Farmers market opens

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Paris Downtown Farmers Market opens at 8 a.m. today and I couldn’t be more excited.

I realize it’s not been the best weather for gardens so far with all the rain and cold. But my friend and Paris native Donna Coonce over at Five Feline Farm has been showing off her selection from her gardens near Westfield and it’s really whetted my appetite for what I might find this weekend in Paris.

Coonce has been showing off some beautiful radishes. I’m not much of a radish person but I have to admit I could almost smell the radishes and the earth as she showed off her latest harvest on the Five Feline Farm Facebook page.

Coonce and her partner, Julia Miller, have been traveling to the Charleston Farmers Market on Saturday mornings for the past month or so. Miller is the baker and chef of the family while Coonce spends her days on the homestead with her bees, gardens, orchards and wildlife.

Five Feline Farm is called a modern homestead. Now that Coonce has retired from Eastern Illinois University, she is working the land fulltime. In addition, the two women have a mercantile on the property, make their own wine and use honey in their cooking and baking and make other products from the honey and bees.

Of course, Five Feline Farm isn’t the only area farm and homestead that will have produce and products ready for purchase. We can’t forget our friends at L & A Family Farms and Papa’s Produce who provide Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares and operate not only at Farmers Markets but also have products at their on-farm stores.

At L & A Family Farms in addition to fresh produce, there is grass-fed beef, eggs, chicken, pork and turkey. Papa’s Produce Patch — located north of Paris — has already been picking strawberries, asparagus, mixed greens, green onions, spinach and other early season favorites.

B & B Produce — operated by the Kohlmeyer Family — is also a regular at the Paris Downtown Farmers Market. Besides the produce, the family also has popcorn. Those who attended the Taste of Edgar County in April, had the opportunity to taste the Edgar County grown treat.

So with all the talk of fresh produce — especially the greens — I’m sharing some of my favorite spring recipes using the greens, which I’m sure can be made with ingredients picked up at today’s market.

My husband loved green goddess dressing — probably because his mother made it from scratch.

It is believed the dressing originated at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco in the early 1920s as a tribute to actor George Arliss and his hit play “The Green Goddess.”

The recipe I’m sharing provides the opportunity to use fresh herbs from a window garden or the farmers market and lightens the dressing up by using plain yogurt. It’s a salad the entire family can enjoy.

The green salad with radishes and mustard dressing was also one of Don’s favorites. The recipe calls for eight cups of fresh lettuce that I’m confident are available today.

The red radishes certainly bring color and flavor to the salad. Don’t be afraid to try different types of radishes including watermelon radishes. The key is to make sure the radishes are properly washed and thinly sliced.

For newbies to the farmers market, here are some suggested purchases this time of year:

• Rhubarb is in season right now and once it’s gone, it’s gone. Rhubarb isn’t something one is likely to find for months on end in the supermarket. It’s best paired with strawberries and tucked into pies, cobblers, crisps, and galettes; and works well in savory applications, such as chutneys and sauces. Rhubarb jam is a winner, too.

• Ramps are one of the first signs of life in spring, these wild leeks are often foraged by farmers, coveted by chefs, and have a short growing season. Grill them and use as a burger topping, wilt them over gentle heat with garlic and olive oil, or chop and toss them into an omelet. Many farmers find them abundant on their property or forage them; buy from someone who knows how to forage for them respectfully.

• Local honey is great for sweetening homemade iced tea or whisking into salad dressings. Local honey can be completely unique, too — each batch a slightly different taste of the surrounding fields, flowers and trees. If a local apiary at a farmers market sells bee pollen, consider it lucky; that’s also a delicious delicacy.

The important thing is to get out and support the homegrown, local and handmade products from friends and neighbors. If soembody misses today’s opening, the market is expanding to 4-7 p.m. each Thursday on the south side of the square.