Springtime Abundance in Madison

Think you can’t eat well early in the season? You might be surprised by what you can find. This weekend, the husband and I headed up to Madison, WI and were pleasantly surprised by the farmer’s market. There was an embarrasment of riches at this market including several varieties of potatoes, asparagus, rhubarb, shagbark hickory nuts, morel, white button and portobello mushrooms, beef and venison jerkies, assortments of jams, jellies, chutneys, and pickles, fiddlehead ferns, locally grown greenhouse tomatoes, early salad greens, kales, green onions, small early onions, wild rice, baked goods, locally milled flour from winter wheat, herbs and more. We purchased some venison jerky from Gooch Farms (goochfarms@hotmail.com; sorry– no website) for breakfast and it was amazing! Their jerky is made from European Red Deer and it is lean and tasty. We also picked up some All-Blue potatoes and yellow onions from Driftless Organics (www.driftlessorganics.com). I’m looking forward to using the potatoes tonight to make blue mashed potatoes with chicken.

 While in Madison we also stopped in at the Willy St. CoOp (www.willystreet.coop) and were very impressed. The store has an amazing selection of organic and natural groceries, produce, beauty/health products and home products. They also have a small gift and book/magazine selection. There is a deli/juice bar as well as seafood, butcher and bakery counters. The prices are reasonable, with co-op members getting even better deals and more perks. They offer a small rebate for shoppers that bring their own bags. The store is clean, well-lit and nicely organized. They have car parking and plenty of bike racks. They also have a nice patio out front, and we were lucky enough to catch a grill-out event. We got a bratwurst, chipotle potato salad and a Blue Sky soda for $4 each!

After our Willy St. CoOp experience, we headed a few blocks down the street to the Olbrich Botanic Gardens and had a nice time. This is a must-visit when in Madison– it’s right across from one of the lakes and next to a small stream, so it’s very picturesque. It’s a small garden, but it’s got a fantastic design, so it feels spacious. There are several themed gardens as well as a conservatory, and my favorites were the herb/kitchen garden (complete with espaliered pear trees), the meadow garden, and the rock garden. The best part is, it’s free! (Though there is a donation box if you are so inclined).