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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Farmers markets offer meat, pies, honey, even 'nicecream,' as well as produce

Summer’s over but the local farmers’ markets are going strong for several more weeks, so you’ve got plenty of time to stock up on fall produce.

At the market in Wakefield Park (open Wednesdays, 2-6 p.m., through Oct. 30) and the Annandale market in  Mason District Park (Thursdays, 8 a.m.-noon, through Nov. 7)—the farmers have lots of tomatoes, peaches, apples, green beans, squash, onions, radishes, Brussels sprouts, pumpkins (even white flat ones), and much, much more.

At the booth in the Wakefield market run by Level Green Farm from Westmoreland County, you can even get nubby green Osage oranges, which aren’t edible but are said to keep crickets away. According to the vendor, “They really do work. Crickets don’t like the smell of them.”

There are also several specialty items well worth a try at the Wakefield market:

Sandra Tran of Falls Church, the proprietor of the Nicecream Factory, makes on-site and sells “liquid nitrogen ice cream,” using a molecular gastronomy technique that a frozen treat that’s denser and sweeter than regular ice cream. Because of flash freezing, she says, “there are smaller ice crystals, resulting in denser ice cream.”

Sandra Tran (right) and June McMullen make and sell "nicecream."
At the market, people were lined up for scoops of cinnamon vanilla, brown sugar butternut squash, and chocolate “nicecream” dished up by Tran and her assistant June McMullen. “Everyone asks if liquid nitrogen ice cream has no calories,” Tran says. Unfortunately, that’s not the case; it has the same amount of calories as regular ice cream.

Among the 53 of  varieties nicecream, there are some unusual ones, like chocolate bacon, salted caramel, red bean, avocado, and apple pie.

Tran recently earned a business degree from James Madison University and hopes to open her first shop next year. Already, she’s subleasing space at restaurants in Washington, D.C., including Science Club near Dupont Circle and Figs Mediterranean Café in Palisades. They also do catering.

Joyce and Mitch Stifler give out andouille sausage samples.
What’s for Dinner Now?” offers many varieties of steak, ground beef, ribs, beef and pork sausages, and other humanely raised meat from a farm in Timberville, Va., just west of New Market.

Farmers Frank “Mitch” Stifler Jr. and his wife Joyce have 120 black angus cows and five pigs on their farm, along with a pet donkey, that Joyce says keeps the coyotes away. The Stiflers have been working their farm for 12 years. Their meat, butchered at a commercial processor, is only available at farmer’s markets, Joyce says. They also raise cattle for sale at auction.

They also make and sell bottles of “Uncle Frank’s Sauce,” created by Mitch’s father in the 1970s. Mitch says it’s great on beef, chicken, pork, vegetables, and just about anything.

At the Massanutten Mountain Apiaries booth at the Wakefield market, Jim and Pat Haskell sell honey made by bees in their backyard in Camelot Square in Annandale and their property in Luray, Va. In addition to regular honey, they also sell creamed honey and honey mixed with nuts.

At any one time they have 45 to 90 hives, depending on the season, and each one can have as many as 60,000 bees, although the number goes way down when it gets cold. In Fairfax County, the number of hives allowed depends on lot size, and the Haskell’s cannot have more than six on their Annandale property. There are no restrictions in Luray.

Pat got into beekeeping after learning about it at a home and garden show 20 years ago. She started attending meetings of beekeepers, took a class, and “the rest is history. I got hooked,” she says.

Pat teaches several beginning beekeeping classes in Northern Virginia, including one at Luther Jackson Middle School through the Beekeepers Association of Northern Virginia, which holds meetings at the Mason Government Center in Annandale. Some of the people who take the class want to raise bees, but others are  are just interested in environmental issues or are master gardeners who want to learn more about pollination.

If you want to get started as a beekeeper, talk to your neighbors first, Jim advises. “Most people are delighted to have bees in the neighborhood. You can ease tensions by handing over a jar of honey.”
Dan Olinger of Sue's Pies.
A perennial favorite at the Wakefield market is Sue’s Pies & More. On a recent visit, Sue’s husband, Dan Olinger, was manning the booth while Sue was overseeing a catering job. That day’s pies included sweet potato, pumpkin praline, lemon chess, and southern pecan.

Sue bakes at home on Wednesdays and Fridays, using a big double oven. Among the most popular varieties: strawberry rhubarb, triple berry (raspberry, blueberry, and strawberry), key lime, banana black bottom, German chocolate, coconut cream, pineapple coconutand her famous apple caramel crunch pie, which was what got her started in the pie business. Sue also sells other homemade goodies, like banana nut bread, cinnamon rolls, and chocolate chip walnut cookies.

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