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.
HENRY'S CILANTRO AND LIME SCALLOPS RECIPE:
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)
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