Sloping over Lake Champlain, the country’s sixth largest lake, with westerly views of the Adirondack Mountains, Burlington is Vermont’s financial, educational, medical, and cultural hub. While its fringes spread into suburbia and contained shopping center sprawl dotted with sections of pompous McMansions, farmland remains close and as the Vermont Farm to Plate movement picks up economic steam, the pressure for agricultural land is high. Strengthened by consumer demand and Vermonters’ continued commitment and understanding of the working landscape, local food is becoming a statewide priority and in no place can the parade of produce and products get dug into better than at a farmer’s market.
Fresh, seasonal, and expanded growing season produce as well as local meats, poultry, cheeses, and eggs can be found at every couple of booths crisscrossing Burlington’s City Hall Park and spilling into the adjacent St. Paul Street. Crafts, jewelry, wine, spirits, honey, foraged mushrooms, and ethnic offerings from Vietnamese to Pakistani fill out the colorful rows on canopies crowded with lines of Burlington’s hip and eclectic crowd.
A recent visit to the Burlington Farmer’s Market focused on finding gluten free specialty products to use in preparing and cooking the farm fresh produce, meats, and eggs. The definition of ‘local’ in Vermont specialty products is debated from time to time, but most folks feel good about buying products made in Vermont with local ingredients if available and being transparent about the rest. More money in the local food and farm economy is necessary for increasing Vermont food production.
A salad of fresh greens perks into a dinner party favorite with The Nutty Vermonter’s almond, cashew, and pecan concoctions. Maple and ginger, maple and cinnamon, or maple and chipotle are the flavors raw nuts tossed with organic sugars and spices turn into a salad star if they aren’t all eaten first. “This spring was the first time I tasted Nutty Vermonter butters–sensational! And I love how friendly the sharing and chatter is around the Nutty table,” says Tay Pearson of Winooski, Vermont.
Several bakeries dot the Burlington Farmer’s Market festive scene, and one—Up the Hill Bakery—is entirely gluten free. Sourdough and sorghum are two ingredients credited with making breads like three-seed sesame, honey sandwich bread, and mock-rye bread. A hunger satisfying assortment of pastries and cookies are always on display, a treat for gluten free folks tormented by other bakery aromas.
Further strolling fills up the reusable shopping bags with bok choy, arugula, spinach, green onions, and asparagus—all Vermont springtime delights. A salad can suffer only being as good as the dressing when the drizzle is discovered to have soy in it (which most dressings do, and soy contains gluten). A rotating vendor, It’s Arthur’s Fault!, happened to be selling its lavish collection of gluten free sauces and marinades—and the sesame ginger was selected as a personal favorite for fresh greens—score!
Frequent Burlington Farmer’s Market shopper and Vermont WDEV radio talk show host, Mark Johnson, says, “You haven’t lived until you’ve had a root beer float from the Rookies Root Beer stand. You’ll think you’re 12 all over again!” This sentiment must ring true with many as the line was at least a dozen long all day with the young at heart waiting to order root beer and other natural soda, all of which are gluten free.
The final stop was for Vermont Sunflower Oil. Sold out of their larger sizes, this grown, harvested and pressed in Vermont cooking oil is fast becoming a staple in local kitchens. Farming innovation continues as raising oil seeds crops for cooking oils is expanding into fuel options. Watch the Vermont Bioenergy Initiative instructional video linked to this article about how to get sunflowers in the field to fuel in the tractor.
IF YOU GO: The Burlington Farmer’s Market is held year round every Saturday from 8:30-2:00. May through October the market is held at City Hall Park on the corner of St. Paul and Main Streets. The Winter Market is held indoors at Memorial Auditorium. Debit and EBT cards are accepted.