Farmer's Markets Continue Into Fall
Although fall has officially started, in Centre County families can still enjoy the bounty the summer sun brought to local farmers.
Despite the morning chill, the farmer’s market in the Gamble Mill parking lot in Bellefonte offers a feast for the eyes as well as the palate.
On a recent overcast Saturday morning, vendors set up their stands and displayed their offerings. Lois Stringer, who lives near Lamar, filled produce baskets with hot peppers and cherry tomatoes.
“My mother used to buy corned beef hash in jars,” she recalled, “and she used that to stuff peppers.”
Stringer said hat she doesn’t cook. But her cut flowers always draw a crowd. She arranges jewel-toned zinnias, wild asters, goldenrod and plume celosia into bouquets guaranteed to boost the spirits, even on a gloomy morning. A customer asks about a magenta bloom that drapes over the other flowers.
“It’s an amaranth,” Stringer replied. “It’s also called ‘Love Lies Bleeding.’”
She continued, saying that one grew four feet overhead.
Nearby, Diane Cramer of Nittany Valley sets out bundles of Swiss chard, which she says she prepares “Italian style.”
“Chop it and sauté it in olive oil with garlic and onion,” she explained, “then add a can of chickpeas, put it in an ovenproof dish, with tomatoes and parmesan and bake it for five or six minutes.”
Cramer also grows tomatillos, the round, green fruits covered in a pale brown husk.
“You can roast them with onion and garlic, and then puree them,” she said. “It makes a nice sauce for chicken.”
But her smaller pineapple tomatillos are a real surprise. They taste a little bit like gumdrops.
“I rarely get enough of them,” she laughed, “because I stand there and throw them in my mouth.”
Those who love sweets will enjoy Lavina Stoltzfus’ stand, too. The Bellefonte resident does plenty of baking, and has gained a reputation as the person to go to for whoopie pies, jams, preserves and cookies. She has one item she calls the “Monster Cookie.”
“It has oatmeal, peanut butter and M&Ms,” she said. “It’s my Monday morning cookie.”
Stoltzfus also has a black raspberry jam “made with wild raspberries from woods and fence rows.”
On the other side of the parking lot, Tim Burd of Burd’s Plants and Produce in Zion points out a long red pepper.
“That’s called ‘Horn of the Bull,'” he said.
Burd already has decorative as well as pie pumpkins, green beans and cauliflower.
“I had a customer this morning who got cauliflower to make cauliflower pizza,” he said. “She rices it, mixes it with egg and cheese, then bakes it like a pizza dough.”
Burd says she puts toppings on it and broils it.
“It’s gluten-free, for people who need that,” he said.
From the bright red peppers to the orange pumpkins, purple preserves and yellow goldenrod, local fields and garden plots have yielded enough charm to brighten the cloudiest day.
Maybe that's why it's called Happy Valley.