Saturdays mean lots of things… No alarm clock (except during swim team season…), real breakfast, lazy pajama lounging, and for several months from early spring through mid fall, Saturdays mean the Warrenton Farmer’s Market is open. I used to love taking my son when he was still little enough to sneak fruit straight from vendors’ tables without getting chased after. The vendors would just smile at his chubby cheeked cuteness and offer him something else. I would politely thank them and make a mental note to give him the no stealing talk later… But really, this is just one example of why local markets are so special-they are personal and friendly. These farmers, bakers, and growers are proud of their offerings, and if you went to their farms or homes they would offer you a taste, so of course they do the same at the market.
This year summer flew by, and I didn’t get to the market as often as I have in previous years, but last week my daughter and I made a trip, and all of my warm fuzzy feelings came rushing back. The first thing I noticed was how much it had grown! New vendors and farms that I had never seen before, there was a young man playing a violin at one of the market’s entrances, tables overflowing with vibrantly colored ripe fruits and vegetables, local eggs, jams, honeys, freshly baked pies, cakes and cookies. I felt inspired and really lucky to be there.
I had the pleasure of meeting Caroline Mello (the actual Caroline!) of Caroline’s Specialty Foods at Waterford Run Farm and Forge. She specializes in lots of jams. With so many amazing and creative flavor combinations it was hard to pick, but lucky for me, all of her flavors were available for sampling. After tasting a few, I decided on Black Velvet Apricot and Vanilla Bean Jam, and Tomato and Saffron Jam. She also had a selection of home baked items and homemade body products, such as beeswax lip balms and natural body creams. You can find her at the Warrenton Market Saturdays from 7-12, and she also sets up at the Green Barns Market in the Plains, VA on Sundays from 10-3.
As for my jams… Caroline recommended pairing the Tomato and Saffron Jam with blue cheese, but sadly I didn’t have any. I did have Brie though, and it was a delicious match for the sweet, exotic flavors in the jam. I can’t wait to try it with blue cheese; it’s on my list.
The Black Velvet Apricot and Vanilla Bean Jam tastes as wonderful as it sounds. Sweet and tart, with that familiar hint of vanilla-I had it on warm toast with lots of butter. It didn’t take long for my kids to catch on, and they had it a few times this week on their bagels. Our supply is rapidly dwindling. Thank goodness tomorrow is Saturday.
Set up next to Caroline’s was Oak Shade Farm’s stand, where I met Caroline’s charming cousin, Stephen Day. He works with his grandparents, Jim and Sally Mello, who own and operate Oak Shade Farm in Rixeyville, Va. Stephen raises chickens and helps his grandfather keep bees on the farm. At the market, they offer local honey (check out the baby bear in the photo below. My daughter wanted it so badly, and I was the mean mama who said no… but I’ve been thinking about that cute little bear all week!), organic eggs, and a selection of organic produce such as potatoes (which I bought, and will share my recipe soon!), and some amazing shiitake mushrooms. I learned that the farm primarily functions as a Christmas tree farm, and shortly after the farmer’s markets close in mid-November, they open for business the day after Thanksgiving. A wonderful place for families, they offer nature walks, bunnies for children (and grown-ups!) to play with, cookies and hot cider in the greenhouse, where you can also find Caroline’s goodies for sale when you run out! Visit http://www.oakshadefarm.net for more info.
For more info on the markets mentioned, visit: