What to Buy at the Market in May

WASHINGTON By 8:15 on Sunday morning, 20th Street NW in Dupont Circle is anything but sleepy.

Fifteen minutes before the opening bell, a growing crowd of neighbors stroll in and out of the dozens of fully stocked stalls sandwiched between Massachusetts and Connecticut avenues to examine what farmers from Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania brought to the weekly FRESHFARM market. 

About 30 minutes later, the morels under Spring Valley Farm and Orchard’s tent are gone.

“Yeah, they go real quick,” farmworker Casey Feezle said about the prized mushrooms that cost about $20 for a small carton.

“They’re like the big gold item because they only come this time of the year and we can’t cultivate them — they only grow wild,” he added.

The warmer weather is making its return, and so are the area’s farmers markets. By May 17, all 14 of FRESHFARM’s markets will be up and running for the season, and those that operate year-round are getting a more robust selection of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Wondering what’s good at the market in May? Here’s what a few local farmers have to say:

Ramps

It’s hard to avoid the culinary industry’s all-consuming ramp craze. Come spring, restaurant menus are bursting with ramp pizzas, ramp pestos and ramp omelets.

What are ramps? Feezle describes the wild vegetable as a cross between garlic and onion — only more powerful in flavor.

“We can’t cultivate them and we have to hunt for them in specific locations, like the north-facing side of slopes,” Feezle said.

Because of this, they are only around for a limited time. Ramps are great grilled, pickled or sauteed with butter and olive oil.

Squash blossoms

Also in season are squash blossoms, or the blossoms that grow on the ends of zucchini and squash plants.

“People like using them to stuff with goat cheese or to saute them or even fry them, so they’re a big spring item too,” Feezle said.

Strawberries

At Bernard Boyle’s farm in Warsaw, Virginia, strawberry season started early. The first berry was picked on March 21.

“[The warm winter] speeded it up a whole lot,” said Boyle of Garner’s Produce.

Farmers throughout the mid-Atlantic region should have strawberries available through the end of the month.

Spring radishes, asparagus

Stacey Carlberg, the farm manager at The Farm at Sunnyside, says this time of year people are pretty excited about spring radishes.

“We have these bright red cherriette radishes and a really beautiful mix called Easter egg radishes. ‘Tis the season for the radishes,” Carlberg said.

She likes to eat them raw and recommends cutting them up into salads or sauteing them lightly and serving them as a side dish.

The Washington, Virginia, farm is also welcoming crops of asparagus, snap peas and fava beans this month.

“Those are definitely the spring treats,” Carlberg added.

Other seasonal finds

Throughout May, keep your eyes peeled for lettuces, spring onions, stinging nettles, cucumbers and tomatoes grown in high tunnels.

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