Welcome to Washington, D.C.
The farmers’ markets in D.C. are springing to life. Come May, there is a farmers’ market on almost every day of the week, which means fewer visits to the grocery store.
Sometimes, I go to the farmers’ market with a specific idea in mind; other times, I just go to see what’s there and create meals from what I find.
Why Shop at a Farmers’ Market?
I love going to a farmers’ market and seeing what’s in season each week (watching the seasons change right before my eyes).
Here are a few reasons why I love to visit local farmers’ markets:
- I love discovering unusual, heirloom varieties that are becoming increasingly rare, if not for small farmers dedicated to preserving biodiversity.
- I love getting to know the people who grow my food and feeling confident about its origin.
- I am deeply satisfied knowing that the money I spend stays in and helps build my community.
- Finally, I cannot say enough about how good everything tastes — animals raised in a healthy, sustainable way, and fruits and vegetables picked at their peak, grown in healthy soil, just taste better, bottom line!
What’s in Season in D.C. at the Moment?
This is a transition period in D.C., no longer winter, but not quite the peak of spring. While I patiently await some of my favorite spring arrivals (green peas, favas, ramps, asparagus, and spring chicken), today, I find an array of:
- greens (such as dandelion, erba stella, flowering rabe and turnip greens),
- spring green garlic and baby leeks
- a variety of grass-fed, pasture-raised meat (to include bison, lamb, beef, pork)
- eggs (duck, quail, chicken)
- and several varieties of mushrooms (love those maitakes)…
Also, D.C. is but a stone’s throw from the waters of the Chesapeake Bay blue crab — a tad early in the season for those delectable crustaceans.
A Word on Dandelion Greens and Other Weeds…
Dandelion greens…pesky weeds? Edible greens? Well, yes and yes.
You may be familiar with dandelions as pesky, intrusive weeds, but they have been eaten and used for centuries, prized for their nutritional and medicinal properties.
In addition to dandelion greens, there are all sorts of wild edible greens — amaranth, fennel, lamb’s quarters, mallow, morning glory, purslane (aka glistrida), stinging nettle, and thistle to name a few.
Was introduced to various wild greens on my first trip to Greece over ten years ago. Horta, to which they are referred in Greece, have long been a part of the traditional Greek diet.
Depending on the season and location, horta refer to any number of boiled greens, seasoned generously with delicious, peppery olive oil and lemon; horta are a staple in every Greek household.
If you are unfamiliar with dandelion greens, they tend to be bitter, along the likes of chickory or escarole. That being said, the best time to harvest dandelion greens is in early spring when they are young, just emerging, and before the flowers appear. That’s when they are at their most tender and least bitter. Cooking also tames their bitterness.
My Farmers’ Market Inspired Salad: A Warm Dandelion Bacon Spring Leek Potato Salad
With the exception of the extra virgin olive oil and sherry vinegar, just about everything for today’s salad came from the farmers’ market. It’s a quick and easy salad that showcases the season.
- The greens are quickly tossed in the warm, rendered fat from the apple-wood smoked bacon.
- The potatoes are sauteed in extra virgin olive oil until nice and crispy on the outside and fork-tender on the inside.
- Added a few sauteed baby spring leeks and finished the salad with a good amount of sherry vinegar, which adds a nice acidity and balances out the dish.
- Add a poached or fried egg on top if you so desire, optional, but highly recommended…
Nutritional information below is for 4 side salads.
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 6 to 8 small (red, white, purple) potatoes, quartered
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
- 4 ounces thick-cut apple-wood smoked bacon
- 1 large bunch dandelion greens, washed and cut into ~3-inch pieces
- 2 baby leeks, washed well, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup sherry vinegar
- Heat a large roasting pan or Dutch oven with 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Spread the potatoes in the roasting pan or Dutch oven in a single layer and season with salt and pepper. Saute the potatoes until golden brown and crispy on the exterior and tender on the interior, 10 to 15 minutes.
- Add the smashed garlic, in the last 5 minutes or so of cooking (watch carefully, making sure the garlic does not burn).
- While the potatoes are browning, cut the bacon into 1/2-inch-wide pieces to make lardons.
- Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is golden brown.
- Add the leek and cook another minute or two.
- When the potatoes are done, add the hot bacon and leeks to the potatoes, reserving the bacon fat in the pan.
- Add the greens to the reserved fat in the pan; add the sherry vinegar and toss quickly to coat.
- Transfer the greens to the pan with the potatoes and toss to combine until the greens just wilt. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. Serve hot.
- Serving Size: 1 serving