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Vendors Russell Trujillo of Corrales and Ora Correa of Placitas discuss produce at the Bernalillo Farmers' Market. Photo credit —Bill Diven

Bernalillo Farmers’ Market growing fast

Signpost Staff

Regular customers and new shoppers appeared early on a recent Friday to inspect the produce and other goodies at the Bernalillo Farmers’ Market.

Despite the number of crops not quite ready for harvest, onions, garlic, and greenhouse potatoes decorated vendors’ tables with the promise of increasing variety, as well as crowds, in coming weeks.

First to sell out, however, were the apricot pastelitos prepared by Ora Correa of Placitas. In the past, she’s offered tomato preserves and pickled watermelon rinds, prepared from old and traditional recipes.

“I have to eat a lot of watermelon to get all that rind,” she said at the table she shares with daughter Rebecca Skartwed, who is working to expand her inventory beyond goat-milk lotions and soaps.

The Bernalillo market reflects two major changes this year. While the hours remain 4:00 to 7:00 p.m., the market has grown from Fridays to include Tuesdays—through October. Scott Pino of Zia Pueblo is now the market manager.

“It’s been fun,” Pino told the Signpost. “It’s been good-quality conversations with vendors and customers. It’s a fun place to hang out… Newcomers to the state are made to feel at home. It’s a nice New Mexico welcome.”

By the end of July, or the first week of August, there will be a lot more produce, health products, cheeses, and other items for sale, Pino added. The market accepts WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program checks and will begin accepting EBT cards in August, he said.

The New Mexico Farmers’ Market Association reports there are more than sixty markets like Bernalillo’s around the state. While some smaller growers only come to Bernalillo, others make the rounds.

“I do three other markets,” Russell Trujillo of Corrales Classic Farms said referring to the Corrales and Albuquerque Downtown and Northeast. “If you play it right, it’s a good income.”

Trujillo considers his acre under production in Corrales a big garden rather than a small farm and this week was offering garlic, onions, tomatoes, with other produce still to come. The veteran of the Bernalillo Market remembers larger crowds in years past.

“This was a pretty booming place back then,” he said. “I just hope ol’ Scott can get it going.”

Pino, however, isn’t just a market manager. At Zia Pueblo he works to expand farming for both outside sales and tribal members’ tables under the unwieldy title of Sustainable Agriculture, Farmers Market, and Grower Cooperative Program project manager.

His job includes working with farmers, improving soils in the fields and distributing dozens of raised gardening beds to families. He’s also trying to diversify crops and diets by adding chard, kale, carrots, and máche, a member of the lettuce family.

“It’s expanding our traditional agriculture, going outside corn and chile, which in turn has health benefits and adds to income,” Pino said. “It’s for the benefit of the community. That’s how we try to operate.”

More Zia growers are expected to join the Bernalillo market, and Pino has begun advertising to attract more customers. On its best day last year, the market drew more than two hundred shoppers who browsed the tables of 52 vendors and a few educational groups.

The Master Gardeners of Sandoval County are already active this year with volunteers Margaret Vedeler and Carol Groppel available to answer gardeners’ questions or help them get the answers they need through the Sandoval County Extension Service.

“We plan to be here every week if enough members volunteer,” Vedeler said. She and Groppel are applying their skills not to farming, but to the xeriscape landscaping at their Rio Rancho homes.

Even before Pino’s arrival, the Bernalillo market held a strong connection to Zia Pueblo, which owns the 19-acre property on Camino del Pueblo just south of Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church where the Market is held. Zia purchased the property years ago for future commercial development and has been managing the Market since last year.

The pueblo also bought land in San Ysidro, where a new regional farmers’ market is scheduled to be open on Sundays from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., beginning August 17.

Vendors interested in the San Ysidro Market can contact Pino at 553-3290.


Photo credit:—Stu Spivack

Flash in the Pan

The BLT in theory and practice

—Ari LeVaux

If it wasn’t for the tomatoes, the BLT sandwich could be a four-season delight. But the tomatoes that it contains must be fresh, which limits when the bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich is available.

The BLT doesn’t just depend on the tomato. It serves as a stage on which to display it, a vehicle with which to enjoy it is one of the best parts of summer.

The ideal tomato is one that necessitates a bib when you’re eating the sandwich that delivers it. But in addition to its refreshing juices, the tomato brings a cocktail of flavors that interact with the BLT’s other ingredients, including the mayo and bread, which are so essential that they can go without mention in the sandwich’s name. After all, if it is a sandwich, then there is bread, and there is mayo. I believe onions fall into this category as well, but nobody wants to say BLOMBT.

It wouldn’t be a hyperbole to say that the many parts of the BLT add up to something even greater then their sum. It might even be an understatement to call it a freak of nature. I’ve seen a BLT break two laws of the universe simultaneously, as it is powerful enough to entice my wife to eat both mayo and bacon, two foods from which she would otherwise flee.

Somewhere, I suspect, there is a gluten-intolerant vegan who has made an exception for a BLT. At the very least, surely many have fantasized about it, especially in summertime when the tomatoes are ripe.

According to current theory on taste perception, the human body is wired to detect at least five basic tastes: salty, sweet, sour, umami and bitter. Impressively, a BLT contains all of these.

Most of these tastes are easy to detect, but the amount of bitter, which happens to be the only basic taste to which people often object, is low. Slight bitter notes come from the lettuce, onion, and the mustard powder that’s in most mayo formulations, and at these low levels they add an earthy base to the BLT without making the sandwich itself taste bitter.

Tomatoes contribute sweet and sour, as well as a surprising amount of umami, to the equation. Umami is measured by the amount of free glutamate, the levels of which are higher in a ripe tomato than in many shellfish, including scallops, mussels, and oysters.

Tomatoes also interact spectacularly with the BLT’s other ingredients, including salt and fat, which bacon contributes. Fat, while not officially recognized as a basic taste, might be on the verge of becoming one. A case for fat as taste, long simmering, was recently strengthened by research that found that people can smell pure fat. Whether or not it’s an official basic taste, there’s no question that fat makes things taste better.

Mayonnaise is mostly fat, but like the BLT it contains every basic taste: sweet (most recipes have some added sweetener), sour (from the lemon or vinegar), bitter (from the mustard powder), and umami (from egg yolk), and salt. Mayo also provides an important layer of lubricant that helps all of these layers merge together in your mouth. And like the bacon, onion, and lettuce, mayonnaise mixes harmoniously with the tomato as well.

Bread is the one and only element of the BLT with which the tomato clashes. It contributes sweet, salt and umami tastes to the overall flavor of the sandwich, but its most important attribute is to function as a skin that holds the other ingredients together long enough for you to eat them. Tomatoes, along with mayo, undermine the bread’s job by soaking through the bread and destroying its structural integrity. This is why the bread is usually toasted.

But toasting can create problems too. If the BLT is large enough and toasted enough, the hardened bread can scratch the roof of your mouth, especially if you’re eating with abandon of a shark at a feeding frenzy, because it is so delicious.

BLT lovers, and lovers of all sandwiches, really, would benefit from an elegant trick that I learned from a farmer friend who purports to be an expert on BLTs. At the very least he cites them as an excuse when I give him a hard time about how much iceberg lettuce he grows.

I call him El Jefe. His wife calls him El Hefty. His trick is to toast one side of each slice of bread, and position those two sides facing inward, where they can withstand the gooey onslaught of the tomato and mayo. The untoasted sides face the outside, where they’re soft as white gloves on the inside of your mouth.

To toast just one side of each slice, you can either squeeze two slices into the same toaster slot, or arrange them side by side under the broiler.

Part of the power of the BLT resides in the redundancy of its many flavor components. With umami coming from bacon, tomato, mayo, and bread, for example, multiple layers of umami blend together, creating an umami continuum. Acid, likewise, comes from both tomatoes and mayo, while sweetness comes from tomato, mayo, and bread.

You can further the layering of similar flavors by using slices from multiple varieties of tomatoes, if you’ve got them. Avoid low-acid tomatoes like Brandywines, in favor of high-acid varieties, like beefsteak.

While the redundant complexity of the flavors in a BLT makes for both contrast and harmony, the various textures involved offer nothing but contrast. In terms of texture, each component contributes something completely different and unique that isn’t analogous to anything else. The crisp of lettuce, the supple crunch of the bread, the slimy lubrication of the mayo, the greasy chewiness of the bacon, and the exploding juice of the tomato are all going in different directions at once, perfectly.

It’s hard to mess up a BLT. Just don’t burn the bacon or toast. Do not use Miracle Whip. Add avocado if you wish. Use whatever bread you want, and be very picky about the tomatoes.

Ari LeVaux, a former Placitan, writes Flash in the Pan, a syndicated weekly food column that has appeared in more than 50 newspapers in 22 states. Follow him on Twitter at @arilevaux.


Campaign increases Native American enrollment in NMHIX

Native American Professional Parent Resources, Inc. (NAPPR), a nonprofit organization that provides a range of services to build healthy Native American children and families, announced that its contract with the New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange (NMHIX) has been extended. NAPPR is responsible for the development of the “Culture of Coverage” campaign, which has effectively engaged and outreached to over 30,192 Native Americans in New Mexico. The NAPPR campaign was designed to speak to the cultural values and behavioral norms of Native American communities in New Mexico and aid in their understanding and action associated with the Affordable Care Act and its provisions.

To make an appointment with a health care guide call 1-855-241-8137. For more information about NAPPR, visit www.n_ap_pr.org

 
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