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Market Watch: Spring Green-ing

It was a great day at the Urbana Farmers’ Market last week, and customers enjoyed the gorgeous weather, catching up with the local farmers and running in to friends, while exploring all the market had to offer. Although the variety of available produce was less than market goers are accustomed to this time of year, the bounty was plenty. Asparagus was the vegetable-of-the-day, and although I went slightly overboard on my purchases, I have no regrets, and will likely indulge again.

Tomorrow is predicted to be another great day with sunny skies and warm temperatures — a contrast to the last few lousy days. If you have been thinking of going green this year, and by that I mean planting your own garden, the market is the place to go for seedlings.

Last week, I picked up a variety of herbs from the familiar basil to the more obscure stevia and was wishing I had more space in my yard. There are plenty of vegetables and bedding plants as well; if you don’t have a green thumb — never fear! — there are cut herbs and flowers for sale too.

This weekend’s cool weather bodes well for radishes, which are sweet and crisp this time of year. Peppery undertones make radishes great with local lettuces, and their greens, when young and tender, can be enjoyed raw as well. Rhubarb is going strong at the market, and although we don’t have strawberries yet, the rhubarb is perfect for pie, jam or a lovely compote to accompany some locally raised pork. Throw in some simple grilled asparagus and you have a complete meal right from your own back yard.

Rhubarb Compote

• 1½ pounds of fresh rhubarb
• ½–1 cup sugar (depending on your taste)
• 1/3 cup water
• 1 tbsp minced ginger

Wash the rhubarb, trim off the stalks’ ends and slice them crosswise into half-inch pieces. Combine all ingredients in a heavy, large saucepan. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until rhubarb is soft and falling apart, reduced by at least half and thickened, for about 20 minutes. Refrigerate until cold.

Market on the Square runs every Saturday from 7 a.m.–noon, rain or shine now through November 8. The market is located in the parking lot of Lincoln Square Mall on the corners of Vine and Illinois streets in Urbana.

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