Late Saturday morning, I hopped on my bike and made my way to Clark Park Farmers Market with friends to buy our weekly vegetables and fruits from the farmers and artisanal food suppliers. This wonderful aspect of the West Philadelphia community was started in 1998 and operates year-round. Unlike most farmers markets in Philadelphia that close in November for the season, Clark Park Farmers Market always seems to be open and ready to serve its community jam, cheese, vegetables, fruits, flowers, wine, bread, and more. It has built a trust and community within itself that can be seen any time you visit on Saturday.
Before we entered the market itself we navigated our way through a crowd. Philadelphia was alive with excitement after the projection of Pennsylvania’s electoral votes resulted in a definitive victory for Joe Biden. Outside of the entrance to Clark Park farmers market, there was a dance party and cacophony of honking cars shouting for joy. Children were running around and banging pots and pans with wooden spoons like it was the New Year. The people of West Philadelphia were dancing, laughing, and feeling a weight lift from their shoulders due to the defeat of Donald Trump for President. I felt proud to be a part of the Philadelphian community at this moment.
As I looked around I spotted faces I knew (under masks) from the climbing gym I am a member of and the bakery called Lost Bread, that I interned at. I always seem to run into people I know at Clark Park. We entered the market and I made my way directly to the sweet potatoes. The wonderful multi-colored fingerling sweet potatoes at Livengood Family Farm’s stand are delicate and delicious. Cooking sweet potatoes at a low heat, and for a long time, creates a caramelized, unparalleled sweetness in the flesh and skin. Preparing them in this way will insure you never want to throw away your potato skins again and save you time in the kitchen. The different colored sweet potatoes have different tastes/textures too, so make sure to get a deep purple, white, and bright orange colored ones to try. (see recipe for slow roasted sweet potatoes below)
For Thanksgiving this year, my plan is to have such an array of sweet potatoes in addition to a pasture raised turkey from Livengood Family Farm at Clark Park Farmers market. Sourcing food from farmers you know means you can have more control in how the meat you are buying is treated and raised. Buying from local businesses, especially during this pandemic, supports your own neighbors and community’s economy. I am excited for the turkey, and the turkey broth that I will make after the turkey is carved!
After picking up a bundle of sweet potatoes, I stopped at Hand of the Earth Orchard next which has beautiful apples, including my favorite variety called Jonagold. Jonagold is a cross between the crisp Golden Delicious and the blush-crimson Jonathan. But, at Hand of the Earth Orchard, I ask for their seconds. The seconds are apples that have a bruise or blemish which makes them unsellable to the farmer at a normal price. The seconds are usually half-price and perfect for making applesauce, or eating if you find ones with small, almost unnoticeable differences.
After, I made my way to other farm stands selling butternut squash, spaghetti squash, kabocha squash, cabbages, and brussels sprouts on the stalk. The brussels sprouts on the stalk are fun to snip off and roast or roast on the stalk! The leaves are also delicious on the top and taste similar to collards. My friends and I got a good laugh from trying to find the best way to carry our Brussels sprouts for the remainder of our trip (see below).
Another great vendor at Clark Park Market is Ploughman Cider, which sells wonderful hard ciders. They are located in Aspers, Pa., and attend the market on the second Saturday of the month only. Although they weren’t at the most recent market, their ciders are delicious and worth a trip for when they are there.
Other great fall products that we picked up were baked goods and apple cider. I love to heat up my cider with whole cinnamon sticks, cloves, and allspice. Most farms use their second quality apples to make their cider, which takes a product that could easily be wasted to create a delicious drink.
When you get the chance, research farmers markets near you and support the farmers and artisans that surround your neighborhood. If you are in Philadelphia, Clark Park Market is one of my favorite markets around!
Slow-roasted Sweet Potatoes
- 4 sweet potatoes
- 1 teaspoon oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Line a pan with foil, or parchment paper.
- Rinse the sweet potatoes under cool water to remove any dirt.
- Coat the sweet potatoes in oil, just enough to cover the outside lightly.
- Coat the sweet potatoes in salt.
- Place the sweet potatoes on the pan and bake for about 3 hours until caramelized and extremely soft.