Over the course of the season, the Jones Valley Farm stand on South Carroll Street at the Dane County Farmers' Market overflows with more than 125 varieties of organic fresh veggies. This produce is cultivated by Mike and Jean Martin on their farm near Spring Green, with a focus on exotic vegetables grown from imported European seeds.
While rustic, Old World veggies like Mangetout peas and haricot verts take center stage, they're accompanied by the more familiar types of carrots, cucumbers, potatoes, and tomatoes. All are handgrown, and certified organic by the Midwest Organic Services Association.
These heirloom vegetables are regularly served on gourmet menus around the region, including currently at L'Etoile. The only market they can be found is in downtown Madison, where the Martins have set up shop for a dozen years. More background about these various rare veggies can be found on the Jones Valley Farm blog.
Mike Martin spoke to The Daily Page about Jones Valley Farm and the market.
The Daily Page: How did you become a farmers' market vendor?
After I lost my corporate job, I signed up on the market waiting list, paid my dues, and eventually my number was called.
What else do you offer through the summer season?
Artichokes, fava beans, rapini, haricot verts, potatoes, onions, greens, eggplant, tomatoes -- over 125 different varieties of vegetables.
What's your most popular product?
Despite all of the exotics we offer, the lowly carrot sells the fastest. I can't grow enough of them.
What's your most remarked upon offering?
Cardoon is definitely the most remarked upon item we offer, but few are brave enough to try it. I think it might have something to do with all the thorns.
What's your favorite product elsewhere at the market?
After staring at our produce all morning we crave something sweet and decadent like Murphy's carrot cake or Cress Spring's chocolate/pepper cookies.
What's your pre-packaged, supermarket-shelved guilty pleasure?
A cold six-pack of something bitter.
If you were to make a dish incorporating your products, what would you make?
Chocolate Chip Beet Cake.
The recipe is:
2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
1/3 c. cocoa
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. oil
1 c. grated cooked beets
2 tsp. grated orange peel
1/4 c. orange juice
1 package (six ounces) semi-sweet chocolate pieces
Mix flour, salt, baking powder and cocoa and set aside. In a large bowl, beat eggs and sugar until fluffy and lemon colored. Add oil, beets, orange peel and juice and beat well. Stir in flour mixture just to blend. Stir in chocolate. Bake in greased pan in pre-heated 350-degree oven for 45 minutes. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, and invert on rack to cool thoroughly. Sprinkle with confectioner's sugar if desired.