Kathy Gunst at the Winter Farmers’ Market, February 25

Award-winning food journalist and author, Kathy Gunst, will be demonstrating recipes and signing copies of her recent cookbook, Notes from a Maine Kitchen: Seasonally Inspired Recipes, at our Winter Farmers’ Market at the Wentworth Greenhouses on Saturday, February 25th, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. (Note: market hours are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.)

In this new book, the noted Maine cookbook author and national radio food journalist takes us into her South Berwick kitchen and garden, introducing us to the flavors of fresh, seasonal ingredients prepared in simple and inspiring ways. Notes from a Maine Kitchen is arranged by month, and features our very own Winter Farmers’ Market in the chapter for February, as excerpted here:

It’s 24 degrees, a bright, sunny February morning. I grab my nylon and canvas shopping bags (I feel so virtuous when I actually remember to bring my reusable bags shopping) and head off to the Seacoast Winter Farmer’s Market, just over the border in Rollinsford, New Hampshire. Twice a month from November through April, York County farmers and their counterparts in Rockingham and Strafford counties, New Hampshire, assemble in greenhouses and town halls throughout the Seacoast to sell everything from locally raised eggs and meat to winter greens, root vegetables, cheese, fish, and hot-house tomatoes.

The market officially opens at ten, but people begin pouring in just before nine. The response to the market can be summed up with three numbers: 2, 2,200, and 45. Two is the number of policemen employed to manage the traffic flow outside the market; 2,200 is the estimated number of shoppers who came on a cold winter morning to buy local produce. That puts a huge smile on the faces of the forty five farmers, bakers, and vendors selling their products inside.

Garen Heller, a farmer who runs Garen’s Greens at Riverside Farm in North Berwick, Maine, describes the turnout in one word: “unreal! It’s just unbelievable what is happening here. These crowds mean a return to the roots of people valuing agriculture. It’s a cult of agriculture.” When I ask Heller what the winter farmer’s market means for his business, he doesn’t hesitate. “I can breathe a little easier without worrying about income. These markets didn’t exist three years ago. If things continue on this trajectory, it’s going to change what it means to be a farmer in northern New England.”

About an hour after the market opens, Heller is already sold out of his greenhouse grown salad greens, winter radishes, bok choy, kale, and mustard greens. Early shoppers know to head straight for his table and grab the coveted produce.

As I walk the aisles of the market, held in a modern greenhouse flooded with winter sun, I see people lining up to buy root vegetables (everything from celery root, purple-topped turnips, and carrots to potatoes and parsnips), greens (chard, kale, and mixed salad greens), locally raised meats (chicken, pork, and beef, as well as buffalo and elk), locally caught fish (lobster, Maine winter shrimp, sole, haddock, and fresh crabmeat), locally made yogurt and milk, maple syrup, honey, cheese, bread, and pastries. If you get to market early enough, you can buy virtually everything a family needs for a week’s-worth of good eating.

Learn more about Kathy Gunst and Notes from a Maine Kitchen at her website and blog.

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