For my money, there’s no happier place than a farmers market. I love the long tables piled with the freshest seasonal produce and the friendly growers right there to sell it to me. The shoppers are cheerful. The atmosphere is festive and summery.

My husband and I usually attend the Duluth Farmers Market. It’s the oldest farmers market in town, open since 1911, housed in a long, low red barn that is charming and cool in summer and offers protection from the elements. Recent years have seen the addition of several other seasonal farmers markets in Duluth, increasing your choice of days and times to buy local produce direct from the growers.

Derek Hoffbauer mans the Duluth Flower Farm stall at the Duluth Farmers Market. Emma Ambrosi / For the News Tribune
Derek Hoffbauer mans the Duluth Flower Farm stall at the Duluth Farmers Market. Emma Ambrosi / For the News Tribune

At a farmers market, you will typically find in-season produce, flowers, preserves (jams, jellies, kraut, kimchee, etc.) and baked goods. The produce will include varieties that you never see at the grocery store. Depending on the market, you may also find local cheeses, locally-roasted coffees, local honey, wild rice, mushrooms, crafts such as jewelry and hair scrunchies, hand-made body care products, pottery and more.

Sometimes there are one or more local musicians as well, and I have been known to pull up a chair and sing along with the guitarist playing “Red River Valley” or clog a bit to a fiddler’s tune. (If you know me, you can totally picture this.)

But back to shopping: heaps of fresh, local vegetables are hard to resist, and you may find yourself heading home from the market with more produce than you know what to do with. Almost any vegan cookbook will be full of ideas for using lots of fresh veg, so pay a visit to your local public library. Or you can search “vegan farmers market recipes” on the web for scads of ideas. Here are some ways that my husband and I prepare and enjoy an abundance of late-summer vegetables. All recipes are easily doubled and can be adapted to your own tastes — that’s one of the perks of cooking at home, after all!

Bread and butter pickles and salsa cruda are made with farmers market produce. Emma Ambrosi / For the News Tribune
Bread and butter pickles and salsa cruda are made with farmers market produce. Emma Ambrosi / For the News Tribune

Refrigerator Bread-and-Butter Pickles

Adapted from BrownEyedBaker.com

1½ pounds of small pickling cucumbers (about 5 ½ cups sliced)

1½ tablespoons non-iodized salt

1 cup sliced sweet onion

1 cup white vinegar

½ cup apple cider vinegar

½ cup water

1 cup white sugar

¼ cup brown sugar

1 ½ teaspoons mustard seed

½ teaspoon celery seed

⅛ teaspoon ground turmeric

Wash and slice cucumbers about ¼-inch thick. (Use a crinkle cutter if you happen to have one.) Toss sliced cucumbers with salt, cover bowl and refrigerate for 1½ hrs. Rinse well with cold water and combine with sliced onion. In a non-aluminum saucepan, combine remaining ingredients and heat to a simmer, stirring to dissolve sugar. Pour hot mixture over cukes and onions in a non-plastic bowl and set aside at room temperature for one hour. Then pack the pickles into clean jars, pour the liquid over them (add water if needed to cover the pickles), put on the lids and refrigerate. The pickles will be ready to eat in 24 hours, but will get even better after a couple days. Use within four months.

Fruity Beety

Slightly adapted from my beat-up copy of “Laurel’s Kitchen,” 1986. The cookbook notes, “Many people who ordinarily avoid beets will eat an astonishing amount of Fruity Beety.”

4 medium or 6 small beets

3 oranges, peeled and chopped

½ a lemon, juiced (about 1 tablespoon)

1 tablespoon maple syrup

½ teaspoon salt

Trim greens off beets, saving them to eat separately, and leaving an inch or more of stem on the beet. Leave the roots on as well. (Leaving the root and some stem reduces bleeding when the beets are cooked.) Simmer beets in a pan of water until fork-tender, about 20-30 minutes, depending on size of beets. Drain the beets and cover with cold water. When cool enough to handle, slip the skins, stem and roots off the cooked beets. Place the cooked beets in a food processor and whirl briefly to shred but not liquify. Transfer shredded beets to a bowl. In the same food processor, combine one of the chopped oranges, the lemon juice, maple syrup and salt, and whirl to make a dressing. Stir this dressing into the bowl of beets, along with the two remaining chopped oranges. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Leafy Greens with Garlic and Beans or Vegan Sausage

1 large bunch of kale or Swiss chard

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons vegetable broth

fresh garlic, as many cloves as you prefer, sliced

1 can of garbanzo, cannellini, or white beans, rinsed OR

1 or 2 vegan sausages, such as Tofurky beer brats or Tofurky italian sausages, sliced

Salt and pepper to taste

Wash, trim and slice greens. Saute in olive oil and broth with fresh garlic and rinsed beans or vegan sausage until greens are wilted but still bright green, and beans or sausage are heated through. Add a little more vegetable broth or water if needed. (If you prefer, you can use just broth and no oil.)

Broc-Cauli Salad

One summer when we grew broccoli, I got hooked on this salad and ate it several times a week.

8 cups of broccoli florets or cauliflower florets, or a combination

½ cup diced red onion

½ cup vegan mayonnaise (there are several brands locally available)

¼ cup apricot preserves

¼ cup Bac’Uns vegan bacon bits or several slices of vegan bacon, cooked and chopped

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

½ teaspoon salt

Steam florets until barely tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain and run under cold water. In a large bowl, combine remaining ingredients. Add the steamed broccoli/cauliflower and toss to coat everything with the dressing.

Green beans and new potatoes in the pan. Emma Ambrosi / For the News Tribune
Green beans and new potatoes in the pan. Emma Ambrosi / For the News Tribune

Green Beans and New Potatoes

This simple recipe is kid-friendly — no strong flavors or hot spices.

3-4 handfuls of green beans, washed and trimmed

6 to 8 new potatoes, scrubbed and cut into chunks

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

½ cup vegetable broth

Salt and pepper to taste

In a wide skillet or a wok, heat the olive oil and saute the green beans and potatoes for 5 minutes. (If you prefer, you can skip this step and use broth only with no oil.) Add the vegetable broth, cover and simmer until potatoes and beans are tender, 15-20 minutes, adding a bit more broth or water if needed. Season with salt and pepper, and serve with hot sauce or vegan butter if desired.

Mild Salsa Cruda

This is a fresh, raw salsa, unlike the salsa you buy in a jar. It is easy to adapt to your own taste, making it hotter with more or different peppers, or using more or less cilantro, etc.

4 cups chopped fresh tomatoes (about 1¾ pounds)

1 heaping cup diced sweet pepper (about 2 medium)

1 cup chopped onion

2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and minced

¼ cup chopped cilantro

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients, cover and refrigerate for at least an hour to allow flavors to blend. Use within three days.

Did you know?

The Huffington Post reports that according to “the largest study of vegetarians and vegans to date, those eating plant-based diets appear to have a significantly longer life expectancy,” living “on average almost eight years longer than the general population, which is similar to the gap between smokers and nonsmokers.”

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The doors are open at the Duluth Farmers Market. Emma Ambrosi / For the News Tribune
The doors are open at the Duluth Farmers Market. Emma Ambrosi / For the News Tribune

Duluth Farmers Market

North 14th Ave East and Third Street

Saturdays 8 a.m.-noon and Wednesdays 2-5 p.m.

Hillside Market

North 5th Avenue East and Third Street

Tuesdays 2-5 p.m.

Lincoln Park Farmers Market

3002 W. 3rd St.

Thursdays 4-7 p.m.

DeWitt-Seitz Farmers Market

394 S. Lake Ave.

Saturdays 5-8 p.m.

Civic Center Farmers Market

Thursdays 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.

In front of the St. Louis County Courthouse, 100 N. 5th Ave. W.

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This is what we bought on one August Saturday morning at the Duluth Farmer’s Market. Emma Ambrosi / For the News Tribune
This is what we bought on one August Saturday morning at the Duluth Farmer’s Market. Emma Ambrosi / For the News Tribune

Tips for shopping at a farmers market

  • Bring your own sturdy bags to hold your purchases.
  • Bring cash, especially plenty of small bills.
  • Don’t rush — take time to peruse each stall.
  • But don’t hold up the line — if there’s a crowd, that’s not the time to chat with the vendor.
  • Once home, refrigerate any produce that needs refrigeration. Tomatoes, potatoes, onions, and winter squashes do not. Leafy greens such as kale and parsley can also keep well for a day or two in a vase of water on the counter.
  • Plan to use first the produce that is most fragile.