This weekend I ventured out of northern Virginia to experience the Amish market in Charlotte Hall, Maryland. After bringing a remarkable amount of produce home, I made ratatouille. Read here about my experience at the market, or scroll down for the ratatouille recipe.
North St. Mary's County Farmers Market
37600 New Market Turner Road
Charlotte Hall MD 20622
301-475-4200 ext. 1404
Open Monday – Saturday, seasonally. Produce, flowers, and Amish baked and canned goods. Located in the parking lot of the Charlotte Hall Library.
Horse drawn buggies full of farm fresh produce clip-clopped into the Charlotte Hall, MD market. I had arrived at the Amish market. "This is the real deal," I commented to Mike and Bethany, friends who had suggested I join them on a trip to this remarkable place. These products were certainly farm fresh, transported from farms right down the road from the marketplace.
Despite the localness of the produce at this market, I had traveled much further than my usual Saturday morning trot into Old Town or Del Ray in Alexandria. In fact, I had been a little skeptical about making the forty minute drive out there. Once arriving, however, I knew it was well worth the drive just to experience such an authentic place.
One of many stands at the Amish market. In the background, a horse rests in the shade of trees.
Charlotte Hall, in Saint Mary's County, MD is home to many Amish families. Every day, Monday through Saturday, Amish families carry their produce to market by horse and buggy.
In addition to the abundance of produce, one of the benefits of this market were beautiful baked goods, including pies, homemade noodles, and cakes. There was also homemade butter- mine was imprinted with a pretty floral design.
As a city-dweller shopping at urban farmers markets, an advantage of this market was the very low cost of buying vegetables. I spent $33 and was able to purchase about three times what I would normally buy at one of my regular markets. Of course, having a male friend willing to carry heavy bags of produce back to the car in between each stand also encouraged me to buy more. Most of what I bought is being frozen for the winter.
Here are some of the market highlights:
Two types of eggplants- I bought one of each.
Corn was everywhere. This sweet corn had been picked just hours before I bought it.
Beautiful flowers. They also sold potted plants, including some large hydrangeas.
I brought home some enormous sunflowers, a combination of traditional yellow and red tinted.
In total I bought:
Fruit- cantaloupe, five peaches, and half of a sugar baby watermelon
Vegetables- baby tomatoes, two large tomatoes, a few pounds of pole beans, one extra-large red onion, two eggplants, three over-sized zucchinis, three green peppers, ten ears of corn
Other- a dozen eggs, homemade butter, homemade egg noodles, and a bundle of sunflowers.
I was recently given the River Cottage Cookbook, a wonderful cookbook for anyone trying to eat more seasonally. It also has great guidelines on gardening and how to sustainably raise different types of livestock. As I won't be raising- or butchering- any cows or chickens any time in the near future, I settled on making ratatouille with my market load.
I changed the recipe a little. River Cottage suggested cooking each vegetable separately in order to avoid some vegetables over cooking. I really didn't feel like washing four greasy pots and pans- and our kitchen is very small- so I settled on a different method. I simply started with the vegetables I knew would take the longest to cook, then added vegetables with shorter cook times toward the end.
- 8 ounces of eggplant, diced into one inch cubes
- 8 ounces of zucchini, thickly sliced
- 1/2 medium onion, thickly sliced
- 8 ounces cherry tomatoes, left whole
- 4 cloves of garlic, finely minced
- olive oil
- a few basil leaves, torn
- salt and pepper
Heat a few TB of olive oil over medium heat in a large saute pan. Add eggplant and zuchhini. Saute until it starts to get tender. Increase heat a little to brown both vegetables. Add garlic and saute for about one minute.
Reduce heat back to medium. Add onion slices and remaining garlic. Cook until onion begins to soften, then add cherry tomatoes. Cook until the cherry tomatoes begin to wrinkle, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in basil leaves.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Note: Throughout the cooking process, I continually added olive oil since the eggplant really soaked it all up.
I, singularly, really enjoyed the ratatouille. John dislikes eggplant and zucchini so this was difficult for him. In fact, he was so hungry after dinner that two scoops of ice cream were required to fill his belly.
Some of you may consider me to be a mean wife forcing him to eat two vegetables he hates. I prefer the adjective optimistic, but in the future I'll prepare this when he's out of town.