On Friday, I made a trip to a magical place right within my own local community. Here in Southern Maryland we have a large community of Amish and Mennonites. They are AMAZING farmers. They all have produce stands throughout the county, and sell quality vegetables, fruit, and flowers. They manage to produce way more than they can sell at their stands, so three days a week (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday) there is a produce auction in Loveville Maryland. The Amish and Mennonite growers bring produce to the auction by the wagon load to be purchased by buyers from store owners, to produce stand owners, to people like me – foodies looking for a new adventure, and maybe some extra produce to preserve and save for the cold winter months when fresh summer food is a distant memory.
HOLY MOLY what an experience! I had never visited the auction before and I was absolutely blown away by the amount of food there. The auction starts promptly at 9 am, so I got a buyer’s number and settled in to watch. Wagon load after wagon load pulled through two drive in lanes where buyers bid on lots of watermelons, cantaloupes, squash, tomatoes, corn, peppers… if you can grow it, pick it, and cook it, it was there. It was fun to watch the auctioneer solicit bids for watermelons… most went for around $1-$2 a piece. The catch is, you are sometimes buying a lot of 100!
I had no need for 50 watermelons, or 100 cantaloupes, or six boxes of cucumbers (God forbid!), so I moseyed to the other end of the auction where the “small lots” were being sold. Small lots are much more manageable, and on this Friday…also more popular. Here I found flats of blackberries, heirloom tomatoes, bags of corn, half bushels of peaches and apples, and SINGLE watermelons! I got to bidding early and picked up 6 pints of beautiful multicolored cherry tomatoes for $ .60 each! Doing the calculations, I spent $3.60 and got six pints, where it usually costs me $4 for one! I also bought a flat of Roma tomatoes, a flat of blackberries, four bags of lima beans, and two huge baskets of mixed produce (cukes, squash, potatoes, an assortment of peppers, green beans, onions, eggplant, etc.)
I spent $50. Yeah, I had to make THREE trips from the car to the house to carry it all, and I spent $50!!
So I have used the last two days to prep and cook and package as much of that produce as I could. I made two huge squash and potato strata and then portioned them out into individual serving sizes using my FoodSaver. Into the freezer they went! I also made two massive pans of lasagna. Since Stretch and I can’t have wheat pasta, I sliced zucchini and eggplant, salted them well and allowed the salt to draw some of the water out, and then after wiping the salt free, used the vegetable planks as our “noodles”. After baking and letting the lasagnas cool, I portioned them out, wrapped them in plastic wrap, and then sealed them in Ziploc bags for the freezer. Those Roma tomatoes ended up being a huge pot of marinara sauce – thank you Alton Brown!The cherry tomatoes met their ultimate scrumptious end in a number of ways…. I gave away two pints. I combined some tomatoes to cubed mozzarella and peeled garlic cloves with fresh oregano and basil, and covered them in a basil canola oil. Fast and yummy snackage for the week. I made a quick Greek style salad with tomatoes, and cucumber, and thinly sliced red onion, dressed simply with olive oil and lemon juice. I made a corn salsa with those tomatoes and some of the peppers, and I oven dried the rest like this recipe. The green beans and the lima beans were blanched and put in the freezer. I also put up some okra for later gumbos.
Ten pints of blackberries, and another ten pints of blueberries are frozen and put away. The blackberries were massive, glossy, and that combination of sweet and tart that is just perfect. The blueberries are huge, juicy, and taste like summertime.
I did get to make my chimichurri! So that will be seeing some quality time with beef later. I’ll probably make fajitas since I have many many peppers to deal with.
WHEW. That will have to wait until tomorrow.
By the way, if you ever get the opportunity to go to the Loveville Produce Auction, DO IT! Get some friends, go and buy some good stuff and then divide it up. You will save so much money, and even if you don’t purchase, it’s really really cool to see all the growers, and where all that food comes from. I’m including some photos of my visit, and if you want to read another writer’s account of their visit, just click here and enjoy.