I had an informative conversation with one of our Hmong growers a couple of weeks ago and I wanted to give you the highlights, because I’m always up for learning something new and I hope you are too!
- The Hmong farmers have been growing food for generations, back in their home country and now here, and the older generation knows more about the seasons and the ins and outs of when to plant what than the younger generation can ever hope to learn. For instance, don’t plant anything after July 15th because the ground is too hot and it’s usually too dry for the seeds to take hold.
- Organic farming is all the craze (and that’s great!) but most of these growers have never used chemicals in their farming and they don’t here in the US either. The farmer I was talking to said they can’t spell or pronounce the names of most of the chemicals in use, and asked me if I think they’d really buy them to put on their food, especially when they haven’t needed them before? Uh, nope.
- Not all the growers bring the same mix of produce to the Market so you need to visit a few stalls to see what’s really available. For example, the Chang family with two adjoining spaces in the line by the billboard are the only ones here as of last week who have white radishes, crook-neck squash, and two kinds of kale! Makes shopping more like a game ~ plus I like to support more than one vendor so it all works out.
- These guys know how to cook! And since I don’t it’s a great relationship. Here’s my routine: I pick up a vegetable, ask what it is and what is their favorite way to cook it, and then I listen. For the most part, adding anything to a soup seems to work but there are some things that are best stir-fried or sauteed. Need advice? Just ask.
That last comment is actually my favorite part of shopping here at the Farmers Market versus a big chain store ~ you can actually talk to the farmer who planted, tended, harvested, and brought your food to a place where you can buy it. Wondering where the farm is? They can tell you. Curious about what’s in season, when? They know. Looking for something special? If they don’t have it they usually know which stands in the Market do and they’ll help you as best they can. It’s because we’re like a family here and we’re all in this together.