The season is winding down but all the farmers are still coming to the market so I still have farms to visit. Unlike many local farmers markets, the City Market is a year round farmers market, so many of the vendors are replanting in order to lengthen their season. Many crops do very well in the late summer early fall, such as broccoli, turnips and kale.
Today I am not traveling very far, just over the state line into KCKS. The City Market has many vendors living in this area who farm in their back yards, but their yards can be 1 to 10 acres or more. I was so surprised when I first started visiting this area to see how much land they have. I got a late start today; I had to catch up on my filing, emails and phone calls but since I will be at the first farm in 15 minutes, this was not a big deal.
I am sure many of you would never realize when you are driving west on I 70, right before 78th street, that they was acres of farm land just over the hill. There is a plot of land which is divided out and rented to some of the Markets farmers. It is a little tricky when I visit because I am not always sure which plot belongs to whom; they really need to post their name someplace. As I got out of the truck I startled a group of wild turkeys (about 10), I am not sure who moved faster, them or me, since I did not see them before I climbed out of the truck. I walked around the various farm plots for about 45 minutes; there was no one around but me and the turkeys, very relaxing. The vendors farming this area and selling at the City Market are, Amy Lo, Pheng Her, Chava Xiong and a new vendor Youa Vang. The produce growing in each plot is similar and has fared much better than in years past. This area does not have access to water so must be hauled in and stored in large containers. Hoses are attached to these containers and work much like a rain barrel. The area was peppered with zinnias, ornamental millet, gomphrena and celosia. They are still harvesting okra, kale, Thai peppers, lemon grass, rice, eggplant, garlic, tomatoes, and have replanted broccoli, lettuce and beans.
Only a few minutes down the road and I arrive at Vanna Her’s. Vanna farms 10 acres with the help of her family. The farm provides food for all and enough to sell at the market. Vanna has increased the area she is farming since I visited last so I was happy that she was at home when I arrived to show me around. I got so tickled when Vanna showed me the patch of winter melons, she told me that she told her grandson that they were dinosaur eggs, he is eight so totally believed her plus they look like they could be. Apparently they are not very flavorful but make a wonderful tea used for curing the flu. Vanna grows rice every year but for the past two years it has been so dry that it has not produced very well. She also grows luffa, like the sponge, which is known as Vietnamese gourd or Chinese okra and is part of the cucumber family. Vanna likes it fried, sautéed or in soup. She also raises sugarcane, pole beans, lettuce, bitter melon, lemon grass, pumpkins and sweet potatoes. Vanna is a waiting list vendor who sells at the Market on Saturdays but her location changes weekly.
My last stop for today is at a farm that is worked by three brothers, Cha Vang, Yee Vang and Choua Lor. All three brothers have been vendors at the City Market for more than ten years. They also have enlarged their fields over the past few years. I always like visiting their farm; it reminds me of a patchwork quilt. It sits down in a valley and is made up of square plots, each a different color and shape and texture, it is just beautiful. I walk down each worn path seeing some familiar items and a few things I had no idea what they were. Luckily I came across Yee in the far corner of the farm. Yee pointed out what section of the farm was his and what belong to his brothers. One of the items I was unfamiliar with was water spinach or sometimes known as swap spinach. It gets its name because it can be cultivated both in water and on dry land. Another unfamiliar item was bitter eggplant, instead of being elongated it was small and round. Choua Lor is in pavilion 3 stalls 122 & 121 on Saturday and Pavilion 2, stalls 79 & 80 on Sunday. Cha Vang is in pavilion 3 stalls 123 & 124 on Saturday and Pavilion 2, stalls 75 & 81 on Sunday. Yee Vang is in pavilion 2 stalls 66 & 67 on Saturday and Pavilion 2, stall 76 on Sunday.
Not sure where I will head on Thursday, I still have quit a few farms to visit yet this year.
Lemon Grass Chicken Soup
2# skinless chicken legs
4 lemongrass stalks
4 green onions, halved crosswise
1 onion, halved
1” piece ginger, 1/2 thinly sliced, 1/2 cut into thin strips
1 fresh Thai or Serrano chili seeded
1 tsp black peppercorns
10 cups water
5 stems fresh cilantro, plus 1/3 cups leaves
3 stems fresh mint, plus 1/4 cup thinly sliced leaves
1 T. reduced sodium soy sauce
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1. Place chicken, lemon grass, green onion, onion, sliced ginger, chili, peppercorn and water in large pot. Cover, bring to simmer. Gently simmer 1 hour.
2. Add cilantro and mint stems; simmer 15 minutes; strain. Reserve broth and chicken; discard remaining solids.
3. Shred chicken meat; discard bones. Refrigerate broth and chicken separately for 4 hours or overnight.
4. Skim fat from broth and reheat.
5. Combine chicken, thin ginger strips, cilantro leaves, thin mint strips, and mushrooms in a bowl.
6.Divide broth among bowls, and serve with chicken mixture on the side.