It’s time for fresh, locally grown vegetables.
Most people who know me would say I am a city girl. And while that may be true now, I have roots that are well established in rural areas and spent a good deal of my life growing up in farming communities. As a young child, I remember some family attempts at gardening, but what I remember most is the abundance of fresh vegetables shared with us from farmers in the community. I also remember the delicious meals my mother and grandmothers could cook.
My great-grandmother could grow anything in the clay soil in the city limits of Greenville, S.C. She taught my mom how to cook, preserve and love fresh vegetables. I grew up with plenty of fresh vegetables, and although my mom taught me a great deal about how to preserve and enjoy vegetables, I still have a lot to learn. I also have to admit that as a young child, not all fresh vegetables were my favorites. There is a family story about me when I was about 5 years old that involved garden peas and not cleaning my plate at supper. I won’t share the details, but I’m sure you can read between the lines. Last week I tried my hand at something I’ve never done: I cooked fresh garden peas I bought at the Robeson County Farmers Market, and this time, I cleaned my plate willingly.
In virtually every community in Robeson County, there are tailgate vendors or pick-your-own farms blossoming with a fantastic assortment of fresh vegetables. The Robeson County Farmers Market, located on the corner of Eighth and Elm streets in downtown Lumberton, operated all winter because a few of our farmers grow many winter vegetables and have been faithful in bringing their bounty to sell. The market officially opened May 12 and operates on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. (or as long as produce lasts) with farmers selling fresh, local vegetables. Cabbage, new potatoes, early squash, spring onions, and English peas are just a few examples of what you can find. Each week that passes will bring more variety and the number of vendors will steadily increase. It won’t be long before other favorites like sweet corn, peas, tomatoes, beans, okra, Dixie Lee peas, watermelons and cantaloupes will be available. If you don’t know exactly how to prepare something new you want to try, just ask the grower. They can give you some ideas.
For a number of years, local Cooperative Extension agents and the Robeson County Farmers Market have partnered to focus on local foods at the annual Summer Extravaganza. We will celebrate our eighth year of this annual event on June 16 from 9:30 a.m. to noon. It will be an opportunity to try new, exciting recipes made with local products sold at the market from area farmers. Tasty samples and recipes will be provided. Learn how to create beautiful potted plant arrangements with the Extension Master Gardeners and how to cook stir-fry in a demonstration by the Extension Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program assistants.
Also, don’t forget, there are many strawberry operations throughout the county with some of the sweetest, reddest, prettiest strawberries you will ever see. Strawberry season will be over when it gets hot, so hurry and get them before they are gone. Remember, strawberries are so easy to freeze that I can do it, so you should have no problem at all. Then, any time during the year, you can enjoy strawberries just as delicious as if they just came from the field.
Christy Strickland is the county Extension director with North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center. She can be reached at 910-671-3276, or at [email protected]