There is always more to learn. I found this out after years of making kombucha at home and trying to explain to people how a scoby makes kombucha.
The scoby is a culture, I would say. It ferments the sugar in the tea. You put that scoby in tea and in a week or two you will have kombucha. The scoby is actually a symbiotic culture of bacteria and something else. I always forget what the something else is.
What are the traditional dishes you cook that have been passed down through the generations? Are the majority of your meals coming from a long lineage of food culture, or are they mostly swayed by what was on sale or quick to make?
When I say “Italian food” or “Mexican food” a picture of very specific food comes up. There are methods and ingredients that are connected to those foods that create a cultural outline. What identifies “Alaskan food”?
I have heard flowers referred to as the crystals of the plant world. In the mineral kingdom, all elements of time and space, heat and pressure, material and moisture need to be just perfect for a crystal to grow in rock.
So it is with flowers.
I had a dream last night that I was hunting mushrooms across Kachemak Bay. It was a great dream. The moment of finding that perfect specimen is both surprise and ingenuity, knowing where to look and when and knowing what to look for all wrapped up into the brief time that a mushroom is actually fruiting and available.
But that dream was totally fiction because actually I don’t know my mushrooms well enough to risk finding the right ones in the wild. Lucky for me, there is Darius Kleine.
It’s true, Wednesday Farmers Markets have started.
Now you can get down there between 3 and 6 p.m. in the middle of the week and get a parking space.
But there are those in our community who don’t get good food even if they get a parking space. Economics can be a big reason for someone to drive right by the Market. The truth is that it is much cheaper to buy processed, nutrition-less cardboard food than it is fresh food.
I would like to talk about community health, but I am not a health professional. Let me make that clear up front. Luckily, one of the beautiful things about this community is that nothing is black and white. All you have to do is read the opinion pieces in the newspaper in February to know that.
I wish I had a tape measure at last Saturday’s Homer Farmers Market. That broccoli and cauliflower must have been at least 10 inches across. Here we haven’t even reached July yet and we are already getting produce that big.
Whether it is the huge broccoli from the Chmielowiecs or Lori Jenkin’s farm or the stunning calla lillies from Beth VanSant’s farm, the Market producers certainly do know how to make things grow.
But all the responsibility for a local food system can’t land on one food outlet.
Here is another reason for me to heap praise on the Homer Farmers Market. The community-building atmosphere there does not end with the locally grown food and the ability to run into everyone you know in town there on a given Saturday. It also integrates kids as part of that community.
Last Saturday I wandered over to the Kids’ Zone on the west side of the Market. It is a subtle space tucked on the edge of all the bustle of the Market, surrounded by alders and a fishnet fence to keep out moose.
People come to Homer every year to have some kind of vacation adventure. There is always something for the adventurous down at the Homer Farmers Market.
If you are an adventurous grower, go ahead and try some okra, pepper or tomatillo, even watermelon or cantaloupe starts for your greenhouse. Or maybe you should try groundcherries. Over at the Music Garden booth, Lindianne will set you up with these relatives of the tomato that are sweet to eat and grow like crazy here in our greenhouses.
I have to apologize. It seems I have boasted about our local farmers so much that I may have aided in the creation of a false impression — an impression that we have plenty of local food if we just get down to the Homer Farmers Market and buy it.
I hate to say it, but there are probably only a couple of dozen farms in our area that sell produce. Most of them only have a few acres that they are farming. There is no way they could ever feed the 12,000 people around here.
But it doesn’t keep them from trying.
There are two main ways that veggies show up at the Market this early in the season. Remember, most of the veggies we like to eat were not designed to grow in our climate.
So that means a farmer has to baby them. The first way to get early veggies is with cover. High tunnels have been a windfall in this area, but you can only adjust the climate so much. The earlier you plant, the more you will have to heat, or cover with plastic or glass or floating row cover. Or all of the above.
How can it be that even though it is the earliest date the Homer Farmers Market has ever opened, it feels so late? Yes, it’s finally Memorial Day weekend and time to jump into our favorite local food access point.
It’s like the season is just opening for hunting.
Even though the Homer Farmers Market had its last official market last weekend, you will most definitely be seeing crisp fresh veggies offered by dedicated vendors down at the Market this Saturday as well. This has been a productive year and vegetables don’t follow the calendar.
But that summertime buzz will be gone.
Marking the last official Market of the season, this weekend is the traditional Harvest Meal down at the Homer Farmers Market.
At noon you will find huge pots of veggie soup created from local produce and potluck dishes from community members.
It amazes many visitors to Alaska that our Market can thrive through September and beyond. They obviously don’t know the homesteader strength of our vendors. If they just hung out with Marsha Rouggly of Sweet Berries Jams and Jellies for a day they would understand.
Each booth down at the Homer Farmers Market is only 10-by-10 feet. Pouring out of the booth are incredible amounts of produce and crafts, food and flowers.
But even all that doesn’t show the different things that go on the rest of the week in the lives of our Market vendors. The contribution to our community continues all the other days of the week and months of the year.
Signs of fall are in the air. This is the time of the year when I start getting questions about how much longer the Homer Farmers Market will be going. I always love to point out that it will go through the month of September and then continue as long as our dedicated farmers are willing to keep coming.
September is where all the work of the summer is culminating in the fattest, ripest, sweetest veggies the summer has to offer. It’s the result of planning and staggering crops for those vendors who have been with us since May.
All summer I have been highlighting different producers from the Homer Farmers Market. I have talked about acres under production, techniques and infrastructure.
But occasionally the Market sees a booth stocked with produce that wasn’t produced by the farmer at all. Mike “Spoonman” Glasgow didn’t plant or fertilize, water or weed any of the produce in his booth this last weekend. He harvested it from the biggest farm of all.
This Saturday down at the Homer Farmers Market folks are celebrating prolific vegetables. Yes, indeed, it is time for the Fourth Annual Zucchini Festival. There will be a Zucchini Recipe Swap at the Info Booth, Zucchini Car Construction at the Kids Activity Zone with Zandra, Zucchini Car Races at 1 p.m. and the Largest Vegetable Contest at 2 p.m.
There is always a sense of community down at the Homer Farmers Market. You can’t go down there without running into someone you know, chatting with a vendor or watching as the kids play together and folks sit soaking up the atmosphere. Constant sharing has always been a mark of the Market.
Flowers bring even more to the Homer Farmers Market than all those flower baskets and beautiful bouquets. At this time of year we also start to see evidence of their bountiful nectar as bottles of honey start popping up at different booths.
Honey is like gold and goes quick. There is no one producer right now who only sells honey, so you will have to search for it throughout the Market. Usually beekeepers will partner up with other vendors to use booth space since the honey season goes so quickly.