Tiny's has some, too. So for those of you who have stayed in town this first big weekend of the, um, summer (?) season, fear not. You can enjoy strawberry shortcake with your barbecue. And guess what else you can enjoy?

Cherries! Oh, long, endless winter called spring of our discontent, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and it may not, after all, be the headlamp of an oncoming train. Green things are wonderful, but brightly colored fruits and berries will warm our hearts, if not our neighborhoods. Thank you, ACMA Mission Orchards, for bringing to us these first cherries of 2010 -- Early Marlats. Who cares if they are not those sexy Rainiers and Bings we'll enjoy in July? These are still plenty sweet and enjoyable, and any hint of a summer to come, someday, somehow, is truly welcome at this point.

We will need delicious hunks of pig to throw on the barbie this weekend, if we intend to take full advantage of our long weekend, and Olsen Farms has that covered. Now, I know you are looking at this photo thinking, "well, the chops, ribs and sausage will be great on the grill, but bacon?" Oh, ye of such limited creativity. Have you ever heard of bacon-wrapped beef tenderloin, or bacon-wrapped prawns, or bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin, or bacon-wrapped... um... bacon?!? I mean, it's bacon, for the love of Mike! If you can't figure out how to work it into the menu, there simply is no hope for you. (Oh, and by the way, Olsen has the tenderloins, too, but they can't help you with the prawns. However, Taylor Shellfish can certainly help you with some bacon-wrapped oyster action. And we miss you, Bill. Get well, soon!)

Yet another sure sign that July 5th is just around the corner is this beautiful, tender, young zucchini, complete with blossoms, from Colinwood Farms. Agriculture gods be praised! Those crazy kids over in Port Townsend have put their greenhouses to good use, and we are the beneficiaries. Amen!

Beautiful baby fennel is waiting for you today on the tables of Full Circle Farm. Roast a few of these lovelies, or maybe toss 'em on the grill for a few minutes. They are sweet, with a hint of anise, and they will simply make you smile.

Hey, asparagus would be great on the grill, too, and maybe some baby sweet onions, both of which you can get from Magana today. Actually, this all sounds great alongside some mighty king salmon from Wilson Fish, does it not?

These wild porcini mushrooms from Foraged & Found Edibles would be lovely cooked up in a little foil pouch on the grill, too, if you can get to the Market early enough to get them. Actually, they'd be awesome sauteed and tossed with one of Pasteria Lucchese's fantastic pastas, too.

Pasteria Lucchese also just introduced these new Biscotti di Prato. Sam tells me that Sara worked her way through many different recipe variations before she got to this one. We thank her for her due diligence. The result is perfection... again. I am not sure how many of these the Market staff put away at the Madrona Farmers Market on Friday, and with the weather cold enough to justify plenty of hot coffee, we dipped away with them. These beauties are not jawbreakers. They are delicate, and they are delicious -- a little something to cap off that holiday barbecue.

Nash's has come out with yet another flour produced from their gorgeous grains they grow in Dungeness: rye flour. Just think of all the deliciousness you can bake up with this stuff, eh? And ain't it cool that you can get freshly milled flour right at your Ballard Farmers Market? I mean, that stuff in the bags at the Big Box grocery store... do you have any idea how old that is? See, whole grains will keep for years, but mill them into flour, and they only have about two months before they lose their nutritional value and begin to go rancid. Blech. So think about that the next time you are in the flour aisle at the Big Box store. Then think about the fact that the grain growers at Ballard Farmers Market a bringing you flour that was milled within two weeks of your purchase of it. Nuff said, eh?

Hot, steaming bread made from local flour, fresh out of the oven, filling the whole house with its magnificent aroma. Last year, the thought of heating up the house about now seemed absurd, but this year, it sounds pretty good, doesn't it? And just imagine that warm slice of fresh bread with some of this honey butter from Golden Glen Creamery slathered all over it. Oh, baby, that's what I'm talkin' about. So, when life gives you a cold Memorial Day weekend, make bread, I say!

Did you know that Patty Pan Grill, one of Ballard Farmers Market's oldest vendors, sources all of those veggies for their veggie quesadillas from the many farmers at Ballard Farmers Market? Yep, they sure do. So when you support Patty Pan Grill, you actually are supporting the whole Market. Kinda warms your heart, while it fills your belly.

Here's something I just love about spring... even this spring... purslane. Not a lot of folks grow this stuff, but Alm Hill Gardens does. It has a delicate flavor with slight tartness to it, and a nice crunch. I like eating it as a salad, myself, tossed with a little olive oil, lemon juice and some pine nuts. How do you like it?

Oxbow Farm has some of its wonderful heirloom lettuces for you already, like these beautiful little Cherokee lettuces. Think salads, sandwiches, even roasted. Lettuce. It's what's for dinner. (The Beef Board can... sorry... it's a family show.)

Dress up that salad, that cocktail, that piece of salmon or halibut, that whatever it is with some fresh mint or dill from Children's Garden. They have a bunch of fresh herbs for you now, plus plenty of lettuce, greens, garlic, choys and, of course, flowers. Lots of spectacular flowers.

Ooh, this would actually be pretty good on the grill, or for you non-carnivores, great tossed with some tofu, soy sauce and sesame oil. Isn't this napa cabbage from Summer Run fabulous? Hmm. Maybe a fresh kimchi in lieu of cole slaw for the picnic, eh? Just pick up some cayenne powder from Pipitone Farms or some paprika from Some Like It Hott so your kimchi will have that proper kick.

I finish this rather lengthy epistle this week with one more happy birthday wish to the bestest mom in the whole wide world... mine. Oh, you can argue this point with me all you want, but you will lose. And if all else fails, I have inherited her sharp elbows, so if you persist in arguing the point, I may have to jab you with one of them. Anywho, mom, since I cannot be with you by the lake in Northern New York today, these flowers from The Old Farmer are for you -- virtually. Happy Birthday, Mom!

Oh, and remember, your Ballard Farmers Market is chock full of all sorts of goodness for  your kitchen, from meat, seafood, poultry, cheese, to all sorts of fruits and veggies, baked goods, sauces, confections, fresh-cut flowers and fresh milled flours, plants for the garden, wild mushrooms, and on and on. 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.