Sunday, August 15th: Gluten-Free Bread, Ripe Melons, Heirloom Tomatoes & Fractalized Romanesco! Please Remember To Vote For Ballard!!!

Okay, it's not one of my best photos, but it does illustrate a point: your Ballard Farmers Market incubates new small food artisan businesses. Over the years, we've helped launch Veraci Pizza, Tall Grass Bakery, Dante's Inferno Dogs, Anita's Crepes, and many a farm. What you see in this photo from last Sunday is two new businesses for 2010, Platypus Breads and House of the Sun, sharing a precious 10' x 10' space at the Market. See, this time of year, Ballard Farmers Market is stocked to the gills with farmers and their many crops. It is, after all, peak season. But as the season ebbs and flows, on occasion we have the odd space that opens up in a given week. Such was the case last week, and we were able to give two of our favorite new food artisan businesses a shot at the big leagues of farmers markets we all know and love as your Ballard Farmers Market. Indeed, our dear Market has become a Holy Grail of sorts to many would-be food artisans, but we just have so much space to squeeze vendors in, especially this time of year. Fortunately, we operate four other neighborhood farmers markets throughout the city, which affords us the opportunity to give a number of new farms and food artisans a chance to get their feet wet in the Seattle farmers market scene each year. In the process, we get to meet some extraordinary people with great ideas and vision that result in some amazing and unique food products, and Platypus Breads and House of the Sun are perfect examples. Platypus Breads fills the incredibly important and unbelievably vacant niche of gluten-free bread making, and it does so with gluten-free breads that are, well, actually really good! And House of the Sun has created a line of raw and vegan foods that not only fills a niche for folks on a raw-vegan diet, but is so damned good that grilled flesh eaters like me thoroughly enjoy them, too. And the best news of all is that they are both back at Ballard Farmers Market, again sharing a tent, today!!!

Hey Lyall Farms. Nice melons! Melon season is just beginning to kick in, you know. I am told we will get hit by a tidal wave of melons as early as next week. Woohoo! And you know, I heard back from my buddy, Evan, from Rochester, NY this past week. You can see his newest, quite conciliatory comment attached to the bottom of last week's post. The long and short of it is that, in the big picture, we're really just one big farmers market family from coast-to-coast, working hard to support family farmers and feed our neighborhoods, while having a little fun sparring with each other over this silly America's Favorite Farmers Market contest. Still, silly or not, we would still like to crush our competitors in New York and California who currently lead us in the polls like so many garden snails. Are you with me, people of Ballard? Do you want to show these folks who think Ballard is part of the city of Seattle that we are, indeed, the People's Republic of Ballard, proud of our independent heritage, still bitter about having been absorbed by Seattle in 1907 as the result of an election during the fishing season, when half the men in Ballard were out at sea, and we know we have the best damned farmers market on the planet, let alone America, and we're not gonna let anybody beat us in this election!!! Shake off that bitterness, people of Ballard. Learn to trust the process again. Vote with all you heart, soul and email addresses, and if each and every one of us takes the 30 seconds to vote and we still lose to Rochester, we will simply tip our hats and say, "We'll get you next year!" But we must not go down without a fight! Vote now!!!

Now this is a pretty picture, ain't it? This is baby zucchini with the blossoms still attached from Colinwood Farms. Colinwood is an example of a farm that, until about a year and a half ago, was only really known well in Port Townsend and environs. Now, many of us couldn't make it through the week without some of their vegetative deliciousness. This is the magic of your Ballard Farmers Market. Hey, have you become a fan of us on our Facebook page? We just finally figured out the great "Favorite Pages" feature on our page, and now we are adding all of our vendors' Facebook pages to that list, so you can easily find them in that universe. And if you check out our Twitter page, you will see we have two lists you can follow on it: one for our vendors' Twitter pages, and one for our neighbors' businesses here on Ballard Avenue. Check it all out!

Beautiful, tender white eggplant from Magana. You know, our chef from Georgetown Liquor Company, a great vegetarian restaurant and bar in Georgetown, did a great cooking demo on Saturday at our Georgetown Farmers Market in which he made this awesome tomatillos salsa that he served over delicious slices of marinated, raw white eggplant. Check that market's blog in the next week or so for a recipe!

It's been a long wait, but tomato season is finally kicking into high gear, with many farms now having lots of them. This collection of heirloom tomatoes from Summer Run is gorgeous, isn't it?

Okra. I love her show. Actually, this is the underappreciated vegetable from Alvarez Organic Farms, okra, the staple of culinary traditions from the Southeastern U.S. to Northern Africa to Southern and Southeast Asia. The problem is, most of us northern white folks have never had it prepared properly. Me, I pickle it. But I love it deep fried and doused in Louisiana Hot Sauce, or in a Southern gumbo, which is in fact another name for okra, or in a Nigerian goat soup with fufu, or maybe tossed with shrimp paste and shrimp as Malay Satay Hut in Redmond. Trust me, when treated right, this stuff's da bomb!

I love the soap at Brown & Butterfly. Big bars that just feel right in your palm, made with a great variety of essential oils, both for their scent and their medicine. Well, now they are making shaving mug soap pucks, too. You might think, "What's the difference? It's just soap." Oh, but it's not. Shaving soap needs to have a special lather to it, and it needs to soothe the skin while it facilitates the razor. Try it out in your shaving mug with your camel hair brush, and it you don't have those, they'll set you up with the whole kit!

These are cherry plums from Tiny's. They're plums that are about the size of cherries, not some whacky hybrid of cherries and plums, like you'd expect from those crazy cats at Tiny's. But they have a fascinating sweetness and flavor. In fact, some of them actually taste a bit of fresh coconut. Go figure.

One of the talking heads on the local TV news Saturday night said that one of things we can do to keep cool during our latest hot spell is to add mint to our water. I don't know the chemistry and biology behind this, but hey, if they say it on the TV news, it must be true, right? And even if it's not, who cares? It's mint! What's it going to do to you except make your water tasty and your breath minty fresh. You might want to give some of this apple mint from Boistfort Valley Farm a shot for this purpose.

Ah, the mighty Romanesco, great cauliflower of Italy, and, to the best of my knowledge, the only vegetable that grows in perfect fractal spirals. Check out those totally awesome fractals in this Romanesco from Alm Hill Gardens. Honestly, is this not one of the coolest looking vegetables you have ever seen?

Lemon cucumbers, like these from Oxbow Farm, are pretty cool, too. Don't they kinda look like lemons? And they are plenty tasty, too. I'm thinking they'll go well in a concoction for some bruschetta, don't you know.

I took this photo of a big loaf of Tall Grass Bakery Desem sourdough, whole wheat bread last Thanksgiving. At the time, I actually figured the big "TG" must have been for Thanksgiving. Then I smartened up and realized it was the monogrammed initials of the bakery itself. Desem is a lovely bread, giving you the richness of whole wheat with that wonderful sourdough culture. If you haven't tried it, give it a shot today. You'll thank me later!

And remember, there is plenty more for you to find today at your Ballard Farmers Market. But before you click on the What’s Fresh Now! pages to see what all else is in season right now, please do take a moment to vote for Ballard Farmers Market in American Farmland Trust’s America’s Favorite Farmers Markets contest. And thank you!