“Cooking that’s sensitive to seasonal changes is a way of staying connected to your particular place in the world.”
From At Home’s Foods by Season — Page 9
This is the first of my summertime Farm Stand series. Each week this summer — time permitting, I will take you along on my trips to area farm stands and help you look at them through my eyes. Each week I will also publish a recipe based upon my visit. These recipes may either accompany the blog about my visit or be posted the following day or so if I feel the blog about the visit is too long.
My goal is to inspire you to visit and support area farmers and to share what you find with friends and family…At Home! If you know of others who might enjoy following me on my travels and collect a summertime’s worth of recipes, I hope you will pass along information about my blog and encourage friends and family to sign up. Who knows? Maybe, in return, you’ll get an invitation to their homes to enjoy a farm stand lunch or dinner?
Note: I am still looking for recommendations for farm stands and farmer’s markets to visit within about 50 miles from Philadelphia. Please share your recommendation via the Comments button at the bottom of the blog.
Maple Acres Farm, Plymouth Meeting
For years my go-to farm stand has been Maple Acres Farm in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania. On occasion I personally handle smaller Frog Commissary events in area homes. These customers give me wide latitude in menu planning so I am able to make for them what I think they would enjoy and I would enjoy making. During the summer this frequently means a trip to Maple Acres where what’s been “just picked” guides my plan. Located on Narcissa Road in Plymouth Meeting, Maple Acres is a working farm just northwest of Philadelphia — and to the best of my knowledge, the closest working farm to the city. It is about five minutes from the Plymouth Meeting Mall.
I last visited Maple Acres in mid-Spring and the cupboards were nearly bare. What a difference a blazingly hot spring makes. Today Maple Acres benches are filled with a mix of home-grown and neighborhood grown produce with the promise of more to come.
In addition to providing wonderful fresh produce, Maple Acres’ wide expanse of fields provides a welcome respite of open space in an area crowded with suburban homes and shopping malls.
My quest was for the unusual variety of eggplant I find each summer at Maple Acres — all manner of color and shape from the traditional plump purple to long and thin green and white to peach-sized orange eggplant. My plan was to do a blog recipe for these grilled eggplant – a summertime staple. Upon arrival I discovered that I was just a bit early for my eggplant. In a few weeks the eggplant will be available along with the sweet and hot peppers I love so much that line an entire bench each year — the mild peppers usually in green baskets and the hot peppers in red. Home-grown produce like zucchini and summer squash occasionally shares space with commercially grown produce — especially prior to July 4th — such as these sweet red and yellow peppers, provided as a convenience to shoppers, while Maple Acres own sweet peppers mature in the neighboring fields under the bright summer sun.
Undaunted by my missing eggplant, I wandered the aisles while I mulled my recipe possibilities. Just then I heard one of the dedicated Maple Acres workers say, with a touch of dismay, that they had more cucumbers than they knew what to do with. Cucumbers trail badly in the glamor vegetable race — lost in the shadow of the tomato, corn and the aforementioned eggplant. An early arriver on the farm stand benches, cucumbers have a lovely flavor and crunch. My farm stand recipe from Maple Acres will be a Cold Cucumber Yogurt Soup with Dill. Look for this recipe tomorrow.
A plastic bag of these quickly blanched green and yellow beans sits in our refrigerator for a healthy and delicious snack. In the middle are broad Romano beans, another favorite. A regular summertime salad of mine is a simple mix of yellow and green beans that I dress with lime juice, olive oil, just the slightest touch of sesame oil, salt and fresh ground black pepper. Also, check out At Home’s simple recipe for Grilled Green Beans on Page 307 – an unusual way to treat beans.
As with most farm stands, Maple Acres supplements what it grows with other locally sourced produce. Here are first of the season Jersey peaches — sweet, juicy and delicious. They were still hard when I bought them, but after two days in a brown paper bag on my kitchen counter, they were ready to eat.
Maple Acres now sells Jersey tomatoes. In a few weeks Maple Acres will offer several varieties of their own tomatoes — including big, fat beefsteak, plum and several heirloom types including a green striped and fuzzy yellow. I am a big fan of fried green tomatoes — available at Frog Burger — and, on request, you might get them to go out and pick a few for you. (See At Home Page 360 for my recipe for Fried Green Tomatoes.) As the season progresses, prices come down and you can often find bargain baskets of over-ripe tomatoes — perfect for gazpacho or making batches of fresh tomato sauce and freezing.
This year a neighbor will be providing baked vegetable tarts. Pop them in the oven to re-fresh and you have the perfect at home lunch or dinner first course.
Over the past several years Maple Acres has greatly expanded its “product line” including meat. They raise their own beef and pork. Sold frozen, I can vouch for how good it is. Use the pork shoulder for my Slow-Roasted Pork Shoulder Infused with Lime, Garlic & Thyme on Page 168. My lunchtime break from writing this blog was two olive-oil fried Maple Acres eggs with diced Jersey tomatoes, fresh basil, salt and pepper. The eggs were still warm when I bought them.
And fresh lamb from a local farm has been added. See At Home’s Grilled Boneless Butterflied Leg of Lamb with Honey & Lemon on Page 196.
In addition to produce, Maple Acres sells flowering plants and big, healthy pots of herbs. Many a year Maple Acres was my source for lavender — the essential ingredient for At Home’s great lavender ice cream — the ice cream I made for Christina the first time I cooked diner for her. See Page 414.
Several fields of flowers supplements meat and produce sales. In addition, Maple Acres has its own line of jarred products such as Tomato Butter and its own ketchup.
A bargain is the “cut your own” 10 for $1.50 zinnias. They provide the scissors and a field of zinnias and you provide the labor. Zinnias make for the perfect summer flower arrangement. If you are a novice flower arranger, check our “Simplified Flower Arranging” on pages 28 and 29 of At Home.
If you prefer, you can purchase cut zinnias along with a beautiful variety of other field-grown flowers including enormous sunflowers.
Beyond the field of zinnias is one of several large fields of corn. Even though my eggplants and the peppers are not quite ready, our hot spring has resulted in fresh corn’s arrival several weeks prior to its traditional July 4th entry.
Corn is picked four times a day. Right now there is white, but as the season moves along you can select from bi-color or white. My preference is for bi-color, part a flavor preference and part a color preference as bi-color looks better in the many fresh corn salads I make over the summer. (Note: Frog Burger at The Franklin Institute sells a wonderful fresh corn and sweet pepper salad.)
So, this is the first of my summer’s worth of farm stand visits. Despite what feels like already unrelenting heat, new crops await at Maple Acres and other area farm stands.
I encourage you to take a trip to Maple Acres Farm, 2656 Narcissa Road, Plymouth Meeting, PA 19426 (610) 828.7395. You can also visit and become a Fan on their Facebook site.
Look for Cold Cucumber-Yogurt Soup with Dill tomorrow.
Buy At Home Today
At Home by Steve Poses: A Caterer’s Guide to Cooking & Entertaining is bursting with farm stand inspired recipes perfect for summertime entertaining. At Home is only available online at Athomebysteveposes.com. Books come with a key code that provides digital access to all of At Home’s contents plus lots of classic recipes from The Frog Commissary Cookbook. You can also click on the Buy the Book button on the At Home blog.
Chestnut Hill Book Festival
I will be appearing at Laurel Hill Gardens on Saturday, July 10th at 2 PM in conjunction with the second annual Chestnut Hill Book Festival. I lived for many years in Chestnut Hill and always looked forward to my many visits to Laurel Hill. Most the herbs from my herb garden came from Laurel Hill along with many years worth of annuals and perennials. So, I am especially pleased to be there. As At Home is not available in book stores, this will be an excellent opportunity to get your signed copy and hear me discuss planting an herb garden. Laurel Hill is located at 8125 Germantown Avenue.
Thank you for visiting.
Your Home Entertaining Coach