by Michael Sarko
- The Capitol Hill Times -
Capitol Hill loves its farmers market. Since 2004, vendors of fresh meat and produce, handcrafted goods, and even information about current causes, have lined up on Sundays along the stretch of Broadway in front of Seattle Central Community College. This year, the market extended its stay into the winter for the first time. The Capitol Hill Times paid another visit to the market last Sunday to see how the year-round vendors have been faring in the cold months.
A number of the sights, sounds and smells associated with the Broadway market are absent in the winter. Rows of jewel-colored berries, fresh flowers and lively greens are the stars of spring and summer, but heartier goods take center stage in the sparser November-March lineup. This is especially true of canned, preserved and otherwise durable goods. A number of the most promising newcomers to the market set down their tent posts for the first time this winter, hopefully impressing loyal market-goers enough to turn fresh faces into fixtures come spring.
“I honestly didn’t think anyone would come,” says Naomi of new sauce-maker Seven Red Tagines. She debuted at the market recently, introducing the neighborhood to her and her husband’s homemade sauce bases at a time that they assumed would be quiet. “First it was the Super Bowl, and then last week it was all that snow. People came out anyway. There are regulars and they really love the market.”
The Seven Red Tagines display is simple, but the taste is what leads. Their pepper sauce packs a punch and retains the distinct bloom of fresh peppers. The brightest offering, though, is their basil sauce. It’s especially nice to have access to such a full basil flavor when we’re months away from the fresh crop.
Another new vendor, Ellenos Yogurt, produces Greek-style yogurt just a couple of miles away in Georgetown. They use nothing but milk, honey, and natural cultures according to recipes that haven’t changed in thousands of years. The result is a clean, creamy yogurt that takes to fruit wonderfully. Ellenos is already a hit at Pike Place, and the Broadway booth will be especially welcome when the weather warms up.
Spring will also bring a long-overdue addition to organic egg vendor Early Bird. Rawley Johnson sets up on the north end of the market with his week’s supply of fresh eggs produced by what may be the happiest chickens on the planet. They live on a diet of non-corn, non-soy feed, fresh grass and the bugs around it, moving from patch to patch in mobile coops that up the free-range ante. When the frost finally says goodbye for the year, Johnson has plans for fresh vegetables on his Tacoma-area farm.
“It was a tough winter. A lot of the fresh produce folks had to deal with frost that took the crops,” he said. Hopefully, western Washington will see a typically verdant planting season for the regional ground veggies, tree fruits, berries, greens, and nuts that make neighborhood farmers’ markets so attractive.
For now, winter fare will sustain the Broadway market. Melt, the mac-and-cheese vendor, is in its prime when the body craves their kind of warm comfort food.
“This is definitely mac-and-cheese weather,” said Sammy, who brought her family’s love of the definitive dish to Seattle in 2012. They’re banking on seasonal variations like the Winter Harvest blend, full of the kinds of veggies that do well in frosty weather. They also have a classic Kugel recipe from Sammy’s grandmother that’s reminiscent of rice pudding.
At the jutting “L” portion of the market, Dale Woodring manages his selection of pickles, jellies and sweet sauces as he has at Seattle-area farmers markets for the past 20 years. He was one of several local food producers featured in the recent season of “Top Chef,” and the rose petal jelly he showed off on TV is as good as ever. Woodring also indicated that he’s about to return to a long-lost love: candies. This spring or summer, market-goers can look forward to handcrafted chocolates at the Woodring’s booth, along with some crispy, half-sour pickles that are priming in a barrel at this very moment.
“Having an indoor or covered space would be fantastic,” Woodring says of the possibilities in the public/private plaza planned for the Capitol Hill light rail station. Neighbors and community groups have been fighting for a guaranteed home for the market at the plaza, but there is currently no requirement for market space in the Sound Transit plans for the area. Woodring mentioned the success of indoor markets that he recently saw in Canada, and believes that a similar space would be a cultural and economic boon to Capitol Hill.
The Broadway Farmers’ Market will continue to vend every Sunday for the foreseeable future. Expect the spread to get more colorful come April when the first greens come into season.