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A Trifecta of Awesome.

Just in case you’ve been living under a rock, I’m hear to tell you that there are beautiful, delicious and exotic things going on right this very minute.

The Beautiful: Have you seen the plant section lately? New South Nursery is offering an assortment of lovely native and wild flowers ready to attract butterflies, bees and hummingbirds straight to your garden.

The Delicious: Homegrown hybrid and heirloom tomatoes. Sumptuous salad greens. Crisp cucumbers. Perfect peppers ranging from sweat-inducing-spicy to sugary-sweet and everything in between. There are 25 growers offering 770 products through The Market. If you don’t take advantage of this seasonal bounty before the market closes tomorrow morning, maybe you should reconsider your priorities.

The Exotic: Ever tasted a cow pea? Me neither, but I have some simmering on the stove this very minute in an heirloom tomato, gray zucchini and Brazilian orchid pepper medley. With the addition of diced poona kheera on my purslane salad and some piel de sapo for dessert, the theme of tonight’s dinner is “Strange Varieties of Familiar Foods” and I anticipate nothing short of greatness. All that’s missing is a roasted poulet libre, but I suppose I have to save something for next time.

~Rebecca Wild

The Market is Open

Good Morning Marketmicians,
Rewind two months: I’m in Denver, standing in a closet passing for a micro-brewery. There are six chairs and one table, with a chalk board and bar counter serving as the focal point for the tiny space. On the chalk board are six beers, all with mystifying titles. Yet the place is packed with people. Is it a business or someone’s garage hobby? I guess this kind of place is a Denver thing.
I hand the twenty-something bartender my I.D. He looks like he spends all his free time rock climbing and parachuting off of cliffs on a mountain bike.
He snorts.
I nod.
“Are you serious?”
“Yes,” but I really wanted to say, “No. This is a hilarious joke I’ve engineered! My work here is done. Goodbye now!
“Man, this is like a unicorn’s I.D. It’s like the land of fairytales. Is Arkansas even real?”
I wondered if this guy thought he was being friendly?
My parents taught me to hold my head and retain my nobility in moments like these, so I said nothing and ordered a beer in the most neutral accent possible. Plus, I couldn’t think of anything sarcastic or biting to say, with all those bar goers looking at me and enjoying a little communal solidarity at the alien hick’s expense.
We’ve all been there, once we step outside the safety of Arkansas’ borders. But I’ve also enjoyed the inverse, in which friends come to visit and do a double take for a state that they, “never knew was so beautiful.” I take them to the mountains. I take them to the farmers’ markets and the Root Cafe. They come to think of this place as a hidden gem. Perchance a diamond? Or crystal?

Urgent announcement….

Loblolly Creamery has chosen ALFN for its non-profit of the month!
What could this mean?
That Loblolly has a special ALFN ice cream at the Green Corner Store soda fountain: Fig and Chocolate Chunk Goat’s Milk ice cream. I tasted the first spoonful. Delicious and locally sourced. Go get a scoop or pint at the Green Corner Store and support ALFN’s work.
Coming up: a Loblolly Happy Hour with ALFN, August 17th, 4-7pm. Farmers will be in attendance, with locally sourced toppings. Tons of goodness.
More on this soon!
The Market is open…

  • Ozark Razorback Cowpeas from the Victory Garden. My curiosity is aroused. They are a red-and-white calico pea developed in our very own Salem, AR. I tasty bit of local heritage.
  • 1lb Special on Cured Garlic from Arkansas Natural Produce. Nothing like fresh, locally grown garlic. Get it now or forever hold your peace until next year.
  • Sweet Banana Peppers from Kellogg Valley Farms. I know just what to do with these: slice ’em and throw them into a jar with a basic brine (equal parts water and vinegar, sugar, and salt) and keep them in the fridge. The sweet bite of the pepper with the briny flavor is so perfect.
  • Bulk Yellow Squash from Kellogg Valley Farms. Naturally grown. Here is a good way to put by tons of squash: make Squash pickles! Cut them into spears and pack them into sanitized jars with a hot pepper, sprig of dill, coriander seed. Heat up a mixture of apple cider vinegar, water, and salt, and pour into jars. Then, do the canning thing, boiling them, processing them, etc. Squash pickles are delicious.
  • Black Cherry Tomatoes from the Victory Garden. This might be my favorite tomato variety: beautiful in color, deep and satisfying in flavor. Naturally grown, right here in Little Rock.
  • Loring Peaches from Barnhill Orchards. A classic, grandmotherly peach, perfect for the table.
  • Don’t forget the Herbs section: tons of basil varieties, seeds and herbs for cooking, edible flowers. Everything you need!
  • Meat. I don’t mention meat much. I don’t know why. I guess because I don’t cook with meat very often. But that is no reason not to celebrate how excellent our farmers’ meat offerings are. Farm Girl has heritage pastured chicken and there is plenty of bacon, sausage, and bratwurst to go around. Maybe we need some freelance submissions from a more carnivorous person?

The Market is open. I’ll say it again!

Meet a Durn Farmer…
Armstead Mountain Farm is a current heavyweight in the market. Come this time of the season, we see a lot of their high quality, organic produce on Saturdays. Sue and Rusty Nuffer farm on 80 acres, nestled in the Ozarks. They’ve been Certified Organic since the 80’s. They offered high quality, organically produce throughout Little Rock long before anyone else. Perhaps they share the responsibility for paving the way in our local food system, though, knowing Sue and Rusty, they would deny this harsh accusation.
Our Local Food Club actually began with only one grower: Armstead Mountain Farm. Katy Elliott and Nao Ueda wanted to find a way to keep Armstead’s vegetables and berries coming to Little Rock, after Sue and Rusty had decided to end their presence at the Little Rock Farmers’ Market. They created the Little Rock Local Food Club nearly seven years ago, and Armstead Mountain Farm is still with us.
Want to see what they’re growing? Scroll down to Display Options and select Show Specific Growers to see Armstead’s offerings.

I have, like, a lot more news to share with you. There’s the Green Groceries program we’re working on with Christ Episcopal Church. There are ALFN t-shirts and 2nd edition FRESH directories and workshops in the mix, but I’ve saturated this e-mail, dear readers. The news will wait for another time.

Sam Hedges

Ghost Peppers: Part Two.

One of the main premises of the scientific method is replication. An experimental result is only valid if it can be replicated by recreating the same circumstances. Otherwise, ‘tis but a fluke. To that end, I believe that one attempt at cooking with ghost peppers doesn’t provide enough conclusive data for you, gentle reader. So, two nights ago, I gave it another try. Similar ingredients, similar method, dramatically different result.

First, I prepped: green beans, sweet onion and Swiss chard from Armstead Mountain Farm; Anaheim, Romanian and Marconi peppers from Arkansas Natural Produce; carrots from Little Rock Urban Farm; an el Tiburon pepper from Willow Springs; garlic from Kellogg Valley Farm; boneless pork loin from Meatworks; plus a little less-than-local crystallized ginger. Once the cutting board was clear, I brought in a single ghost pepper from Willow Springs. Despite the unforeseen mildness that characterized my last encounter, I sensed something was different. This batch of peppers, of which I ordered three, was different. The bright red, barely mottled with green signified more danger and induced a new level of caution. I gloved up (you keep nitrile gloves in your house, too, right?) and proceeded to halve and deseed this capsaicin-infused wonder.

After heating a dollop of coconut oil, I threw the pepper in. [Disclaimer: Don’t do this! It might aerosolize an intense amount of capsaicin, causing you to cough, choke and wheeze. You may have to turn off the fire, herd the dogs out of the kitchen, open doors for ventilation and ask your non-asthmatic husband handle the rest of the stir fry.] After a few minutes of oil infusion, I (maybe we, or just he) removed the pepper and threw in the pork to sear, eventually followed by the rest of the ensemble. After preparing some udon noodles and a side of cooling Turkish salad (more minced Kellogg garlic, plain yogurt, ANP purslane, a few Rattle’s Garden sungolds and a dash of olive oil, black and red pepper on top), dinner was served.

Was it hot? Well, yes. Absolutely. I would hypothesize that a great deal of ghost pepper heat is neutralized in the cooking process, but there is definitely enough heat retained to in-vigor any dish. This is not a salad pepper, a stuffing pepper, a snacking pepper or a licking pepper. It is, however, an incredible cooking pepper; one that must be treated with respect and admiration but will reward you with a distinct and savory flavor note suitable for most any recipe.

And I’ve still got two left. Arrabbiata, anyone?

The Market is only open for another fourteen hours, so get your order for awesome, local flavor in while you still can.

~Rebecca Wild

The Market is Open!!

Dear Folk and Kindred Spirits,
There is a cardinal outside my window, pecking away at the mossy scabs that play for grass on my lawn. What’s it eating? Better question, what are you eating?

Last night, my housemates and I hosted a BLT party, in celebration of Summer tomatoes. The BLT, a quintessentially Summer sandwich, is only fully realized with locally grown, just picked, thick sliced heirloom tomatoes. No matter how good the bread or crazy the bacon, subpar tomatoes will sink a BLT. So, every Summer, we celebrate with a BLT party.

Unfortunately, the recent rain slowed tomato production down a wee bit. I didn’t see many heirlooms at the Hillcrest Farmers’ Market. Tara Stainton of Rattle’s Garden told me she’d had to pull most of her Green Zebra tomatoes ( a shame!!) and a few other heirlooms, due to excess moisture, rot, etc. Life of a farmer?

To go with our delicious display of tomatoes (including Black Cherries and roasted Gypsy heirlooms), we had cured bacon from Hillcrest Artisan Meats, Multigrain bread from Arkansas Fresh, Arugula from Arkansas Natural Produce, Basil from Armstead Mountain Farm, and Mayo made fresh from Bluebird Hill’s Egg Yolks. Fresh mayo: that makes a difference. The sandwiches were delicious, the weather perfect for porch eating, and the company supreme. What am I saying? Host your own BLT party ASAP people!

What You, the Cardinal, Can Peck At…
  • Melons! Josh Hardin told me yesterday that this is the last week for Hardin’s melons. Gosh, I hope he’s wrong, but what if he’s not? I cracked open a Hardin Juan Canary melon yesterday. Wow. Please make sure you eat one of these.
  • Blueberry Season is also not long for this world. Bluebird Hill has a deal, 1 Gallon of fresh blueberries. I’ve had no problem eating my way through one of these in a week, and they kept just fine in the fridge.
  • African Blue and Cinnamon Basils from Victory Garden. How I love the varieties of basil, each so distinct. Victory also has Chamomile and Coriander seed.
  • Under Cut Flowers, Victory Garden has fresh cut Garden and Sunflower Bouquets.
  • Buffalo Tenderloin from Ratchford Farms. A Food Club customer just raved about Ratchford’s buffalo tenderloin yesterday. She says she just lightly sautés it in a pan, and it comes out tender and delicious.
Tips and Tricks for Using this Dangfangled Market…

Are you one of the unfortunate customers plagued by ghost orders? You come to pickup, whistling a tune, swinging your arms, only to find that your order just isn’t there. A mystery! A TRAGEDY! It breaks my heart every time, seeing that crestfallen face.
The tip: the only sure-fire way of knowing that your order has been processed is the Order Notification E-mail. It comes immediately after you place your order. If you don’t see it, it’s possible that your order didn’t go through. If you check your Spam box, and still don’t see it, place your order again!
The usual reasons for orders that are not processed are not choosing a Pickup Location or Payment Method or some bizarre lapse in the software. Or Evil. is a great service, particularly in how easy it makes things for our growers and managers. That being said, the poor girl is human, too.

Food Happenings in the Community…

Weblog Entry

Summer storms in Arkansas are very special events. They sneak up without warning, shake the walls with a “BOO!” of thunder and dump rain faster than the earth can take it in. They can be inconvenient, frightening and occasionally dangerous but they are always, always, a blessing. Because in between the flash-bangs, if you listen very closely, you can hear farmers cheering.

Storms mean rain and rain means happy crops. Take advantage of the rare moment where peak summer produce meets measurable rainfall before the oppressive August drought sets in. But do it quickly, because The Market. closes tomorrow morning.

~Rebecca Wild

The Market Is Open

Good Morning Gatherers & Foragers,
Per usual, things look good in the Market this week. Actually No, not per usual. This time last year, we were in the midst of an awful drought. While we’re by no means a flood zone right now, rain hasn’t totally forsaken us, and the weather is alright. It shows in the abundance we have on the market right now. I hope our farmers are smiling a little in their fields right now.
I just watched the documentary I Am. Have you seen it? It’s interesting. Among other things, it discusses the popular Western notion that we are a species of competitive individuals vs. a cooperative network of connected consciousness (and very aliterate!). I believe it’s true for food: the industrial food system is based on the rule of consumption, of taking more than we need and leaving nothing. Concentrated animal operations, giant stretches of corn. It’s a system out of balance. Our local food system, on the other hand, is founded on cooperation and connectivity. We support a network of growers every week. Farmers leave parts of their acreage fallow for regeneration. We acknowledge and embrace the profound ways in which our lives interlink. Just saying. It’s pretty cool.

Your Per Diem for Locally Grown Food is Infinite…

McSwain Ranch is back in force with grassfed lamb: spare ribs, sirloin and chuck steaks. Meat is a rare menu item for me, mostly because I can’t afford to eat the meat I prefer all the time. So, when I do enjoy it, I like it be as special as possible. Grassfed lamb is definitely my favorite meat treat, always worth the extra change.

Last Beets from Armstead Mountain Farm, until the Fall crop comes in. There’s only a few left. I will miss these little red treasures.

Culinary Celery from Crimmins Family Farm. This crisp heat-tolerant celery packs celery flavor without the excess water. I found it to compliment perfectly the root vegetable slaw I recently made. Get yourself some cabbage, beets, and other root veggies to go with this awesome celery.

For those of you making pickles, there are plenty of pickling cucumbers available, from Hardin, North Pulaski, and Barnhill farms.

Fairytale Eggplant from Rattle’s Garden, Laughing Stock Farms, & Kellogg Valley. All organic/naturally grown. This awesome variety of eggplant is thin-skinned (no peeling necessary) and without bitterness. Here are three eggplant recipes: Eggplant Cake, Eggplant Chocolate Torte, and, of course, Moussaka with Lamb and Eggplant.

Ghost Peppers from Willow Springs Market Garden. Served with a skull and crossbones. Though, as Rebecca showed in her last blog post, eating a ghost pepper is a little like Russian roulette. It may barely register, or it may burn a hole in your esophagus. The risk is the fun!

Arkansas Natural Produce’s Sweet Colored Peppers were literally breathtaking yesterday. Their color is unbelievable. Nutritionists say you should always eat a wide variety of color, in which case, these peppers are little nutrition arks.

Do I need to even tell you that we have tomatoes? I know you’re already looking for them. All I’m eating these days is tomatoes. My pH balance is way off. But they’re so good!

Last but not least, Main Street Apothecary joined us yesterday with their vegan, handmade soaps and lotions. After smelling the Gent’s Bar, I’ll be ordering one in order to accentuate my manliness. Not that it needs any help, right?
Check them out under Bath & Beauty. These ladies are making some seriously high quality products!

Know a Grower

Are you familiar with Rattle’s Garden? Tara Stainton is an organic farmer in Vilonia. She’s got tons of okra, eggplant, and cherry tomatoes for us right now. Check out her web and Facebook pages. She was just recently re-certified as an organic grower and is working on an awesome mobile chicken coup. Get to know Rattle’s Garden and achieve a new level of relationship with your food!

Speaking of which, a little tip/trick for shopping through us: when you come for pickup, take a second to walk around the tables and check things out. Look at what each farm grows, look for things you like and make note of that farm. I talk to customers who love what they order but can’t remember where it came from. Knowing WHO is important!

May the winds be gentle, and the rains not-totally-absent!

Sam Hedges

If You Can't Stand The Heat

As your cruise director, I feel that it’s my duty to know about the products our growers offer. I try to be somewhat familiar with most of the things that come through The Market.

To that end, I recently became the tentative recipient of one of Willow Springs’s ghost peppers. Despite it’s notorious reputation, I would be remiss if I did not provide you, our loyal members, with a report from the field. So tonight I decided to utilize this bit of biological weaponry in a stir-fry also featuring MeatWorks pastured pork, Armstead Mt. Farm’s rainbow carrots and green beans, ANP’s shiitake mushrooms, Felder Farm’s candy onions and CANAS Victory Gardens’s green bell and Peruvian purple peppers.

As per the grower’s recommendation, I split the ghost pepper lengthwise, deseeded, deveined and sauteed it in oil for about two minutes and then removed the pepper. The pork went in next and when it was done I removed it from the pan to make room for the veggies. I couldn’t resist trying a piece and it was… delicious! but not hot. So I decided to sample a minuscule morsel of the reserved fried pepper and it was… delicious! but not hot. It had a unique pepper flavor and a lovely smokey essence but was milder than the mildest of jalapenos. Mild enough that I minced the entire thing and threw it right in.

Was this a fluke? Are ghost peppers, like poison dart frogs, only formidable as a result of specific growing conditions that cannot be replicated in captivity? I don’t have all the answers, but what I do have is some fantastic leftover stir-fry and a strong desire to try more products and discover new flavors. The moral of the story is to never fear the unknown, for it could be the greatest thing you’ve ever encountered.

Here’s something to think about before tomorrow morning’s closing bell: what does The Market have to offer that’s new to you?

~Rebecca Wild

The Market Is Open!

Good Morning All Y’all,
The Market is open. This weekend, I’m in Pennsylvania, and I’m surprised how much it reminds me of Arkansas. Everything is green and lush, and hills abound. Even the humidity is here, which makes me wonder why I flew so far North for the same heat. The view from Mount Washington of Downtown Pittsburgh and its rivers actually tops Little Rock’s, sad to say.
I haven’t, however, had a chance to visit a Pennsylvania farmers’ market. I’m always a little curious to see a market in a different region. I imagine that these poor folk are still waiting on their tomatoes, considering how much rain just got dumped here. I was, however, just handed a quart of locally grown sour cherries. Tradeoffs.

What done come up from the earth…

MeatWorks 25# Bulk Ground Beef, for about $5.81 a pound. A good deal for locally raised, pasture fed ground beef!
Meatworks also put up their pasture-raised lamb to the mix, including a sirloin cut.

Chicken from three different farms. Chicken tends to be our more seasonal meat, so I recommend ordering them over the next few weeks.

Sweet Onions galore, from Bussey-Scott, Barnhill, Kornegay, and Armstead. Armstead has two version of sweet onions, a “Candy” and “Pumba” variety. Local, fresh onions tend to be so mild and sweet that you can eat them raw. Another fantastic way to enjoy their superior flavor is a simple roasting, in wedges with olive oil, salt, & pepper.

Fresh Purple Hull Peas from Hardin Farms. No chemical spray yay! These peas are an Arkansas classic and come best prepared with a good hamhock or some local bacon.

When it comes having to so many pepper varieties: Banana, Chile, Cayenne, Bell, Anaheim, Jalapeño, Romanian Sweet, the question is how best to use them. I recommend buying a little variety and hosting a salsa night, with a variety of salsas utilizing your different peppers.

Yellow and Zephyr Squash. Ok, this is an important announcement: I finally found a recipe for yellow squash that I really like. My issue with yellow squash is that its flavor tends to get washed out by its high water content. The trick is to get as much moisture out as possible and let the squash flavor come through. I’ve been toying with a recipe for a Squash Soup, and the one I’ve landed on is so good I’ve added it to our Recipe Page. Check it out! The trick is roasting the squash with onion, thereby cooking the water out before adding it to the soup.

Fresh Raspberries from Ratchford Farms. Only a few this week, so snatch them up! Ratchford is up in the Ozarks near Missouri, where raspberries grow best!

Fresh Melons and Watermelon: Hardin Farms has their infamous melons, and Barnhill has cantaloupe!

Tips and Market Tricks….

For those who choose to pay for their orders with a card: I’d like to offer a little transparency. Despite how its described on the checkout page, we do not immediately charge your card for your order. We use Stripe, an online service, and wait until after Saturday pickup to charge cards. That allows us to make the adjustment we need to, should extras be purchased or items not delivered.

Did you know you can search for items on the market by farm? At the bottom of the left sidebar, there is an option to “Show Specific Growers”. Try it!
The online model makes knowing your growers a little tricky compared to an open-air market, but we encourage you to shop by grower. When you get a particularly fantastic product, note which grower it came from and seek them out next time you order. After a few years of using this market, there are growers that I feel I know well just through their produce. Pay attention to what came from which farm, and don’t forget our Growers Page, a great way to learn more about your farmer.

Sam Hedges

'Tis the Season-

-To Stock Up on Charcoal!

What’s better than a hot, buttery ear of non-GMO corn fresh off the grill in July? How about 65? That’s right; Hardin Farms has bulk bags of sweet corn ready to go! Spend a day grilling, shucking and freezing now to enjoy the taste of summer all year long. With the grill already fired up, why not toss a couple of leg o’ lamb steaks on for dinner? You heard that right: leg of lamb steak. And you thought there was nothing new in meat. This innovative cut of pampered, pastured critter is brought to you by the great minds at Meatworks. Dress a few sliced cucumbers, sweet onions and heirloom tomatoes in something tangy, slice the chilled melon of your choice and you’ve got a classic hot-weather dinner that’ll leave you hoping summer never ends. There’s even fresh mint for your julep available from ANP. Order before The Market closes tomorrow morning or you’ll have to toast their triumphant return with plain old bourbon.

In Other News:

Last call for T-shirts! We’re placing our next order in less than a week. If you’ve already placed a pre-order, expect a confirmation email soon. If not, what are you waiting for? Order through the market or send us an email with your size and color preference. All the cool kids are doing it!

~Rebecca Wild

The Market Is Open

Dearest Friends,
I’m in Tennessee right now, at my alma (to)mater Sewanee. It’s been raining for four days nonstop. The whole mountain is running down its slopes. Surrounded by several thousand acres of forest, the only color I see is green, and it represents a very different type of abundance, in which fungus and rot play equal lead parts as growth and fruiting. Why, oh Why, did I not pack a rain coat?
On this very campus is the Cumberland Farmers’ Market, another online farmers’ market, one of the very first to come after Athen’s Locally Grown, the first. As a student, I never knew that it was here, and the market is amazing, rivaling our market in quantity but set in a rural area. It’s interesting, the way local food here has bridged the well known gap between the elite university and the surrounding rural community. Yet again, good food unites people.

Into the splendor…
Crimmins Family Farm is back with their Lettuces & Cayenne Peppers & Organic Tomatoes, including their delicious Juliet’s, great for sauces.

Sweet Life Apiary just came on with the first of his 2013 Summer honey, from bees visiting our flower beds. They stole your pollen, now take their honey!

Fresh Purple Hull Peas from Hardin Farms, including a half bushel of shelled peas for $22. According to Hardin, these classic Arkansas peas don’t get any chemical sprays, hardy as they are.

Organic Little Leaf AND American Slicer Cucumbers from North Pulaski Farms. Wait. AND Kelly has got his grape tomatoes, which he somewhat politically incorrectly calls “crack tomatoes,” because they are so delicious.

Garlic Stockpile Hour: fresh, local garlic runs a tight season, but it keeps a good while. We’ve got a lot of it right now.

Kornegay Berry Farm has got a BOX of their Bradley tomatoes for $37.50, i.e., $1.50/lb. Nice deal.

MELON MANIA, thanks to Hardin Farms. They’ve got four varieties of melons, most of which I’ve never tried, plus three varieties of watermelon. Melons are a Hardin speciality, and it’s fun to build melon pyramids during pickup, so order away!

OK, and Wow, Meatworks has a whole flock of broiler chickens available at a good price. If you’re interested in a real gourmet chicken, may I suggest Farm Girl’s chickens, which are heritage breeds raised very thoughtfully, with a more complex flavor as a result. Also, Farm Girl’s stew chickens make for unbelievable soups or anything slow cooked. They’re “retired” laying hens, so it’s best to cook them a long time, but the flavor is way behind your average chicken. With age comes beauty.

Is that all? Good gravy.

What our Farmers are saying…

From Deepwoods Farm, a high production farm of heirloom and hybrid tomatoes…
“We are opening up the fields for pick your own!! Bring your own 5 gallon buckets!! Hope to see you here!” We hope to be seeing their tomatoes on our market soon. Contact them via Facebook!
And a charming tidbit from Willow Springs Market Garden :
“It is like I’ve slept for 3 months and when I woke up this morning it feels like September outside.”

See you this weekend!
Sam Hedges