BLOOMINGTON — Sunday is the first day of spring. But that doesn’t mean it’s too late to grow your garden.
Several vendors stocked tables with produce appetizers, groceries and craft items Saturday at Bloomington’s Downtown Indoor Farmers’ Market at Grossinger Motors Arena.
Hannah Horn, downtown business development specialist for the City of Bloomington and co-manager of the market, said they had 21 vendors there and were pleased with the turnout. She added that Edge of Normal will release its trailer next weekend to sharpen the knives.
And, vendors will have more product entries at the first open-air market on May 7.
The square of pepper
Angella Thompson, head grower and “plant whisperer” for Thompson Family Farms in Athens, told the Pantagraph that spring is her favorite time of year.
“Planting is fun. It’s fun to get started,” she said. “It’s fun to think of new products that could be added to the product line based on what we plant and sow.”
Their farm, located 25 minutes north of Springfield, grows crops year-round in greenhouses and an elevated tunnel. Thomspon said three days ago it started indoor spring crops which it hopes will be ready for the April market.
The farmer said he grows fresh green vegetables, three kinds of radishes and flowers including sunflowers, zinnias and cosmos. There is also lavender and oregano.
Its tall tunnel has leaf lettuce, baby Bibb lettuce, spinach and kale growing inside. By June, Thompson hopes to market beets and turnips.
As a farmer, the last thing Thompson can put up with is throwing food away. So, she said their product line has evolved to reduce food waste. This range includes pepper jellies, salsas, sweetbreads, barbecue sauces and more.
She said elderberries, for example, only have a shelf life of one week. So they’re put into pepper jellies, which she says are enjoyed on crackers with cream cheese, but can also be baked with vegetables and meat.
A new crop his farm is testing this year is cranberries. She wishes good results at the end of this summer.
Sprouts for sale
Richard Niester, owner of Diamond’s Homestead, was at the market selling microgreens and starters for tomato, basil, peppermint and parsley plants. He said some of his tomato starters were first planted on Valentine’s Day.
The Decatur fruit and green vegetable grower explained that the nights aren’t yet warm enough to plant tomatoes outdoors. However, he said it was time to plant carrots, radishes, peas and other cool weather plants in the ground. His farm now plows for radish and carrot crops.
One of his best-selling plants is Jericho lettuce. Niester said this is an all-new indoor green for his operation.
“It grows really fast,” he said, usually three to four weeks. For micro-vegetables, Niester has stocked spicy salad mixes, leeks, pea shoots and radishes.
He advised newcomers to food gardening to start with a few herbs, which he says are easy to care for. This includes parsley or peppermint, which Niester says doesn’t need as much water.
“They can dry out and they’ll just look a little droopy, but the moment you give them water they’ll grow back right away and look brand new again,” he said. .
And, you can taste the difference. He said home-grown foods are faster and contain more nutrients than store-bought foods because they take less time to travel from garden to consumer.
It was not a bad day at the market for him. Niester said he released over 50 ounces of microgreens and sold nearly all of them before closing time.
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normal soap maker
It’s not just good food and beets you can find at the market. Amanda Fike, owner of Drop Into Health, was there Saturday to sell essential oil bath and beauty products, as well as diffuser jewelry.
She said her beer soaps are popular because many people have never heard of them before. The #1 ingredient is beer, such as IPA or wheat beers. The rest is made up of coconut, olive, almond and castor oils, as well as shea butter.
Its most popular product is Serenity Socks: a cloth bag filled with rice, lavender and chamomile flowers, as well as sage, patchouli and lavender essential oils.
“My 3-year-old sleeps with one every night,” Fike said, adding that it quickly puts her young daughter to sleep. The mother and business owner said she keeps serenity socks in her purse and it helps relieve anxieties of all kinds.
Fike said Saturday had good market attendance.
“People love the farmers market,” she said. “They will come out in all weathers for this.
“I’ve been to the farmers market and always have customers, so everyone loves the market.”
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Contact Brendan Denison at (309) 820-3238. Follow Brendan Denison on Twitter: @BrendanDenison