I love summer for the super hot weather (most days, anyway), the thunderstorms and random downpours after it's been humid all day, and the abundance of fresh and local fruit and vegetables.
This summer, I have made it an absolute priority to go to the farmers' markets we have locally. We have been trying to visit three different ones, Phoenixville, Collegeville, and Skippack. So far, the best one seems to be right here in Phoenixville, a quick walk right from my house, and it is mostly shaded, located under the Gay St bridge. It also has the most sellers and variety of offerings. I typically make buying greens for salads my priority (about $5), and then I use what cash I have left over to buy what interests me. Lately that has been baby beets, turnips, mushrooms, and once we bought a specialty oil, local artisan goat cheese, and a bottle of wine. The cheese and wine were mostly for Chris. Most of our farmers' market money goes to local produce.
A friend also introduced me to a local farm (Maple Acres Farm) not represented at the market (thanks, Meg :). The one time I visited so far, I bought strawberries and asparagus- definitely going back to check out what else I can get there.
This is a salad made from almost all locally sourced ingredients. It was delicious, and we have been making variations of it again and again depending on what ingredients we have. I have noted where the ingredients were bought, not the farm that grew them, because I don't remember specific names.
1/3 head Speckled Romaine- chopped (Collegeville Market)
1/2 bunch baby red beets- sliced thin (Phoenixville)
3-4 baby white (hakurei) turnips- sliced thin (Phoenixville)
the greens from both the beets and turnips I used- chopped
8 strawberries- sliced (Maple Acres Farm)
drizzle of pistachio oil (Collegeville)
drizzle balsamic vinegar (we buy it at Taste of Olive in West Chester, but it comes from Italy I believe.)
3-4 radishes- sliced (Collegeville)
3-4 chives- chopped (Phoenixville)
cracked salt and black pepper
I put everything in a huge bowl, and toss, toss, toss to coat everything in the oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.
I think dressing, whether it's a simple one of oil and vinegar or something more elaborate like pesto, can make or break a salad. Everything has to be lightly coated, but not drowned. I put the dressing on in the big bowl instead of serving the dry salad and putting the dressing on after it has been plated, just so I can toss it well. Here is a picture- it's not stellar photography but you get the idea.
I should note, both the beets and turnips were raw in this salad. When they are small enough, they are sweet and tender, but as they get bigger they take on a woody texture and might not be as palatable raw in a salad like this.
Buying from farmers' markets and local farms is important because the produce hasn't been shipped for miles and days, so it is the freshest it can be. Therefore, it has the highest nutritional content. Also, it hasn't been picked before it is fully ripe so that it can finish ripening while en route to its destination. What you buy at the farm or farmers' market was picked ripe and has the best flavor and color. Sometimes (not always) the prices are better since shipping costs are removed. There is less packaging since there is no need to store the produce longterm. Many small farms opt for organic practices because they know it is better for their land and crops, while also being beneficial to consumers. Simply ask farmers about pesticide and fertilizer use, even if they are not certified organic. Becoming certified can be expensive, so a farmer may be organic but without the label.