Share the wealth, reap the benefits
Wednesday, September 9, 2020
Last Sunday, I turned tomatoes into wine.
This feat was accomplished by handing a couple kilos worth of garden goods to my across-the-street neighbor on the sidewalk in front of his house. During the masked exchange, he offered up a bottle of fancy white wine—which I gladly accepted before waving goodbye and returning to my own abode.
My next-door-neighbor also received a plentiful portion, and I’ve no doubt that will work in my favor in the future. Since the pandemic started, she’s gifted our household with everything from exotic cheeses to Italian espresso, and in return we’ve dropped off bananas and avocados for her, shared fresh produce when we have it, and procured items on her shopping list when she was quarantined.
Later that day, I traded a bag laden with homegrown lettuce, oregano, mint, garlic, plums and tomatoes with fanciful names such Starfire, Fireworks, Banana Toes, Ceylon, and Glacier for heaping servings of three different kinds of mac-and-cheese, as well some appetizing additions to the freezer. The porch drop with my coworker went seamlessly, and dinner was taken care of for the night.
While it may sound like I’m trading or giving away everything we’re growing, that’s not the case. Due to the fact that I planted more than 20 tomato starts purchased in May from Whatcom County Master Gardeners’ Victory Garden Sale, the haul is a hearty one (and it’s still going). Add to that an alarming amount of blackberries, a successful plum harvest and a rhubarb plant that just won’t quit producing—not to mention keeping on top of the greens and the rest of the late-summer growth spurt—and it becomes necessary to share the wealth in order to stay sane.
What we do keep is used. In the past couple of weeks, my bearded companion has made both rhubarb and blackberry pies, and I’ve dispatched numerous batches of simple tomato sauce that are now frozen and await rediscovery on cold autumn days. I’ve also roasted rounds of salsa, baked a bunch of the nightshades with chicken breasts and fresh garlic, herbs and mushrooms, put giant slabs of the orbs on top of toasted bagels with cream cheese, and discovered a tasty new recipe that utilized an abundance of cherry tomatoes.
I had all the ingredients for the Garlicky Cherry Tomato Gratin, and put it together while my fella was shopping for steaks to grill. By the time the meat and zucchini rounds came off the fire, the gratin was ready. It was a perfect accompaniment to the late-summer cookout, but unfortunately there wasn’t enough left over to share with my neighbors. Maybe next time.
Garlicky Cherry Tomato Gratin
3 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for oiling the dish
1 tsp. minced fresh garlic
2 tbs. fresh orange juice
1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1-3/4 lb. small red and yellow cherry tomatoes, halved (about 4-1/2 cups)
1 tsp. lightly chopped fresh thyme, plus 1/4 teaspoon whole leaves
1-1/2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
Use a combination of cherry tomato varieties for great flavor and color. Don’t be tempted to use grape tomatoes, as their texture isn’t as pleasing as that of cherry tomatoes.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a shallow 1-1/2-quart baking dish (a ceramic gratin dish is nice; the shallower the better). In a small (preferably nonstick) skillet, heat 2 tbs. of the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the minced garlic and cook until it softens and becomes fragrant (but does not brown), about one minute. Remove from the heat and let cool. Add the orange juice and balsamic vinegar and stir.
In a mixing bowl, combine the halved tomatoes with the garlic-oil mixture, the chopped thyme, and 1/2 tsp. kosher salt; stir well. Spread evenly in the gratin dish.
In another bowl, mix the breadcrumbs with the remaining 1 tbs. olive oil, whole thyme leaves, and 1/4 tsp. kosher salt until well combined. Cover the tomatoes with the crumb mixture.
Bake until the crumbs are nicely golden, 50 to 60 minutes. By this time, the juices will have been bubbling around the edges for some time. The tomatoes will be tender but not completely broken down. The longer you bake the gratin, the more flavorful it will be as the juices will reduce, but don’t allow the crumbs to burn.
[Wed., Sept. 9]
SEDRO MARKET: The Sedro-Woolley Farmers Market continues today from 3pm-7pm at Heritage Square. Health and safety protocols are in place in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the market is still committed to bringing fresh, local food and products to residents and neighbors Wednesdays through Oct. 14.
For more info: http://www.sedrowoolleyfarmersmarket.com
APPLE PICKING: Choose from 22 varieties of apples at U-pick happenings from 10am-5pm Wednesday through Sunday at Bellewood Farms & Distillery, 6140 Guide Meridian. The events continue weekly through Oct. 31. COVID-19 recommendations will be followed.
For more info: http://www.bellewoodfarms.com
FOOD CRUISES: Whale-watching lunch cruises, Chuckanut cracked crab dinner cruises, Sucia Island picnic cruises, Bellingham Bay BREWers cruises, UnWINED on the Bay cruises and more take place throughout the summer aboard San Juan Cruises’ watercraft. Fees vary. Please note that COVID-19 safety measures are in place, and that capacity aboard the boats is capped at 50 percent. Masks will be required.
For more info: http://www.whales.com
[Thurs., Sept. 10]
FOOD FOR STUDENTS: Various Western Washington University entities will be offering free food pickup from 12pm-2pm every Thursday through Sept. 24 at Vendors’ Row in the Viking Commons. Wear a face mask and bring your WWU student ID to pick up a bag of nonperishables and a box of farm-fresh organic produce. Walk-through, bike-through and drive-through contactless pickup options are available, as are vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free choices. For any disability or allergy accommodations, contact the email listed below.
[Fri., Sept. 11]
FERNDALE MARKET: The Ferndale Farmers Market continues today from 2pm-6pm in the parking lot next to the Grocery Outlet. If you’re interested in helping them grow, head over—and be prepared to follow safety standards.
For more info: http://www.ferndalepublicmarket.org
[Sat., Sept. 12]
ANACORTES MARKET: The Anacortes Farmers Market is open from 9am-2pm at the Depot Arts Center, 611 R Ave. Their rules include following and obeying all signs, markers, barriers and instructions from market staff or volunteers.
For more info: http://www.anacortesfarmersmarket.org
MOUNT VERNON MARKET: The Mount Vernon Farmers Market takes place from 9am-2pm Saturdays through Oct. 20 at Riverwalk Park, 501 Main St. Only 25 customers are allowed in at a time to peruse the goods. Check their website beforehand to find out which farmers will be in attendance each week, then get inspired to make a meal plan.
For more info: http://www.mountvernonfarmersmarket.org
TWIN SISTERS MARKET: The Twin Sisters Market continues its fifth season from 9am-3pm at Nugent’s Corner, and 10am-2pm in Maple Falls at the North Fork Library. In addition to having protocols in place to keep the community healthy, Foothills folks who are accustomed to picking up a diverse array of high-quality produce grown nearby should know they can still expect to find great prices—by taking turns having the farmers staff the market, they’re able to keep prices low for East Whatcom County residents.The markets continue Saturdays through Oct. 23.
For more info http://www.twinsistersmarket.com
CONCRETE MARKET: The Concrete Saturday Market takes place from 10am-1pm at the Concrete Community Center, 45821 Railroad St. Posted signage will direct shoppers to follow safety guidelines, and, for now, it’s a drive-in, farmers-only market. Artisans and crafters may return when safety restrictions are lifted, so keep an ear open for updates.
For more info: http://www.concretesaturdaymarket.com
BELLINGHAM MARKET: Attend the Bellingham Farmers Market from 10am-2pm Saturdays at the Depot Market Square, 1100 Railroad Ave. At the modified market, social distancing is strongly enforced, patrons are not allowed to touch the food, and a limited number of vendors are allowed on site. Entertainment, music and eating areas have been suspended until further notice, and masks are mandatory. Please stay home if you are sick, and be prepared with small bills to offer exact change to vendors when possible.
For more info: http://www.bellinghamfarmers.org
BLAINE MARKET: The annual Blaine Gardeners Market continues from 10am-2pm Saturdays through October at the city’s G Street Plaza. Due to social distancing requirements, vendor booths will be spread out.
For more info: http://www.blainechamber.com
[Sun., Sept. 13]
BIRCHWOOD FARMERS MARKET: Find locally grown vegetables, flowers, fruits and other goods from more than 10 growers and producers in Whatcom County at the Birchwood Farmers Market happening from 9am-2pm every Sunday through October at the Park Manor Shopping Center, 1538 Birchwood Ave. The cooperative single-stand market is dedicated to increasing food access in the Birchwood neighborhood by providing fresh, sustainably grown produce at a reduced prices. When attending the market, please wear a face mask and keep social distancing in mind.
For more info: http://www.birchwoodfarmersmarket.com
ALGER MARKET: Kids can vend for free at the Alger Sunday Market taking place from 11am-4pm Sundays through Oct. 11 at Alger Community Hall, 18735 Parkview Lane. The low-key, barter-friendly neighborhood cooperative features produce, plants, artisan crafts and recycled and upcycled items to reuse. Drop-ins are welcome to “sell from your truck and make a buck,” but the number may be limited due to COVID-19 restrictions.
For more info: (360) 724-0340
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