Wintertime Farmers’ Markets Are In Season and Red Hot

Shop local for greens, grains, goodies and more.

Morganics Family Farm Oatmeal is simmering on my stovetop right now, pocked with apples from Krowicki Farms. I bought a bag of oats earlier this month directly from Scott Morgan, who with his wife, Alison, grows oats on his farm in Hillsborough, and a bushel of Winesaps from Christina Krowicki, whose family’s farm has been a landmark in New Egypt for generations.

Morganic’s Oats

I was able to do this at West Windsor Community Farmers’ Market, managed by Chris Cirkus and held every other Saturday through April at the Windsor Athletic Club.

At lunchtime today, I will eat a salad of mixed lettuces and greens from Chickadee Creek Farm that don’t need to be dressed because they are intensely flavorful on their own.

Chickadee Creek greens

I’ll have tossed them with nibs of cheeses, some made by Sal Pisani (famous for his work at Buffalo Girl) and some at Valley Shepherd Creamery of Long Valley, as well as slices of eggs I’ve hard-cooked after procuring them from Pat Kelly of Glenmalure Farm in Branchville and slices of tender turnips also from Chickadee.

Clockwise from bottom left, Sal Pisani, Bobolink, Valley Shepherd Creamery, Cherry Grove Farm

Veggies from Chickadee Creek

I’ll have a soup based on a broth made from Glenmalure’s beef bones that’s studded with carrots and onions and potatoes from Chickadee and, for dessert, half a bar of chocolate from Mishti of New Providence. (Okay, maybe a whole bar.)

I bought all of these foods at the Morris County Winter Farmers’ Market, managed by Kendrya Close and held every Sunday (except April 1) through April 15 at Alexander Hamilton School in Morristown.

If you think farmers’ markets go dark after Halloween, you are missing some of the best food and the best shopping in the Garden State.

There’s so much out there!” says Kendrya Close, whose Sunday market is as bustling as Penn Station at rush hour. “Chickadee Creek scaled up to do our market ’cause (before) she had no outlet.”

The “she” Close refers to is Jess Niederer, who is the fourth generation of her family to farm in the Hopewell Valley and a veritable rock star in hierarchy of New Jersey agriculture. As Close rightly observes, “We saw a need for winter markets, and we filled it. Now consumers can eat seasonally all year long – what you eat is grown all year long.”

Chris Cirkus agrees.

In fact, she sees it as a responsibility to provide foods from Garden State farms to the public all year long.

Eating locally and seasonally is what it’s all about, and the indoor markets allow us to engage with the community and connect all of us to our amazing farmers and vendors,” Cirkus says.

With greens being grown all winter long, cold storage and root crops, meats, poultry, coastal seafood, local grain pasta, sauces, jams, mushrooms, cheese, alpaca wear, and even oats available in these cold hibernation months, we’ve expanded the markets to twice a month through April. It’s such a win-win for everyone.”

On a recent Saturday morning at the market at West Windsor, I filled three shopping bags with meats and cheeses, fruits and vegetables, salad greens and microgreens, oats and…chocolate from Mishti, which is sold at the winter markets in Morristown and West Windsor (as is Chickadee Creek and Local 130, the superlative seafood merchant featuring fishes wild-caught off the 130 miles of New Jersey coastline). I bought five chocolate bars. We’re talking chocolate flavored with ginger, with orange, with nuts. Only four made it into the photo you see here; one somehow got “lost” on the car ride home.

Mishti Chocolate bars

I’ve been using Jersey Golden Tomato Jam from Frank’s Pickled Peppers out of Dayton (West Windsor Market) to slap atop Glenmalure’s (Morris County Market) ground beef, which makes the best burger I’ve ever had. I’ll repeat that: the best burger I’ve ever had.

The makings of dinner

I’ve been snacking on Stefan’s Beef Jerky, made in Wayne (Morris County), downing Valley Shepherd’s yogurt (Morris County) and Bobolink Dairy & Bakehouse’s Jean-Louis cheese (a farm in Holland Township selling at West Windsor), and unable to resist Chickadee’s sweet potatoes as either a side dish or a main course. Bake ’em, saute ’em, slice ’em and stir-fry ’em.

Stefan’s beef jerky

Well, I’ve got a bowl of apple-scented oatmeal to eat now, so I’ve got to run. Hope to see you this winter at the markets. And, some insiders’ advice: Come early for best selection.

Morris County Winter Farmers’ Market: Sundays from 10 am to 2 pm through April 15 (except April 1) at the Alexander Hamilton School, 24 Mills Street in Morristown. Visit: MorrisCountyWinterFarmersMarket.com.

West Windsor Community Farmers’ Market: Saturdays from 10 am to 1 pm March 3 and March 17, April 7 and April 21 at the Windsor Athletic Club, 99 Clarksville Road in West Windsor. Visit: westwindsorfarmersmarket.org.

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