Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Crystal Spring Farmers' Market

This farmers’ market sunflower is my first photo with my new Nikon D80 SLR camera. The rest of the shots were taken with my small point-and-shoot Canon Elph SD800, which was a better fit for a bike ride to a local farm. Our panniers were overflowing on the way home with vegetables, scallops, turkey, bread, eggs, goat cheese, flowers and . . . hey, who ate all the brownies?

During the summer and fall, Crystal Spring Farm in Brunswick hosts the farmers’ market on Saturday mornings. It’s a mile and a half outside of town with just one steep hill. I call it family fun, but I think my kids only peddle along for the fresh baked brownies and blueberry bars. A return to blue skies called us to venture out after a boring week of unpacking boxes from our sabbatical in England.

The Brunswick Topsham Land Trust preserves the antebellum farm, all 322 acres of it. The Kroeck family farms organic vegetables and sheep using sustainable methods. The 1860’s farmhouse was recently renovated by volunteers, including my friend Mark Wild. Mark also did a lovely job remodeling our house. He’s great with period details.

Brunswick has many 1920’s homes and some that are older. There has also been a fair bit of suburban development. A few years ago Brunswick passed a Smart Growth Ordinance that protects open spaces while encouraging development in the town growth areas. I spent Election Day gathering signatures at the voting polls and also helped organize support for it.

Brunswick’s protection of rural and wild spaces is part of what makes this town so special. Suburban sprawl is changing the face of Maine like much of America. Brunswick still holds onto its classic New England charm even beneath the surface.

One of my favorite parts of Crystal Spring Farm is the maple-lined drive. The farmers request that visitors stick to the miles of public trails and not enter the farm. There are live electric fences and other hazards. Because it’s a working farm, dogs aren’t allowed except at the market. That’s a big difference from England where dogs are welcome almost everywhere. Dogs, however, can be shot if they trouble the sheep in England.

Crystal Spring farmers’ markets is surprisingly diverse. You can get Chinese food as well as fresh seafood.

Farmers set up tents to sell their produce. The organic competition is fierce. Buckwheat Blossom Farm won’t even use tractors. Go horse power!

The produce varies in presentation too.
Some farmers like things neat and tidy:

Others allow the vegetables to look recently uprooted.
Everything is so fresh.

In past years a trebuchet was reconstructed from medieval diagrams to launch leftover pumpkins at targets for a hunger relief fund-raiser. I set a scene there in my novel S.A.D.. Coming home has brought my words back to life. Even when I’m not writing, I feel like I’m walking through the pages. My plot and characters are fictional, but the story is set in a real place that I know well. It would be hard to improve upon Brunswick and Harpswell.

Bath Municipal Band photo by Angel Franco, NYT

On Tuesdays and Fridays the farmers’ market is at the Brunswick town green, called the mall. The green is the thumping heart of a small town. A brass band that plays in the village greens of Brunswick and Bath was featured in Monday’s New York Times. You can click hear (that’s a pun not a typo!) for the music. Dan Berry’s column focuses on “obscure and well-known corners of the U.S.” Guess I’m not in NYC or Oxford anymore!

How about a feature on obscure but skilled chefs? Here’s what my husband, Henry, crafted on Saturday night from farmers’ market ingredients. Even the kids liked it.


1 lb fresh scallops
1 red pepper chopped

Juice of 1 lime
3-4 tbs soy sauce
1-2 tbs mirin (sweet rice vinegar)
1 tsp grated ginger
Handful of chopped cilantro (coriander)
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp crushed red pepper

Marinate for about an hour, then drain
Heat oil and a few drops of sesame oil in a wok or heavy skillet
Stir-fry, adding fresh chopped red pepper for about 3-4 minutes max.
You can serve over noodles with dipping sauce (below)

Noodles in Dipping Sauce

1 pkt noodles: soba, udon or capellini or whatever

1/2 cup mirin
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 tbs brown sugar
Optional: About 1 tbs grated daikon or radish

Garnishes (All optional)
Grated ginger
Scallions, cut finely on the diagonal
Nori (dried sushi seaweed) cut finely into strips (use scissors)
Shiso leaves, cut fine

Heat sauce ingredients (except daikon) together slowly till simmering.
Cook noodles and put in bowls
Add the daikon to the sauce and ladle some over the noodles
Add garnishes



tina said...

Looks like a lovely day!

Cindy said...

Sarah ~ What a neat place. It's nice to see the farm preserved and in good use. America's farmlands are so quickly disappearing.
That recipe sounds very good. I'll have to get some scallops and give that a try.

Alyson | New England Living said...

Great first shot with your new baby!

I feel the same way about my town. We're very careful about growth here too. The town is great about preserving open land. There is something special about a town that cares to hold onto its charm. Brunswick looks amazing. One of these days, we'll have to take a trip downeast.

Sarah Laurence said...

Tina, the sun is finally back although more rain due tomorrow. I've still managed 3 beach days which was 3 more than I had in England.

Cindy, let me know if the recipe comes out. Henry cooks by feel, but I need a recipe to follow. It also relies on really fresh ingredients.

Alyson, I am enjoying the new camera but so much more to learn. Glad to hear your town is careful with growth too.

Tessa said...

The noodles are a dream, thank you for sharing that Sarah. (My husband fell in love with me all over again after eating them!)

Your sunflower photograph is superb - will you paint it?

LOL about your beach days verses zero in England! We've just come back from a weekend in Norfolk and, yes, the sun shone every single day. Heavenly. The seaside there is so quintessentially English - I felt like one of the Famous Five.

Katarina said...

Must be fun to have a brandnew camera! I guess we'll see many great shots in the near future!
Brownies are tasty, aren't they...I understand completely why your son lides them! Seems like a nice outing.

Sarah Laurence said...

Tessa, great to hear the noodle recipe worked and then some! Have you seen the movie Tampopo? It’s all about the passion for food, very funny.

I usually paint from life, not from photos, but I might make an exception during the long Maine winter. On Tuesday I painted on an island and worked off the rust.

I heard the weather improved AFTER I left England just as it started raining in Maine. You could rent me out to drought blighted countries. Glad you had a storybook vacation.

Katarina, my kids claim that if I hadn’t been so busy taking photos, I could have gotten a share of the brownies.

Jean Merriman said...

The farmers market on the mall is a great market. Crystal Spring may be smaller but I also LOVE it.
Very neat to ride a bike to it with the kiddos. Never tried the brownies but will now have to.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

I do hope you bought tons of those gorgeous flowers! And I can only imagine how lovely those maple trees are in autumn. Lucky girl!

Sarah Laurence said...

Jean, it’s great to have a local commenting. Do add stuff I leave out.

Pamela, I like to have a batch of sunflowers in my kitchen. The walls are painted a paler sunflower yellow for the rest of the year. The fall foliage is amazing here.

Gretel said...

How civilised! I notice that you didn't pick up the Brit trait of calling 'cilantro' 'coriander'. I'm finally starting to realise why New England is called so.

(PS - completely aqree about the coloured 'whites' that some cricket teams wear, hideous. You might say, 'not cricket'.

Eve said...

You don't get any better than that sunflower. It is just like looking at the real thing. I loved all the pictures and sure wish I had a place like that around here. Noodles and dipping sauce sounds so good. Yum!..

Sarah Laurence said...

PG, Americans call the leaves cilantro (the Spanish name) and the seeds coriander whereas most other nations call the entire plant coriander (from Latin.) So much for a common language. Being married to a Brit means I mix things up all the time, so does Henry and our kids. Then again the contrasts, like cricket whites vs. American spandex, are fun.

Welcome, Eve! The photos and the recipes are only as good as the fresh ingredients. I am lucky to live here.

Cosmo said...

Sarah--I just linked to your blog from Tina's, and I just wanted you to know that I am really enjoying it. So you're a Peter Greenaway fan! Your account of the farmer's market was wonderful, and the recipes look delicious (I love cilantro--I think the difference in name is that Americans know it best through Mexican food, the English through Indian). Is the bulkiness of the SLR worth the difference? Anyway, so glad to have found you.

Sarah Laurence said...

Welcome, Cosmo! I am a Peter Greenaway fan. His films are so original and visually stunning. Interesting theory on the Mexican vs. Indian cilantro/coriander connection. In England we missed Mexican food and now in Maine we miss great Indian food.

On digital cameras: I don’t think the bulkiness/cost of a DSLR is worth the difference for most amateur photographers/bloggers. You can get beautiful photos with point-and-shoot cameras. I need the image quality, manual settings and accurate color balance of an SLR to catalogue/archive my paintings. I have used an SLR (Nikon FE2) and darkroom since high school and want to take professional quality photos in the digital world. I’ll continue to use both cameras for my blog as I can bring my small, light Canon Elph anywhere, and it doesn’t make people self-conscious.

Anonymous said...

The noodle dish works very well served cold - make the sauce ahead of time and refrigerate, and make the noodles and cool them by draining in running cold water. (or you can plunge them into iced water). Great for hot, humid days like you get in Japan at this time.

you can also combine the noodle dipping sauce with chicken or vegetable broth to make a soup - use about 1 part sauce to 4 or 5 parts broth. Use it to cook onions, carrots, cabbage or bok choi, chicken, shrimp, etc, and add cooked noodles at the end.

Anonymous said...

your comment about cilantro/coriander reminds me of the song my daughter and I made up as we struggled with transatlantic translation:

You say to-MAY-to
I say to-MAH-to
You say po-TAY-to
And I also say pot-TAY-to
What sort of idiot says po-TAH-to?


Rose said...

This looks like a wonderful way to spend a Saturday morning, Sarah. The photos and description of the town remind me of a Norman Rockwell painting. (And I do mean that as a compliment.)
I am glad that places like this are trying to curb suburban sprawl. As someone who's lived on a farm most of my life, I just hate to see so much land bought up by developers for more treeless suburbs.

Sarah Laurence said...

Henry (noodle-guy) you always make me laugh.

Rose, Maine does indeed have a Norman Rockwell element, from times when towns had individual character.

walk2write said...

Husbands who cook and even those who attempt to do it are worth their weight in gold, maybe even priceless! Your sunflower photo is so lifelike, it would make a bird want to feast on it. Thanks for sharing your market bounty with us.

TBM said...

Swoon! That recipe looks delicious and I am going to make it this week.

Your photos are beautiful as usual. It looks like you are finding many things to appreciate back home. Thanks for sharing it with us!

Sarah Laurence said...

w2w, Henry’s a keeper!

JAPRA, enjoy and note Henry’s comment above on how to prepare the noodles cold on a hot summer day. It is great to be home although I do miss England too.

Bee said...

Having just read through the comments, I find myself wanting to join the discussion on cilantro, noodles, and Norman Rockwell. (On the latter, I got to visit his museum/studio in Stockbridge, MA when I was in the U.S. On the former, I never think that English "coriander" is as pungent and zesty as the "cilantro" I got in Texas. On noodles: I can't wait to try Henry's recipe -- in all of its guises.)

On this post: delicious!

How long into the fall/autumn do they manage to keep the market going? Is pumpkin season the last hurrah?

BTW, does Henry have any good recipes for marrow? I came home to find that all of my nice zucchini/courgettes had turned into big, fat marrow!

Elizabeth said...

I have just been looking back at some of your previous Oxford posts.
I loved the words not to be used in book reviews
compelling etc etc.
The English are awfully good at preventing one from doing anything.
As in the prize for the most mawkish sex scene.All sex scenes are mawkish. No one will ever write one again.........
One gets quite frozen by being picked at and pecked at.
Americans, on the whole, are far more generous.

Sarah Laurence said...

Bee, Maine’s cilantro is too mild but it’s still my favorite herb. I’ll have to try the Texas variety. The farmer’s market makes it through pumpkins and ordering Thanksgiving turkeys but then closes up. It’s at it’s best now. The growing season in Maine is short. Henry says Brits would make marrow chutney.

Elizabeth, those banned review words originally came from Paper Cuts, a New York Times blog. Check the comments below that post (Oxford Literary Festival 4/08) for the link. So you don’t think writers want to win the mawkish sex prize? I find British satire amusing, but I can see how it would sting personally. I’ve heard plenty of critical Americans, only they aren’t as funny. Actually New Yorker film critic Anthony Lane is, but I think he lives in England. Humor certainly defines a culture. It’s interesting that you think criticism does too.

Anonymous said...

Help! Can anyone tell me how to reach the person i bought the awesome berry pie from at Crystal spring farm market around Thanksgiving??? I need one for Easter!!! Thank you!