Seasons at Our Table: Farmers’ Markets

Farmers’ Market Season

At the beginning of the summer we invited our readers to share a family recipe using fresh local produce.  Below we’re highlighting 13 submissions our readers posted, featuring local produce often bought fresh from our farmers’ markets and road side stands!  Get inspired and thinking about how you can use locally grown fresh produce for your family dinner!

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Kat Allen of Northampton writes: I’m not a great cook, and my husband and I don’t have much time, but we do try hard get our family eating well and to have family dinner each night and we’ve landed on something that works well for us… On a day when we do have some time, we’ll cook up a big load of veggies in a little bit olive oil – usually in a big pan on the stove, sometimes on the grill outside. When possible we’ll get our kids involved in picking out the veggies (at our CSA, at the farmers’ market, or at the grocery store), and chopping up the veggies (a two-handled rocking knife and some clear instructions makes it safe even for our 6-year old).

Then we use these veggies in a bunch of easy, quick ways throughout the week:

  • Throw it on top of whole wheat pasta – with red sauce, pesto, or just plain
  • Put it on the table with beans, cheese, and whole wheat burrito or taco shells for make-your-own burritos or tacos
  • Use it as a side dish with rice and beans (when in a real rush I buy prepared rice and beans at the Greenfield Coop) or chicken and rice (sometimes I buy a cooked rotisserie chicken)
  • Throw it on top of a pizza crust (prepared or homemade crust)
  • Mix it in a pan with eggs and milk and call it an eggs bake
  • Throw it in a pie crust (I use the prepared, roll-out kind) with eggs and milk and call it a quiche

Finally, we just throw some fresh fruit, raw veggies and milk in lunch boxes with these dinner left-overs when we pack lunches each day – viola – meals for a week!

Sandra Dias of Holyoke writes: This is a simple dish, but it’s tasty. I like to slice zucchini and yellow summer squash quite thin, mix it with some extra virgin olive oil and freshly ground black pepper and sprinkle it with grated asiago cheese, then bake it for a half an hour at 375F. We make this simple veggie side dish every summer on our annual trip to Cape Cod and everyone seems to love it.

Becky Castro of Northampton writes: We love fresh salads with baby spring greens topped in a warm garlic dressing… First, gather up your greens: my little ones used to love picking baby spinach, mescalin leaves, and dandelion leaves out of our garden (what ever you have growing works perfectly). Nowadays, I go to the farmers market and use whatever is in season. I still use the dandelion leaves from my yard as they are plentiful!! Then make a bowl full of greens.

Top it off with this dressing:

  • 1 head of garlic roasted or finely chopped
  • 3 T olive oil
  • 2T balsamic vinegar
  • 1T lime juice
  • 1/8 salt
  • 1 med. shallot, finely chopped
  • Pepper

Squeeze the roasted garlic into a pan. Add oil, vinegar, lime juice, shallot, salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat until the shallot is softened, like 3-5 minutes. Pour the dressing on top of the greens until coated. You can also add pine nuts and goat cheese. (Once summer and fall come, add kale and beet greens. I have not tried mustard greens or swiss chard but bet they would taste yummy.). Thankfully, both of my kids love garlic and always have.

Miranda Marks of Northampton writes: When I was young, I remember standing knee-deep in rich soil, watching my mom and dad dig, plant and pull up weeds. By the end of the summer, my mom would send us out to pick tomatoes straight off the vine, and basil so fresh I could smell it as soon as I stepped out of the door.- Before my dad died after one of those sun-soaked summers, I was always focused on picking, planting and eating fresh foods. – Last year was the first time I made my own garden, and those hazy memories came back to life. One of my favorite recipes is the classic Italian Caprese, tomatoes, basil, olive oil and mozzarella. – This summer, I can’t wait to eat tomatoes that smell so good your mouth waters.

Ellen Moriarty of Hampden writes: Our family loves veggie pizza on the grill all summer! It has been so much fun for my daughters Hannah and Gracie to work together to create awesome tasting & healthy pizzas. Hannah is our self taught, in-house dough expert. Gracie kicks it into high gear pretending she is an Italian pizza chef. She has the apron, the hat & the accent!

  • Begin with your favorite pizza dough and roll it out.
  • Brush one side with olive oil & sprinkle with salt and pepper, grill for a couple of minutes. Brush the top side with olive oil and flip.
  • You can pre-grill some of the veggies, we like our crunchy so we start piling them on.
  • Tomatoes, onions, peppers, broccoli, spinach, summer squash, carrots, cucumbers, garlic and your favorite cheese. Cook for a few minutes & enjoy.

Gracie says, “We’re eating a rainbow!” We really enjoyed our fresh, colorful, local veggies from C&C farm last year. Ciao Bella!
Beryl Hoffman of Florence writes: We often make a crustless quiche, and it tastes great with local fresh vegetables in the summer. You can add any vegetables to this recipe — we usually put in spinach and zucchini. And sometimes even my son will try it!

Crustless Quiche:

  • some veggies: 1 zucchini shredded, a couple handfuls of spinach, etc.
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup cottage cheese
  • 3 eggs
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • some grated cheese (cheddar works well) blended in and some on top

Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until golden on top. Enjoy!

Jackie MacNeish of Ashfield writes: One summer, my grandmother planted a garden full of nothing but basil, garlic and tomotoes. I remember being confused in the beginning of this garden why it only had three ingredients. Later, when we harvested our first batch of each, my grandmother lined the grandkids up in the kitchen and gave us each a task: wash, peel, chop, slice, puree. I was the washer usually! The kitchen would start to smell of mouth-watering pesto. We’d have pesto pasta that night for dinner, but we’d also have frozen pesto to last for the rest of the year! Yum!

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Seasons at Our Table: Maple Sugar

Maple Sugar Season

At the beginning of Maple Sugar Season we invited our readers to share with us how Maple Sugar Season gets their family outdoors and participating in the harvest with their community. We also invited them to share their favorite recipe that they like to make for/with their family breakfast/brunch hour.

The feedback was warming and the recipes delicious and inspiring!  Here are recipes our Western MA friends and neighbors had to offer:

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When asked how the Maple Sugar Season gets their family outdoors and participating in the harvest with their community, our readers had much to share:

Stephanie Billings of Florence writes: “My children’s preschool takes a field trip to the Hadley Sugar Shack every sugar season. Joe gives a great tour to the kids and adults that includes science, maple facts and hands on demonstrations. It’s a great way to integrate nature, science, and local food awareness. During the sugar season we try different sugar shacks as a great way to explore the valley and experience spring.”

Beth Caissie of Greenfield writes: “I mark the end of winter by the first buckets and tubes I see attached to maple trees on the side of the road. I love to take my family for hikes during this (sometimes muddy, sometimes icy) time of year to look for hidden sugar bushes deep in the woods. The first time I found the tangle of plastic tubes running from tree to tree far from the road, I was exploring the Quabbin Reservoir. We also love to head to the sugar shacks for a meal this time of year, and stock up on syrup, which we do buy by the gallon.”

Rebecca Heath of Pittsfield writes: “We love maple sugaring season… as a family, including our 93 year old grandmother, we head to Ioka Valley Farm for their delicious farm fresh breakfast. Our favorite of course is the fresh boiled maple syrup but they also have the best maple butter…MMMM….this year my husband and four year old daughter tapped the trees on our land. It was amazing to watch her learn which one’s were maple trees by the bark they have. She helped use the hammer and hang the bucket and to her surprise sap started immediately flowing. We don’t have any fancy boiler so we boiled it outside and it took forever but the finished product we are so proud of. It is a great family memory that we will continue each year. So important for our children to learn about trees, animals, plants and our food. Each time we eat our pancakes with our own maple syrup I will think of those memories. It’s priceless.”

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It’s Maple Syrup Time!

March is Maple Syrup Time in Western MA

Sugaring at South Face Farm in Ashfield, MA.

Massachusetts’s maple forests have endured the winter months and are ready to produce sweet and flavorful maple syrup.  Maple events, sugarhouse visits and farm fresh maple delights from restaurants, markets, bed and breakfasts and local farms, offer great seasonal outings for families all over Western Mass.“Sugarmakers around Massachusetts are looking forward to the season. We’re all proud to be continuing a craft that has been part of Massachusetts for hundreds of years. We encourage people to visit their local sugarhouses to see how it’s done and taste the best maple syrup made,” said hilltown resident Winton Pitcoff, Coordinator at the Massachusetts Maple Producers Association.

Maple syrup lovers should visit and for a sugarhouse directory, map of sugarhouse locations, recipes, nutrition information and much more to plan and explore your culinary maple syrup experience.



Sugar Shacks in Western MA:

Gould’s Maple Sugarhouse (Shelburne, MA)
Six generations of producing pure maple syrup.  Opens for breakfast on March 1st. (413) 625-6170

High Hopes Farm Sugar House (South Worthington, MA)
High Hopes Farm taps as many as 4,000 trees with more than 20 miles of sap lines strung from tree to tree, bringing the sweet sap by gravity to the sugar house. Purchase maple products and dine in the maple inspired restaurant. Rustic dining Sugar House Buffet offered February thru mid April from 7am-2pm.  (413) 238-5919

Hanging Mountain Farms (Westhampton, MA)
You will find us making our pure maple syrup, in one of the oldest sugar houses in the Pioneer Valley. You will be able to enjoy a tour and see how this sweet product is made. During the month of March, which is our busiest sugaring season, our cafe transforms itself into your neighborhood sugarhouse restaurant. (413) 527-3210

North Hadley Sugar Shack at Boisvert Farm (Hadley, MA)
Located in Massachusetts’ scenic, historic Pioneer Valley, the North Hadley Sugar Shack allows visitors to purchase maple sugar products, dine at it’s famous pancake breakfast and participate in sugaring tours. Open February 17th thru April 18th,  Wed-Sun from 7am-3pm. (413)

Pomeroy Sugar House (Westfield, MA)
Guests can enjoy breakfast, smell the sweet aroma of maple, have an opportunity to speak with the proprietor about the syrup making process, and see the cows and calves of the working dairy farm. With the recent addition of the Pomeroy Bed and Breakfast, visitors can stay at the Inn, tour the dairy farm, and enjoy a delicious breakfast while learning the process for making Maple Syrup.  Open for breakfast on Fri-Sun, 7:30am-1pm from February 12th thru April 11th.  (413) 568-3484

South Face Farm (Ashfield, MA)
This farmland has been producing maple syrup for over 150 years. The present sugarhouse, built in 1952, and offers visitors to dine at the sugarhouse restaurant serving homemade pancakes, waffles, corn fritters and many other special maple goodies. Try a stack of French Toast made with fresh homemade bread, topped with just-made maple syrup. (413) 628-3268

Ioka Valley Farm Sugar House (Hancock, MA)
Watch the fascinating process of turning Fresh Maple Sap into Pure Maple Syrup! Come, talk to a real sugar maker. Ask your maple questions during the maple sugaring season. Ioka Valley Farm has more than 4000 taps and two modern boilers housed in the sugar house, built especially for production of the sweet treat.  Sugar House Breakfast served mid-Feb thru early April with sugar house tours on the weekends. (413) 738-5915

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The Art of Maple Sugaring

Tapping into Maple Season

Red Bucket Sugar Shack in Worthington, MA

Red Bucket Sugar Shack in Worthington, MA (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

As winter slowly warms into spring, the maple trees of New England will begin their magic. Maple sugaring has been a highly respected art form for generations. The first recorded description of the sugaring process came in 1606 as part of a narrative about the Micmac people of eastern Canada. In 1663, English chemist Robert Boyle told associates in Europe, “There is in some parts of New England a kind of tree whose juice that weeps out its incision, if it is permitted slowly to exhale away the superfluous moisture, doth congeal into a sweet and saccharin substance, and the like was confirmed to me by the agent of the great and populace colony of Massachusetts.” Massachusetts is now the sixth highest state producer of maple syrup, generating about 50,000 gallons annually-worth over two million dollars!

Stoking the fire at Red Bucket Sugar Shack in Worthington, MA (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Maple syrup production is dictated almost entirely by the weather. Alternating warm days and freezing nights are ideal conditions for sugaring. This winter the ground didn’t freeze thoroughly, which means that the sugar run may be short this year. A shorter season could result in lower production-equating to higher costs for consumers-but it may still be too early to tell. “The price of maple syrup is high due to the poor season last year along with the strength of the Canadian dollar,” says Local Hero farmer Joe Raskett of Hardwick Sugar Shack. “The production of maple syrup is determined on a yearly basis, so forecasting future prices or production is often difficult and unreliable.”

As this year’s maple season kicks off, you won’t have to travel far to enjoy the delights of local sugarmakers’ labors: syrup, candy, sugar, and cream. In fact, many of those same farms offer seasonal pancake houses, the majority of which open in late February. There is no better way to warm up to the spring season than with a plate of hot cakes covered in fresh maple syrup. Or, for serious maple enthusiasts, take a tour of the sugarmaking facilities and learn how the magic happens. We strongly recommend all of the Local Hero member pancake houses, including:

Kids watch the sugaring process at Red Bucket Sugar Shack in Worthington, MA (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Gould’s Maple Farm – Shelburne

Hanging Mountain Farm- Westhampton

North Hadley Sugar Shack- Hadley

Maple Corner Farm- Granville

Williams Farm- Deerfield

For a complete listing of Local Hero maple sugarmakers and suppliers, please visit our online Farm Products Guide.

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