Saturday, June 13, 2015

Local Saturday - Lettuce Show You

Can the Binghamton downtown farmers market survive?

Yesterday was the first downtown Binghamton, New York farmers market of the year.   Binghamton is a small city of about 47,000, which has seen better times, but is in the midst of a comeback.  Students are moving in, but there is also a population of poor people who deserve not to live in a food desert, and also a lot of senior citizens.

The downtown market struggles, year after year, to survive.

It isn't mismanaged, as far as I know.  And, you would think it is not in competition with a larger Saturday market a few miles away.

But I don't know what the issue is.  I wasn't even sure it was going to open this year until I left my office for lunch and saw the handful of tents with almost no customers.  It allowed me to chat a bit with two of the vendors, but chat isn't what keeps their finances solvent.  Lots of customers are.

So, let me show you what a June market is like, here in upstate New York.

We are just starting our strawberry season (more on that in a minute) but right now, plants, greens and rhubarb rule the market along with honey, jams, meats, and eggs.

Last week, at a another local farmer's market, there was a wealth of lettuce.  If you think lettuce means bland iceberg lettuce, it is time for you to step out of your lettuce comfort zone.
Try some of these beautiful lettuces.  They are like natural works of art.
One vendor had coolers full of delicious organic lettuce.

And now, you are going to expect a lettuce recipe from me.  Well, our state senator, Tom Libous, has a website with some interesting recipes.  Some are local specialties; many are not.  Alas, no lettuce recipes.  But sometimes my spouse, the family cook, will wilt lettuce quickly in a wok with a small amount of oil and some garlic, cook it just a few seconds, and serve.
You either love rhubarb or you hate it. The Binghamton market was selling some.  I...well, I don't love it.  But here's a recipe for strawberry-rhubarb pie you may enjoy.  

And speaking of the first of our local strawberries:

How about some Hungarian Strawberry Soup?
Perhaps most delicious of all, at yesterday's market, was a tasting booth where Cornell Cooperative Extension employees were sampling strawberries.  They didn't have any of the recipe printed out, so I asked them to teach me the recipe.  I hope I have this right.

Whole Wheat Sugared Tortilla Chips with Strawberry/Blueberry Salsa

For the whole wheat tortilla chips, take a whole wheat tortilla, cut it into triangles, and sprinkle with olive oil and cinnamon sugar.  Bake in the oven until crisp.

For the salsa, take strawberries, chopped.  Add blueberries (not quite in season for us, but North Carolina berries are nice, too.) Mix with a small amount of strawberry or apricot preserves.  Serve salsa with the chips.  This would make a simple (and healthy) beginning to a simple summer meal.

Thank you, Cornell Cooperative Extension.  I hope I didn't mangle your recipe too much.

I've gotten suggestions from my readers, over the years, of what the Binghamton market can do to thrive.  I just wish this market would find its way.  There are other, thriving, downtown markets in the United States, even in cities that have seen better days.

Does your area have a thriving downtown farmer's market?


  1. We do have a thriving Farmer's Market here in my hometown of Hutchinson, Kansas. I haven't been in years. I am not an early riser and if you don't get up early you miss all of it because usually everything is sold by noon. It is only open on Saturdays. The recipes you shared sound very good. Especially the chips. I am cruising through on the A to Z Road Trip....

  2. Oh I definitely want to try the Hungarian Strawberry Soup

  3. Hi I'm also on the A-Z road trip. Your posts are varied and interesting. I never thought I particularly liked rhubarb but someone served me rhubarb crumble recently with vanilla yoghurt and it was delicious. I hope the market survives. We have a local market area on Saturdays which has some farmers stalls on it. It seems to be thriving so far. Although by farms we're talking more allotments or home gardens as I'm in London. Good luck with your writing.


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