Ripe, the new market at Éilan Hotel Resort and Spa, 17103 La Cantera Parkway, is now happening every Sunday in the patio outside of the hotel’s restaurant, Sustenio.
A farmer sells the last of his Swiss chard.
Vendors from throughout the area are offering everything from herbs to nuts with Texas olive oil, lotions and salves for sale. Pawsitively Sweet Bakery even offered gourmet dog treats for the four-legged friends, many of whom could be seen at the market.
In the hot summer sun, Little Jimmy’s Italian Ices provided a cool touch of refreshment, while live music in the gazebo kept the shoppers entertained.
The scorching heat has provided a damper on the amount of fruits and vegetables for sale, but one vendor with kale, Swiss chard, cucumbers, potatoes and a few watermelons was doing a brisk business. Expect more in the coming weeks.
Also part of the Sunday market are cooking demonstrations at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., which are being given under the auspices of Sustenio’s head chef, Stephan Pyles. They are given in the air conditioned comfort of the restaurant’s private dining room, where executive sous chef John Herdman showed a packed room how to make a corn soup, while the restaurant’s general manager, Philippe Placé, mixed up Passion Chile Margaritas, one of Pyles’ specialties.
Kale for sale.
Pyles also offers special Ripe Market Dinners on the night before the market sale. The next is set for Sept. 28 and will feature Pyles using foods from Farmhouse Delivery, an Austin produce merchant that also handles artisan foodstuff. For reservations, call (210) 598-2950.
Working with Pyles on Ripe is cookbook author Paula Disbrowe.
Live music is provided each week, as are cooking classes.
Robert Mishler and his friend, Caroline Cullom, at the Legacy Farmers Market.
“This has been a brutal year for a farmer,” says Robert Mishler, known as “Farmer Bob” to many of his clients.
The drought and excessively high temperatures have destroyed crops throughout the state, leaving farmers with nowhere near the harvests they’ve produced in the past. Some of the fruits and vegetables that do make it to market have been stunted, though no less flavorful.
No one knows what Mother Nature is going to dish up from season to season. So, is it any wonder that Mishler has named his spread of land in Seguin Uncertain Farms?
Mishler had to take up most of his summer plants in August. That was when he wanted to begin fall planting. Now, that is on hold until later this month as the heat and dry weather persist.
Yet Farmer Bob has been at the Legacy, north of Loop 1604 at U.S. 281, every Sunday morning for the weekly farmers market there. He offers some fresh produce provided to him by other farmers he works with, all sold from his tricked-out truck that resembles an old-fashioned roadside fruit stand. He also sells his extensive series of canned goods, ranging from his extremely popular Candied Jalapeños to jellies and Peach Butter to Onion Garlic Glaze, which is perfect on sandwiches. These products are all sold under the McircleM label. (In the center of the logo is a picture of Mishler’s mom, Carol Mishler, who lives in Cibolo.) New this year are chutneys, which have proven popular alongside the more traditional mix of salsas, relishes and chowchows.
“I want to start doing some mustards,” says Mishler, who has a generous supply of energy and creativity for coming up with new products.
Mishler can also be found at the farmers market in Corpus Christi on the first Saturday of the month and Goliad on the second Saturday for their markets. The new market in Corpus was so welcomed by the locals that on the first Saturday they bought every last jar he had brought with him.
Farming is not an easy business, and it’s more than a matter of growing good fruits and vegetables. You have to be a salesman to attract customers great and small. Mishler has joined forces with several other farmers to provide area restaurants with fine, locally grown products.
“We’re probably 50 percent chef-driven,” he says, adding, “That doesn’t mean they purchase 50 percent of everything I grow.”
But if a chef likes his product, he or she could buy most, if not all, of Mishler’s crop. This year, he sold 90 percent of his heirloom tomatoes, as well as other fresh produce, to the Westin La Cantera and its fine dining restaurant, Francesca’s at Sunset. The restaurant, in turn, mentions Uncertain Farms on the menu. This lets customers know the flavorful food on their plates is regionally produced and brought to the table with as small a carbon footprint as possible.
The resort’s chefs, including Ernie Estrada at Francesca’s, also know they can go to Farmer Bob and ask him to grow something especially for them.
The Westin also uses Mishler’s Candied Jalapeños in a cocktail made with sparkling wine that provides guests with a sweet-hot kick to match the effervescent nature of the wine.
Robert Mishler moved to Seguin in 1989. After years of driving 18-wheelers, he bought his current farm in 1998. It’s a 17-acre spread with only five acres currently being farmed.
Part of that property features a new greenhouse that uses its space economically by growing plants in tiers, starting with baskets hanging from the ceiling and cascading down to the floor.
“We did real well with greens last winter,” he says, adding that he grew a lively mix of bok choy, mixed salad greens and arugula among others.
Each row is a different variety of green, with names like tatsoi and red Russian, that people like in a loose leaf mix.
The public doesn’t know what to do with every plant that Mishler has brought to market. Last fall, he had to get them used to bok choy, a type of Chinese cabbage. “They didn’t know what it was,” he says, adding that he only sold four or five plants the first weekend he offered them.
“I can’t take that loss,” he says. So, his answer was to take the entire plant, roots and all. That way, if some didn’t sell, it could continue to grow. The plants grew, and so did many customers’ taste for the tender green. Bok choy is delicious steamed by itself or in stir-fries with other vegetables. (If you don’t know what to do with something you see at a farmers market, just ask the vendor what to do with it. Chances are, the answer will be simple and designed to showcase the item’s flavor at its freshest.)
This fall, and water willing, Mishler will be trying his hand at hydroponics. “I’m looking to do Bibb and small head lettuces,” he says.
In the meantime, he’s gotten his land ready for planting, and the break in the heat that swept over the area this week has him raring to go. “I have held off planting as yet, but this cool down for the last few days has got me ready to plant,” he says. “I have prepped some beds and have the seed on hand. I’m hoping for a good fall-winter harvest.”
For more on Uncertain Farms or McircleM products, click here. The Legacy Farmers Market is in the parking lot of the Legacy plaza at U.S. 281 and Loop 1604 from 10 to 3 p.m. Sundays.
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Seasoned, baked chicken thighs are good with fresh vegetables such as zucchini and tomatoes.
Here’s another way to use some of the farmers market tomatoes, onions and zucchini for a main dish. With a touch of garlic and herbs, this dish is also popular for a crowd at a brunch or potluck.
Chicken thighs are inexpensive, and they are also one of the most flavorful parts of the chicken. Take the skin off, but leave on some of the fat that is left to give the pan juices flavor.
Zucchini and Tomato Baked Chicken
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided use
8 chicken thighs, without skin
2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 medium white onion
1 tablespoon paprika (regular sweet)
1/4 teaspoon ground thyme or 1/2 teaspoon leaf thyme
2 teaspoons chopped parsley
Pinch red cayenne pepper
White pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon sea salt, or to taste
2-3 medium or Roma tomatoes, cut into wedges
2 small-medium zucchini, cut crosswise into rounds
In a bowl large enough to hold all of the chicken, put 2 tablespoons of the olive oil Add the chicken to the oil and toss until the chicken is coated, then add the garlic cloves and white wine. Let the chicken sit in this marinade for 30 minutes or so, in the refrigerator.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a casserole or baking dish large enough to hold the chicken thighs, spread the remaining tablespoon of the oil. Spread the sliced onions over the bottom of the dish, evenly. In a small bowl, mix together the paprika, thyme, parsley, cayenne pepper, white pepper and salt.
Sprinkle each of the chicken pieces, top and bottom, with this mixture, reserving a teaspoonful or so for the vegetables. Put chicken pieces into the baking dish on top of the onions. Toss the tomato wedges and sliced zucchini into the oil and wine mixture, then season with remaining spices. Set vegetables aside; add the rest of the marinade mixture to the baking pan with chicken. Put chicken in the oven and let bake for 20 minutes or so.
Spoon some of the baking juices over the chicken at this point. Then, scatter the seasoned tomato and zucchini wedges over the top and let the dish bake the rest of the way. (Depending upon the size of the chicken thighs, this should be around another 15-20 minutes.)
To serve, put chicken and vegetables onto a serving platter. Pass the pan juices around. The dish is good with a rice blend, such as brown and wild rice, or plain white rice.
From Bonnie Walker
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Heather Hunter (right) offers tastes of her Cowgirl Granola to customers.
The organizers behind the new Quarry Farmers & Ranchers Market may have planned for a soft opening Sunday, but if turnout is any indication, it was a solid success.
Twelve vendors offered fresh produce, artisan cheeses, gluten-free foods, meats, orchids and more to a healthy turnout of shoppers.
“We only had five weeks to pull ourselves together,” said Heather Hunter, who organized the market and who sold her Cowgirl Granola at the market. “And we’ve had a steady steam of customers all morning.”
Studio One dance instructor Esteban Cardenas was one of the many who showed up to shop at nearby Whole Foods and was pleased to see the collection of fresh produce for sale in the parking lot in front of the store.
Radishes, garlic blossoms, new potatoes, greens, zucchini and onions were among the foods for sale. Manuela Zamudio of Zamudio’s Farm in Natalia had some fresh kohlrabi, which she said she likes to cut up and serve raw in salads or serve by itself.
Chef Jason Dady of the Lodge Restaurant of Castle Hills made the market an occasion for a family outing, and his two daughters enjoyed some of the first peaches of the season.
Orchids are part of the Quarry Farmers & Ranchers Market offerings.
Humble House Foods offered fresh mozzarella while Good offered gluten-free cakes, cookies, sweets and breads. Whole Foods also had a table, showing its support for the venture.
David Lent, who organized the market with Hunter, said he expects 10 more vendors by the market’s grand opening on June 5. “At least 50 percent of the booths will always be produce,” he said.
A blues guitarist provided some morning music at one end of the market. In the near future, the organizers plan on having a tent with chairs where people can listen to experts talk about the health benefits of some of the foods available, such as grass-fed beef.
Radishes, onions and flowers are among the season's offerings.
The market will be open 8 a.m.-noon each Sunday in the Quarry parking lot, 255 E. Basse Road, though a good turnout could keep the vendors selling a half-hour or so later, Hunter said.
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A new Farmers & Ranchers Market is set to open in the Quarry Market parking lot, 255 E. Basse Road, on May 1.
The emphasis will be on fresh, locally grown, humanely raised and artisanally produced food, according to Heather Hunter, one of the two directors behind the enterprise. It will run from 8 a.m. to noon each Sunday, rain or shine.
The market will set up in the lot next to Whole Foods, which welcomes the new venture. “Whole Foods Market is committed to supporting local producers, not only by selling regional products in our stores, but also by supporting local farmers markets where they sell their unique artisanal products,” said Chris Romano, produce coordinator and local forager for Whole Foods Market Southwest region.
The lineup of vendors will be selling local and organic fruits and vegetables, grass-fed beef, pastured chickens and their eggs, honey, pasta, all-natural tamales, cheeses, mustards and other spreads and sauces, Hunter’s Cowgirl Granola, gluten-free foods, herbs and plants and more.
In addition to the products for sale, the market will offer lectures and seminars on topics such as where food comes from and how to plant a garden. Cooking demonstrations, live music and other special events are also planned.
Hunter’s partner in the venture is F. David Lent. The two are also establishing a board of advisers to assist in program development.
In this photo from summer, 2009, vendors setup for the farmers market at the San Antonio Botanical Garden.
The San Antonio Botanical Garden Farmers Market was scheduled to start today, but, according to personnel at the garden, none of the sellers showed up.
The market is scheduled for next Thursday, May 16, as well. SavorSA will follow up to see if it gets off to a better start, since so many are looking forward to it. Also, you might call the Botanical Garden before going over, the spokesperson said.
Hours are 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Thursdays. Vendors from Bexar and surrounding counties will offer seasonal fruits and vegetables, from berries to zucchini.
In addition, a group of volunteers from the Botanical Society Plant Team will be selling “Texas friendly” plants, including fragrant herbs. They will also answer questions about where in your garden they will prosper and how to to help them thrive.
The farmers market will be open through Dec. 9, but the plant sale will take a break in August, sparing the workers and tender plants from the excessive heat. Plant sales will continue until October.
San Antonio Botanical Garden
555 Funston Place
San Antonio, TX, 78209
I can’t imagine anyone who loves homegrown or farmer-grown tomatoes not having a favorite way to make gazpacho. If you have a tried and true recipe, we’d love to hear about it and share it with SavorSA readers.
Gazpacho wasn’t always my favorite cold soup in the past. But I think I finally learned three valuable secrets to success with gazpacho. First, of course, is the rule to use the freshest homegrown tomatoes you can find.
The second is not so much a rule as a process: Apply the same balancing act to the gazpacho that you do when making a good vinaigrette. This means that everyone’s gazpacho will be a little different. It means parting ways with the recipe, if necessary. I have friends who love tart, acidic salad dressings. I like my dressing a little less acidic. If you have tasted your way to making a vinaigrette that works for you, then use the same approach in balancing the flavors in your gazpacho.
Finally, think of this soup as a “cool” rather than cold soup. If you want to nestle the bowl of gazpacho down into ice as a serving presentation, that’s fine. But the soup should not be icy. In fact, I think it should be closer to cool room temperature than downright cold.
I’m making my own version now, using lots of olive oil, garlic and roasted red peppers along with those good tomatoes. Scott Cohen, chef at Brasserie Pavil, puts a helping of cold jumbo lump crab on top of his. In Spain, we’ve had versions that crowned the cool soup with salty strips of Jamón Serrano. Other garnishes: warm, herbed croutons, or just a sprig of fresh basil.
Tips for making a good gazpacho:
Get the best, ripest tomatoes you can grow, buy or beg from friends. Don’t refrigerate them.
Make the gazpacho early on the day you are going to serve it. The flavors need some time to blend, but again, the tomatoes in the soup won’t taste as good if they sit overnight in the refrigerator.
Decide if you want it to be an appetizer, soup course or main meal. If the latter, consider putting some grilled shrimp or fresh crab on top. (I like gazpacho with diced avocado on top, served with hot garlic bread a glass of white wine, such as an an Albariño.)
I put most of the ingredients in a blender and gently pulse until it is a well-mixed, but still coarse, blend. Then, I add diced vegetables that will contrast nicely with the tomato (white cucumber, green avocado).
When it comes to the olive oil, salt and vinegar, add to your taste. Start with small amounts and build, tasting as you go. After the gazpacho has cooled and sat for awhile, and just before serving, taste and adjust seasoning again.
Use your really good, cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil here. If you put in a tablespoonful, that’s too skimpy — put in 2 or 3 or more. It is good for you, adds wonderful flavor and puts a pretty sheen on top of the gazpacho.
If serving gazpacho for a group, don’t hide its beauty in a crockery serving bowl. I like to use a glass bowl or a clear glass jar with an interesting shape. (I used to save the empty half-gallon maraschino cherry jars from an Italian restaurant I worked at for just this purpose.) Put a ladle in it and let guests serve their own. If you are putting out crab or shrimp, pile it on a plate, garnish it with fresh basil and let people add their own.
The gazpacho does need cooling, if not chilling. I put it in the fridge, covered tightly, a couple of hours before serving. It chills it down but not too much (consider it a cool soup rather than a cold one). If you have leftover gazpacho, you will need to keep it overnight in the refrigerator or it will sour. Cover it well. It will pick up off flavors from the other food in the fridge. To serve the next day, take it out about an hour or so before serving so that it’s not too cold.
6 large homegrown or farmer’s market tomatoes, peeled (see note)
1 large red or yellow bell pepper, roasted, seeded and skinned
1 English cucumber (long ones, usually wrapped in cellophane) or regular cucumber, peeled and seeded
4 large cloves garlic
1 bunch green onions
6 red radishes, trimmed
3-4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, or more, to taste
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 teaspoons sea salt, to taste
Small pinch of black pepper
Red wine vinegar, to taste, if needed
4-6 large leaves fresh green basil
2 medium, ripe but not mushy, avocados, diced
Note: To peel tomatoes, dip each one in water simmering on the stove. The skins will split and loosen after a short time, 30 seconds to a minute. Take them out immediately and the skins will slip off. (I don’t mind tomato seeds. But if you do, go ahead and seed the tomatoes.)
Coarsely chop the tomatoes and the roasted, seeded and peeled pepper and put them in large steel or glass bowl. Peel the cucumber, seed it if you’re using one that has large seeds in a mushy center. Cut it in half. Put one half aside and cut the other half into large dice. Add to bowl. Peel, mash and mince cloves of garlic and add to bowl. Cut white parts of green onions off, chop white parts coarsely and add to bowl. Reserve some of the green parts. Add 3 of the radishes and set the others aside.
Mix the vegetables in the bowl together gently. In batches, put vegetables in blender and pulse until mixture is just at a coarse purée. Pulse the blender slowly to keep mixture from being frothy.
When all the vegetables are puréed, put them back into a large bowl. Stir in the olive oil and lime juice. Add 2 teaspoons or more of sea salt and small pinch pepper. Stir these in. Now the tasting begins. Add vinegar if more acid is needed. Add more olive oil if you can’t taste it (doesn’t need to be a strong or overpowering taste, you just want it evident). Add more salt, to taste. When the gazpacho is as well-balanced as a good vinaigrette, to your taste, don’t fool with it any more. Cover it with plastic wrap and set it aside.
About two hours before serving, cut into small dice the remaining three radishes, the other half of the cucumber and thinly slice green parts of onion so you have about 4 tablespoons. Add to gazpacho. Mince 3-4 tablespoons of the fresh basil and add. Now, put it into the fridge to cool down before serving.
At serving time, take the bowl out of the fridge and taste again for the acid-salt-oil-sweet (tomato) balance. Adjust if necessary. Stir in the diced avocado. Pour it all into your serving bowl or jar. Serve right away.
If you want fresh vegetables and fruit from a farmers market, then look no further than Olmos Basin every Saturday morning.
Since the 1980s, this has been the gathering place for people in search of fresh tomatoes, okra, zucchini and melons from a large variety of vendors. Last Saturday, a dozen booths offered different types of seasonal Texas produce while a few others offered fresh eggs, grass-fed beef and herbs.
And the produce went beyond the expected to include tomatillos, figs, plums, blackberries, black-eyed peas and more.
Zamudio Farms from Natalia had shallots, beans, new potatoes, cantaloupe and seedless watermelon at its booth among others, but it was the tomatoes that most customers were interested in.
That’s Manuela Zamudio’s favorite as well. “We eat tomatoes,” she said. “It’s the one thing we can’t live without.”
She uses her tomatoes in everything from salsa to salad.
“They’re perfect over the sink with a touch of salt,” one customer chimed in.
That they are.
Or you could what I did later that evening: I sliced the tomatoes and let people eat them atop sourdough slices covered with mayonnaise. A sprinkling of dill weed or a few tears of fresh basil leaves finished off the open-faced sandwiches in style. An entire loaf of bread and three enormous tomatoes disappeared quickly.
Jose Estrada of Estrada Farms in Devine has been bringing his produce to Olmos Basin for three years now. This past Saturday he had baskets full of okra, tomatoes , figs and more. It’s been a dry year for the farmers, as well as everyone else, and Estrada was one of several farmers who talked about having to rely on irrigation to keep the plants thriving.
Also from Devine was Joe Peña of C&F Farms, who was offering baskets of mixed vegetables perfect for starting a soup stock.
It was great to encounter some vendors from previous farmers markets, including the folks from Engel Farms in Fredericksburg as well as Dora Peralta and her sister, Celio Rios, from Peralta Farms, both of whom I’d met at the San Antonio Botanical Garden’s Thursday market.
At Auntie Pen’s Backyard booth, a host of herbs and flowering plants designed to live through the Texas heat could be found. Seven varieties of basil, various styles of mint, even artichoke plants filled the tables set up by Penny and Juan Gonzalez.
The plants were all chosen because they are drought tolerant and yet still pretty, Penny said. The easy way to do that for your own home is to “look around your yard and others and see what looks good,” she suggested. “There are lots of things not struggling in the midst of this drought.”
That could be anything from chives to plumbago with its bright blue flowers.
The couple live out near Sea World and grow everything they sell, Juan said. Standing in the shade of their booth, situated under the sheltering branches of a tree, isn’t enough to keep the heat away entirely, so they use a small battery-operated fan to keep air circulating.
The market at Olmos Basin proved to be a great place to run into old friends who were also on the lookout for the freshest produce to be had that day.
Joyce Hotchkiss had to talk herself out of buying squash because she had bought some the previous week and hadn’t cooked it yet. She mentioned it to one farmer who replied that week-old squash from the farmers market should still be good as it was about as fresh as the squash you’d find in a supermarket.
I left with a bag full of tomatillos, shallots, tomatoes and a dozen fresh eggs as well as an oregano plant for the herb garden. A satisfying stop for the week. Who knows what lies in store this week?
The Olmos Basin farmers market is on Jackson Keller Road between McCullough and San Pedro. The market is from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesdays and Saturdays through the beginning of December. For a full list of Texas Department of Agriculture farmers markets in Bexar County, click here.