Amidst fireworks and barbecue, the 4th of July holiday weekend afforded a much-needed day off from work. While we’re still far from settled in our new home, I took some time to explore the new stomping grounds. Armed with my new local food bible from the Montgomery County Cooperative Extension, I set out in the late-morning heat on Monday. After turning into a Philly’s Farmers’ Market groupie and divulging my pledge to diversify, I craved options to acquire fresh, local produce outside of the Landisdale CSA. As it turns out, options abound.
I discovered two roadside farm stands within a stone’s throw of each other:
Sunrise Sunflower Farm was my first stop. The small, wooden farm stand popped with sunflowers and red tomatoes, unattended while bodies worked in the fields. I pulled into the driveway and took inventory of the saleable items. Besides tomatoes and sunflowers, zucchini and blueberries rounded out the small but bright harvest. I noticed a lock box with a small opening; recognizing this as their cash register, I slipped $3 into the box and walked back to my car with a pint of fresh blueberries.
As I opened my car door, Bob drove up on a green John Deere tractor, sporting a John Deere hat to shade the strong July sun. We exchanged friendly hellos and he thanked me for my patronage. I held up my blueberries and thanked him back, letting him know I just moved to the area. He informed me that corn and peaches were next to come in — and I assured him I’d be back soon.
My second stop wasn’t quite as productive as the first. Less than 1000 feet from Sunrise Sunflower Farm is Freed’s Produce, which has U-pick pumpkins and U-pick flowers according to the Extension’s Agricultural Products Guide. I pulled up right to the farm stand as a couple walked empty-handed back to their car. As I walked up to the stand, I understood why. It was pretty well picked over with the exception of zucchini. I noticed the lock box cashier again — it seems the honor system is a necessary practice for small farms where labor is focused on growing, cultivating and sustaining, particularly in the busy summer months. I also wondered if 11am was too late to get the best pick of the produce?
With zucchini abundant not only at local farm stands but in my CSA, I found a sweet use for this nutritious summer squash over the weekend. The recipe is from Animal Vegetable Miracle, a book I read last winter that pretty much launched my passion and interest for local, healthful foods (as well as Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma). In the spirit of my complete adoration for this book, I did not change a single ingredient (although I did save a handful of chocolate chips from the 12 oz bag for snacking). The mix of whole wheat and all-purpose flours helps tip these cookies toward the healthier side of baked goods, and there’s a subtle spice thanks to the nutmeg and cinnamon. The zucchini adds moisture and texture; and is ‘hidden’ enough to fool the most fervent vegetable hater. Proof? J gave it a “not bad!” and had to taste another one to be sure.
Zucchini Chocolate Chip Cookies
Recipe from Animal Vegetable Miracle
Makes about two dozen
- 1 egg, beaten
- ½ cup butter, softened
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 1/3 cup honey
- 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
- 1 cup white flour
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ¼ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp nutmeg
- 1 cup finely shredded zucchini
- 12 oz chocolate chips
- Combine first 5 ingredients in large bowl.
- Combine flours, baking soda, salt and spices in another large bowl (dry ingredients).
- Fold zucchini and chocolate chips into liquid mixture. Add dry ingredients into mixture and stir well to combine.
- Drop by spoonful onto greased baking sheet, and flatten with the back of a spoon.
- Bake at 350°, 10 to 15 minutes.