The Westport Farmers Market was a real hot spot last Saturday morning despite the chilly temperatures as shoppers checked out the unexpectedly large inventory of fresh produce available during winter.
Housed in Gilberties Greenhouse at 7 Sylvan Lane, the winter market -- held Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. -- features about two dozen vendors, featuring baked goods, vegetables, hot soup and cheese. Many of the food items come straight from farms and other local businesses. The local farm market relocates to the greenhouse for the winter season from its summer quarters at the Imperial Avenue commuter lot.
Max Johnson, of Two Guys From Woodbridge, offered a host of healthy looking fresh greens Saturday. His produce included Butterhead and Mesclun lettuce, pea shoots, basil, watercress and baby kale.
Johnson's business is a year-round hydroponic greenhouse operation. "All year we can grow lettuces, micro greens, sprouts and mushrooms," he said. "There's a misconception that hydroponics have less flavor, but it's all dependant on the grower. I find the flavor is fantastic -- on par with, if not better than, what you find in the soil."
At a table next to him, Lynne Butcher, of Beltane Farm in the eastern Connecticut town of Lebanon, was sampling and selling goat-derived products. "We are currently carrying fresh chevre cheese including plain, dill, chive, herbs de Provence and baccio di capra," she said. "We also have yogurt, eggs and milk, all fresh. Beltane is a goat farm with over 50 goats.
"We say happy goats make wonderful products -- the owner Paul Trubey takes very good care of the animals."
Simon Ziegler, of Riverbank Farm in Roxbury, confessed that the only organic fresh vegetable he had to offer was baby kale. However, he had a plethora of stored potatoes, beets, carrots, celery root and garlic. "We also have a commercial kitchen in which we preserve our fresh summer vegetables so we can sell them throughout the winter. That includes applesauce, pickles, peppers and tomatoes."
Patti Popp, owner of Easton's Sport Hill Farm, said that all the vegetables she was offering at the market were fresh, including scallions, cabbage, winter squash, carrots, kale and potatoes. "The kale, and also collards, are coming right out of the field," she said. "Our other vegetables are grown in our greenhouse. We also have fresh eggs -- our chickens never slow down all year."
Of course, what's a nice plate of fresh vegetables without some fresh bread on the side?
Enter Matt Oricchio, from SoNo Baking Co. "Everything is made fresh daily, including a selection of morning pastries, multigrain and cinnamon raisin breads, granola, baguettes, quiche and tomato tarts."
Deborah Sims, both a shopper and vendor, said she loves to buy from local businesses and farmers and the opportunity to buy fresh food. "You know what you're getting, and most is organic," she said.
"The winter market has a different variety of fresh vegetables. It's a little smaller as there are more root vegetables, like kale and potatoes. But they haven't been put on a truck and shipped halfway across the country, so they taste absolutely delicious."
For more details about the Westport Winter Farmers Market, check: http://westportfarmersmarket.com