Coinjock Creek Farms in Maple had a variety of squash for sale at the Downtown Waterfront Market in Elizabeth City, Saturday. Staff Photo by Thomas J. Turney
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Coinjock Creek Farms in Maple had a variety of squash for sale at the Downtown Waterfront Market in Elizabeth City, Saturday. Staff Photo by Thomas J. Turney

Downtown market ripe with fresh produce

By Dee Langston

Staff Writer

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There were fewer vendors Saturday at Elizabeth City’s Downtown Waterfront Market than there have been in previous weeks, but that didn’t mean shoppers couldn’t find a plethora of produce for Sunday dinner, and the week ahead.

Courtney Birdsall, the market’s coordinator, said that a couple of vendors had called and said they wouldn’t make it this weekend, and one or two more simply didn’t show up.

The weather may have had something to do with it.

While Saturday was a mild summer day, the spring growing season wasn’t kind to many local growers. Unseasonably cold weather, too much rain — and high winds from tornadoes — cost growers Kenny and Paula Beale, of Painted Turtle Produce in Weeksville, most of their early spring lettuce crops. Their watermelons will also be late, Kenny Beale said, because of the cold spring.

However, their dinosaur kale did fairly well. “The rough texture of the leaves gives it it’s name,” Beale explained. “It’s actually an Italian, Tuscan form of kale.”

Which is very good for making kale chips, Paula Beale added. Sea salt, olive oil and a slow oven are all that’s required for this treat, she said. The couple also had small red and white onions, and three types of corn — white silver queen, yellow corn, and bi-color corn, which is both yellow and white.

Coinjock Creek Farms in Maple had fresh corn for sale as well, along with several types of squash, many varieties of peppers, tomatoes, and even tomatillos.

“Not only do we grow it and sell it, we’ll tell you how to cook it,” Ginger Snowden of Coinjock Farms said.

So what do you do with one of those frilly patty pan squashes? Make a vegan pizza, she said. Cut it into ½-inch steaks, drizzle the slices with olive oil, add salt and pepper, mozzarella cheese, a slice of fresh tomato — then broil them. Add some fresh basil if you have it — sit down and say “yum.’

Although Coinjock Creek Farm’s tables at the market were loaded with vegetables Saturday, Snowden said their farm also had weather-related losses.

“The weather has killed us this year,” she said. John Snowden (her brother) had to dig trenches to drain the fields, she added, and they turned under a lot of early crops that were damaged

by this spring’s unseasonably cold nights.

The limited number of vendors at Saturday’s market didn’t limit the varieties of farm products for sale, however, but much of it wasn’t local.

For example, Bobby Harris, of Poor Boys Produce in Camden, was quick to admit that the cheese for sale at that booth came from Wisconsin. Poor Boys had beautiful raspberries, blueberries and blackberries for sale, which came from other parts of the state. Most local berries aren’t ready yet, Harris explained.

Marshall Bateman and his mother, 90-year-old Ruby Bateman, have a small greenhouse, but the produce they had for sale Saturday had been purchased from various growers and resellers in the region.

“We used to grow a lot for garden shows, bedding plants, hanging baskets, things like that, but now we buy from other places to fill in for the summertime,” Marshall Bateman said.

The two have been around long enough — since 1957, Marshall Bateman said — that they have regular customers, such as John and Florence Pavlak.

“We’re retirees, but we come to this booth every Saturday; we have for years,” said John Pavlak.

“They have the best peaches, and I think their prices are very reasonable,” Florence Pavlak added.

The Pavlaks, from New York, chose to move to Elizabeth City when they retired. “It’s a great place to do that,” John Pavlak said.

“This is one reason why,” Florence Pavlak added, making a gesture that included all of the downtown waterfront.

The Waterfront Market is open on Saturdays through the summer from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. For more information, visit downtownwaterfrontmarket.com.

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