By Doug Walton
Fresh at the Market
As the generous springtime weather begins giving way to summer, we’re starting to see more and more warm season crops on the growers’ tables at the Muskogee Farmers Market.
Yellow squash and green zucchini are two staple summertime foods now available from most of the farmers and market gardeners who set up in front of the Muskogee Civic Center from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Wednesdays, and 8 a.m. to noon on Saturdays.
Belonging to the cucurbit family of plants, summer squash and zucchini both come in a variety of shapes and shades and are suitable for an even wider assortment of uses, from raw relish trays to salads or quickly cooked side dishes, and also as supporting actors or even leading roles in main entrees.
Besides sharing the common nutritional benefits of most veggies — low fat, calories and sodium, while high in fiber and many nutrients — summer squash and zucchini are particularly loaded with vitamin C, a known antioxidant which can help fight inflammatory conditions, cancer and heart disease.
In addition to the squashes, growers are continuing to bring an assortment of locally grown produce such as sugar snap and snow peas, asparagus, green beans, new potatoes, green tomatoes, radishes, beets, turnips, green onions, baby bulb onions and green garlic, lettuce, strawberries, baby carrots, broccoli, cilantro, spinach, collards, swiss chard, kale, mustards, micro greens, fresh-cut herbs and more.
Producers will also bring various cuts of frozen grass-fed Dexter beef, bedding plants, hanging baskets, fresh cut-flower bouquets, potted herbs and vegetable transplants including tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash and more.
Other food items expected at the market include a wide variety of ready-to-eat lunch and breakfast items for enjoying on location or taking on the fly. A few items include yogurt parfaits, tamales, burritos, hot dogs and links with grilled veggies, salads, hot and cold sandwiches and more.
Vendors will also have handmade crafts, candles, soaps, natural body care products, pet treats and more. Not all produce or other products listed are available on Wednesdays.
Today at the market, EODD, the Muskogee Area Aging Agency will sign up eligible participants for the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program. This food assistance program funded by the USDA and OK-DHS provides a $30 debit card to low-income seniors for purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables at the market. EODD staff will accept applications from 9 a.m. until all openings are filled.
From 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on most Wednesdays, OSU Nutrition Educator Michelle Carter-Brown will be at the market fixing simple, affordable and healthy meal and snack ideas with free samples and recipes, featuring items fresh from the market. Demonstrations at today’s market will feature recipes using summer squash and zucchini.
SNAP benefits (food stamps) are accepted at the farmers’ market. Customers wishing to purchase eligible foods with their Oklahoma Access card can visit the farmers’ market tent, swipe their card in exchange for tokens, and shop with vendors offering eligible items, which also include food-bearing plants.
On most Saturdays, B.J. Charbonneau of the Muskogee Swim and Fitness Center will teach free Tai Chi classes near the band-shell and lawn area next to the market at about 10 a.m., weather permitting.
Information: Doug Walton, (918) 360-2012, or email doug.ewalton@gmail .com.
Sweet Italian Sausage w/ Zucchini & Tomatoes
24 ounces Italian sausage, cut into bite size pieces
1/4 cup olive oil
4 - 6 large garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoon fresh oregano, minced
1 pound (1 medium) zucchini cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3/4 pound tomatoes, chopped bite size
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Sauté sausage without casing in large skillet. Remove from pan when no longer pink. Heat oil in skillet and sauté garlic and oregano, stirring 30 seconds. Add zucchini, cook for 3 -5 minutes, then add tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper. Add meat back to pan and combine with vegetables. Continue cooking for 3 minutes or until flavors have blended. Serve immediately with brown rice or whole wheat couscous on a large platter or bowl.