A sweet tribute to winter is the hallmark of spring's first farmers markets.
Produce vendors in March stock their stalls with the last overwintered crops, their natural sugars concentrated from exposure to cold. Among cold-conditioned vegetables available at Rogue Valley Growers and Crafters Market, cabbages will have their smaller cousins, Brussels sprouts, for company.
"They're, like, prime-ready now," says Josh Cohen, co-owner of Barking Moon Farm. "People love 'em; people, like, freak out."
Brussels sprouts are just one commodity in a wider-than-usual selection of produce that Barking Moon plans to bring to the market's Ashland session. Extending its growing season, the Applegate farm operated a community-supported agriculture program for 80 families over the past few months. Shares included the pantheon of root vegetables, cold-hardy field greens and some brassicas, such as cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and Brussels sprouts.
"We grew a lot this year," says Cohen.
For the next few weeks, market customers can benefit from the certified-organic CSA surplus. While many local farmers have root vegetables, greens and cabbage, not many grow Brussels sprouts, says Cohen.
"They'll probably go quick."
Savvy shoppers know that late winter is the prime time to enjoy Brussels sprouts, which withstand freezing temperatures and actually mellow in flavor during a chill. Sprouts grown in hot weather often have the bitter taste typically associated with the vegetable.
Treating Brussels sprouts like the miniature cabbages that they are — shredding them and dressing them with an acidic ingredient such as lemon juice or vinegar — also blunts any harsh flavor. Going one step further, Cleo restaurant in Hollywood, Calif., deep-fries the leaves, then tosses them with a tangy vinaigrette, capers and toasted almonds.
Cohen says some of his CSA members swear by the roasted sprouts as a pizza topping. A similar concept, the recipe for Gruyere and Brussels Sprouts Tart caramelizes and sweetens the sprouts' outer leaves. Swiss-type cheese adds an essential salty element.
Barking Moon Brussels sprouts likely will be priced, loose, between $8 and $9 per pound, says Cohen. Whistling Duck Farm of Applegate also may have some sprouts to sell with its array of overwintered produce.
Between 40 and 50 vendors are expected at the Ashland market, says manager Mary Ellen DeLuca. Medford markets likely will start with 35 to 40, depending on weather, she says.
Reach Food Editor Sarah Lemon at 541-776-4487 or email email@example.com.