I get very excited about fresh produce and doubly excited about new produce.
I live very close to the Queen Victoria Market and I rarely shop anywhere else, but last Sunday morning I went to The Melbourne Showgrounds Farmers Market. The market is open every Sunday 9am – 1pm in Federation Hall, Melbourne Showgrounds.
I went to meet Naomi who produces butter and buttermilk in Myrtleford, The Butter Factory. She also grows vegetables, makes soap, cooks and sells her produce at Farmers Markets. She has been experimenting with making ricotta with buttermilk. She wants to experiment with making variations of ricotta found in Sicily (ricotta salata and ricotta affumicata) and because she had found photos of ricotta and of ricotta infornata on my blog, she wondered if we could meet. In spite of her ricotta being made with buttermilk, Naomi tells me that she has had a very good response, especially from the Italian community in the area. There is even a Festival called La Fiera; it is held in May each year and it celebrates Myrtleford’s strong Italian heritage. Figs have just come into season in Victoria and I imagine that, fresh figs poached in a sweet syrup could be good with this ricotta, which has a slightly acid taste. I look forward to visiting the Butter Factory and trying more of Naomi’s produce.
I also bought some meat (beef) from the Koallah Farm stall. This is a family owned and operated property in South West Victoria. I had bought beef from them once before and it really is top quality and has hardly any fat.
And then I found the Sicilians – Rita’s stall! And I bought what I have never seen in Australia, tenerumi and the zucca plant that these comes from. The tenerumi or taddi ri cucuzza are the tendrils of the plant; the long, serpent-like marrow is the cucuzza (or zucca in Italian) and this variety is called a zucca serpente because of its serpent shape. Rita had labelled her zucca as trambonelle (from trombone, the musical instrument) and this may be a regional name for the marrow. Rita comes from Messina. Rita’s stall is only at this market on the 1st, 3rd and 5th Sunday in each month.
I cooked both the tendrils and the marrow in the same dish (as my cousin Lidia from Augusta taught me) and made the famous, wet pasta dish, Minestra di tenerumi so enjoyed by Sicilians. Having grown up in Trieste (northern Italy) I only ate these vegetables when I visited Sicily. The Minestra di tenerumi in the photo below was cooked by a friend Mary, when I visited her on her farm in Bosco Falconeria in Sicily.
There was one episode in My Family Feast (an Australian SBS TV program), where they showed an African family growing and cooking tendrils, but perhaps these were the shoots of a different pumpkin or marrow plant (shall have to ask Sean Connelly).
Because it was so fresh, I also bought the large bunch of watercress. This stall only sold lettuces, basil and watercress and the produce looked like it had been picked that very morning. My father tells me that only the lavandaie (washer women who washed clothes by the riverbank) in Sicily used to eat watercress and they nibbled on it as they worked.
From a different stall, Peninsula Fresh Organics, I bought that beautiful bunch of radish. Sicilians are particularly fond of radish, but I partly bought them for their very fresh, green leaves – I do include the young leaves in salads and I love to braise them.
On the way out I met Don, the new and creative manager for the Market. I expressed my enthusiasm about the produce and he was very pleased. I would have bought more, but I had already shopped at the Queen Victoria Market on the previous day.
I will not stop shopping at my closest market, but I will make trips now and again for therapy – it is said that happiness and excitement pump up the endorphins that bring long life.