Multi-sensory Market Discoveries [Shishito Shitake Shakedown]

Shopping at a farmers market awakens the senses and makes us realize that the exotic is not so far away. It’s a multi-sensory activity where we learn about, interact with, and become part of our surroundings. This week, we discovered that our favorite restaurant treat is available through a few of our farmers: Shishito Peppers!

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Shishito peppers are said to have originated in Eastern Asia. They are part of the Capsicum species, along with bell peppers and cayenne peppers. These crops generally do great in dry, hot climates and get more flavorful with more sun exposure. Lucky us – we’ve got plenty of that! Recently, shishito peppers have gained popularity and can be found usually as a finger-food appetizer at trendy restaurants. We found ours at Al Hamka Family Farm.

Shishito peppers vary greatly between crops – on the same vine, one may be sweet and mild while the one next to it is savory and spicy. That’s what makes them addictive! One local restaurant named them “Russian Roulette Peppers” because you never know what you’ll get, and if you’re into surprises, you’ll be digging for the hottest in the bowl.

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Since they’re so easy to prepare, why not try them at home? Maybe even on the grill! If you’re extra DIY, a lemon aioli is easily prepared in a blender – add a little smokiness or zing with paprika or apple cider vinegar.

To start our shishito dinner, we first reached for an ice-cold beer. Then, we threw our peppers in a grill basket with some lime juice and zest, garlic, soy sauce, black pepper, and canola oil to coat. We used a microplane for the lime zest and the garlic. They cooked on high heat for about 10 minutes, tossing every four minutes or so to ensure an even char. Next time, we intend to take the char even further than this go-around. Having too many peppers and not enough surface area makes for overcooked peppers without much texture – though never lacking in flavor. A nice blended salsa or sauce could be made with these if they do seem overcooked!

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We paired our shishitos with some shitake mushrooms from Southwest Mushrooms and some frozen potstickers. It made for a great weeknight meal that breaks up the monotony of salads, pastas, and meat-centric roasts. Each bite was definitely spicy! Dinner became a competition of how much heat we could handle…so it was nice to get the occasional mild pepper. Leftovers will go into brown rice with a drizzle of Saucy Lips Pineapple Thai sauce for take-along lunches.

Get inspired next time you’re at the Open Air Market by looking out for produce you don’t see year-round. A long, skinny pepper available by the handful? Ask the farmer what they usually do with it, where it comes from, why it thrives in our climate.

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Multi-sensory Market Discoveries [Lemon Verbena]

Shopping at a farmers market is nothing like shopping at a grocery store. It’s a multi-sensory activity where we learn about, interact with, and become part of our surroundings. This week, we discovered a new-to-us herb: Lemon Verbena!

During the last hour of the market, we happened upon Lemon Verbena at Maya’s Farm. We sniffed at the leaves wondering what it was, though the lemony aspect of it was very obvious. It smelled a little more floral than other herbs at the table, though everything at this booth toes the line between flower, herb, and vegetable.

Maya herself convinced us to take it home and experiment! She told us to make a tea with it by simply adding it to just-boiled water (being sure to take it off the heat once we put the leaves in). Lemon Verbena can also be used in salads, with fish and chicken, and whatever else lemon would otherwise be great with. We grabbed a couple bunches of it along with some of the robust rosemary next to it, and flaunted its beautiful smell to friends we bumped into on the way out of the aisle.

Little did we know…Lemon Verbena is highly medicinal! In its thin and bright green leaves, there is a high concentrate of antioxidant compounds, anti-inflammatory, and anti-spasmodic properties. It even moderates appetite and is a great anti-stress agent.

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The tea was refreshing and floral! We ended up specifically craving it over ice at the end of a long, hot day. But it also just made the house smell amazing! Adding a sprig of rosemary was a good move, giving the tea a bit of nuance and a savory touch. Mint would be a natural addition, too. Having a jar of concentrated Lemon Verbena tea is sure to improve Summer. Next, maybe roasted halibut with asparagus–that would go great with Lemon Verbena!
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Multi-sensory discoveries can be made all over the market. Get the most out of the Open Air Market by opening your senses–smell what you see and listen to what you can feel. Ask a farmer or a fellow shopper about their experience, inquire about the story behind a handmade good and truly connect with your local commerce.
Be sure to share your findings with us and the market community on Instagram and Facebook with #lettucemeatdowntown!

Fun Fig Facts

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We love so many things about figs including enjoying them fresh, dicing them into oatmeal, topping pizzas with them and slicing them with savory cheese. But we also love these

Top Ten Fun Facts About Figs

1. Figs are actually a flower and not a fruit.
2. In ancient Greece, figs were regarded with such esteem that laws were created forbidding the export of the best quality figs.
3. Fig trees have no blossoms on their branches.
4. Fig puree can be used to replace fat in baked goods.
5. Fossil records date figs back to between 9400-9200 B.C.
6. Figs are harvested according to nature’s clock, fully ripened and partially dried on the tree.
7. Figs are high in fiber and a great source of potassium. They’re also rich in nutrients like vitamin K.
8. They’re considered a part of the mulberry family.
9. Figs made their first commercial US product appearance with the introduction of Fig Newtons cookies in 1892.
10. Figs are known as the “fruit of the gods”.

Prepare for Citrusocolypse

It’s every Arizonan’s duty to be able to recite the 5 C’s like the ABC’s: Cotton, Copper, Cattle, Climate, and CITRUS!

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In the early years of Arizona’s history, citrus was a major player in the fate of Arizona’s economy. Citrus was brought over to the Southwest in the 18th century by Spanish settlers. As grapefruit in particular gained popularity during the 1930s, more than 1 million crates of grapefruits were produced by our state in the year of 1935.

The industry flocked to Arizona, landing mainly in the Arcadia and Mesa areas, where many groves are landmarks for historic neighborhoods. The sprawl of these neighborhoods and urban areas in general encroaching on farmland is largely why orchards declined heavily in the 1990s.

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Our warm and sunny climate creates a perfect incubator for sweet, juicy citrus of many varieties. Today, shoppers at Phoenix Public Market can find tangelos, kumquats, ruby reds, and so much more in overwhelming abundance at every grower’s stand. The ubiquity of citrus in our Phoenician lives can make the fruit mundane and cumbersome, but there are plenty of ways to enjoy it and reap the nutritional benefits–it’s time to get creative!

Read on for 4 ways get excited about our prolonged and plentiful citrus season…

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The Benefits of Butternut

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As cooler temperatures roll in, we’re getting excited for a whole new season of fresh produce for fall and winter.  Butternut Squash is a favorite winter squash variety to cook with because of it’s slightly sweet flavors and creaminess.  Chop and roast for an easy side dish or simmer for soup, but we challenge you to think outside the box and add this colorful veggie into a variety of meals.  This season cook up everything from creamy risotto to crispy fries.  Tag us in your favorite recipes @phxpublicmarket

Low in fat, butternut squash delivers an ample dose of dietary fiber, making it an exceptionally heart-friendly choice. It provides significant amounts of potassium, important for bone health, and vitamin B6, essential for the proper functioning of both the nervous and immune systems.

Discover more reasons to eat this super food online here.

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This week’s Taste of the Market, C-CAP Arizona and 9 Degrees North Catering chefs will show us how to select, prepare and store squash.  Learn how to make creamy Butternut Squash Pasta Sauce and pick up ingredients like handmade pasta from Decio Pasta, mix in extra veggies and power up the protein by adding your favorite meat.

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What’s In Season: Late Summer

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As August winds down and we move into September, farmers are busy cleaning up their fields and preparing to plant fall crops.  September finds us in transition between summer produce and waiting for cooler weather fall vegetables.

So what can you anticipate to find at the Market in late summer? 

September is a peak for many crops right here in the Valley such as chiles, okra and summer squash.   In addition, areas outside of the Valley are coming into high season.  You will see apples, tomatoes, corn, melons and peaches coming to us from areas like Prescott, Flagstaff and Wilcox area.

Apples
Arugula
Basil
Black-eyed peas
Chard
Chiles
Corn
Cucumbers
Eggplant
Figs (late crop)
Green Beans
Herbs
Melons
Okra
Peaches
Peppers
Potatoes
Pumpkins
Summer Squash (and blossoms)
Tomatoes
Winter Squash (Spaghetti, Acorn, Butternut)
Zucchini