On any summer Saturday morning the Grange Hall grounds in West Tisbury are crowded with shoppers, browsers, and tasters.
Bucky Burrows hand-squeezes aromatic oranges, lemons, and limes into a Citrus Cooler, a popular hot-weather beverage. His wife, Suzanne Fenn, chats with customers who stop by for their weekly supply of Good Tastes Salsa, a spicy blend of hand-chopped tomatoes, onions, peppers, and other garden-fresh ingredients.
Pesto addicts sample Pam Glavin’s famous blends, including traditional basil pesto, along with sun-dried tomato and lemon flavored variations.
There is rich, full-bodied coffee by the Chilmark Coffee Company served hot or iced, and Mermaid Farm’s home-grown Peppermint Iced Tea and creamy Mango and Yogurt Lassi.
Those who missed breakfast in their rush to get to the market can feast on puffy popovers with flavored butter from Jan Buhrman’s Kitchen Porch. Little Rock Farm granola is served with milk, or top it with tangy yogurt from Mermaid Farm.
Beth’s Bakery has muffins, traditional rugelach, and plump scones bursting with berries, and Little Rock Farm and Orange Peel Bakery offer breakfast pastries too. Not sweet enough? There are fruit preserves by New Lane Sundries and Ethel Sherman and honey from local hives.
Sound like the latest trendy gourmet shop? Guess again. It’s the West Tisbury Farmers Market, boasting more delicious edibles than ever. Gone are the days when fresh produce was nearly the only offering. While once customers would come to farmer’s markets here and elsewhere to stock up on tomatoes, corn, potatoes, squash, salad greens, and other vegetables or occasional fruits for an upcoming dinner party or the week’s family meals, shopping lists are more extensive today. Now, with some 40 vendors offering a variety of products, it is possible to buy the entire dinner from cocktail snacks to ingredients for entrée, salad, sides, condiments, and more.
Along with fresh-baked hearty breads from Beth’s and Orange Peel there are savory dips, spreads, spices, and rubs from The Kitchen Porch. Nicky’s Italian Cafe has dipping oils in a variety of flavors. Mermaid Farm sells freshly made feta cheese. JoAnne Maxwell of Chesca’s fame offers a mellow Maple Mustard Balsamic Vinaigrette, Thai Chili Barbecue Glaze, and sinful chocolate sauce to drizzle over ice cream.
Desserts may include fruit pies or frosted cupcakes from Little Rock Farm; chewy, oversized chocolate chip or ginger cookies and brownies by Doug Reid at Beth’s Bakery. Enchanted Chocolates offers a variety of confections. Herbalist Holly Bellebuono displays loose leaf teas both delicious and healthful. Try Squibnocket Soother, Organic Ginger-Lemon, or Menemsha Mint to help digest a hearty dinner.
There are eggs, Island-raised meats from Mermaid Farm and The FARM Institute, and frozen chicken and turkey produced by the Good Farm and Cleveland Farm. This summer’s mid-week markets also saw local fishermen selling freshly harvested lobster and crabs at bargain prices.
Khen Tran serves her renowned egg rolls, cold rolls, Asian noodle salad, and brownies and other delicious pastry. Usually devoured on the spot by hungry shoppers, these specialties can also be served at home. And as always there is an abundance of flowers ready to grace the dining table.
According to Linda Alley, co-manager with Rusty Gordon of Ghost Island Farm, having non-farmers on the vendor list is nothing new. Market regulations call for the ratio to be at least 2/3 farmers to 1/3 non-farmers. She has sold sweet and savory jellies and preserves and tangy mustards under her New Lane Sundries label at the market for years. Pam’s Pesto, Ethel Sherman’s fruit jams, and the lemonade and salsa from the Burrows/Fenn booth have been mainstays too. She said the trend towards providing a wider variety of non-produce choices is thriving here and in farmer’s markets everywhere, as vendors respond to savvy food shoppers’ tastes and demands.
Although Wednesday markets ended this week, the Farmers Markets continue Saturday mornings through October 6. The Winter Market will be held at the Ag Hall on Panhandle Road every other Saturday, 10 am to 1 pm, through December. Beginning on Oct. 20, this off-season market will feature many of the summer market vendors offering autumn produce and many non-farm products. Shoppers can enjoy music by Kevin Keady, lunch by Little Rock Farm, and even warm up by the fireplace.
For more information, visit thewesttisburyfarmersmarket.com.