Editor's Note: This column first published in the Daily Nonpareil's Summer 2019 Family Ties quarterly publication. Find the e-edition here

It’s time for Farmers Markets. The vegetables and fruits are local, fresh, and in season. I love visiting with the vendors to see what they have and to learn about how and where the vegetables are grown.

I have been particularly interested in the health value of mushrooms. At Farmers Market Council Bluffs (organized by the 712 Initiative) on Thursday nights, I am fascinated by the mushrooms and how they grow. The vendors from Terra Firma Fungi have an amazing variety of mushrooms (shapes and sizes) and you can make so many different appetizers, main meals, or dinner menus.

The produce from 3 Bee Farms and Green Stems Farms so far this spring has included beautiful radishes, leaf lettuce, green onions, beets, and Swiss chard. You can buy tomato plants and flowers to plant for your own garden. Your kids might like to watch over the plants as they grow. I love to cook and bake so the honey and jams and breads make my visit to the market even more enjoyable. Vendors sell fresh breads, pies, rolls and baked goods (Country Lighthouse Bakery).

My favorite is to design recipes or alter recipes to include the fresh produce or the variety of jams, jellies and honey available at the open market. Visitors to the market can come to our stand and learn how to make the recipe of the week, get a recipe and a taste or two. I am so impressed when young children come and want to try something new. One young man said “Mom, we can make that.” I am so delighted when market guests learn to make a new recipe and return the next week to tell me what they did to change it more to their liking: “I added more jalapenos” or “I used a different cheese” or “my boys added some Tabasco.” That’s creative! And delightful that they are excited to work in the kitchen together.

We try to design recipes that use the produce or items purchased at the market and to help these visitors build a pantry of items with multiple uses. Here are some recipes that we have featured at the Farmers Market Council Bluffs:

Asparagus with jalapeno cream cheese and pastrami

Select asparagus without secondary growth on the tip. It’s okay to use it but, it’s so much fresher if there is no secondary growth. (Broccoli and asparagus are two vegetables that continue to ‘grow’ in the grocery store or your refrigerator.) Buy pastrami at the grocery store deli. Ask for it to be sliced at a 3 thickness and keep it full length. Put a thin layer of jalapeno cream cheese on the pastrami and cut the pastrami into three pieces. Place one or two asparagus spears on each piece and roll it to make a tubular appetizer with. You can make these a day ahead, wrap tightly and story in the refrigerator. (You do not need to wash, them remove the lower stem of the asparagus, blanch the asparagus in boiling water for 30 to 45 seconds, remove and put immediately into ice water before using. Then dry with a paper towel.) Save the 3- to 4-inch stems of the asparagus that you cut off to make cream of asparagus soup.

Creamy Asparagus Soup

Cook the asparagus bottom stems in chicken broth, with celery (include the leaves), diced onion and minced garlic. Cook until the vegetable are tender. Cool and puree with a stick immersion blender or food processor.

Freeze in a two-cup container. When ready to make soup, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large stock pot, add 1/2 teaspoon of salt, add pepper to taste (I use white pepper), and two tablespoons of flour. Add the frozen asparagus.

When the frozen asparagus melts, add 1 cup milk or cream, puree until smooth and creamy.

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Sometimes, you may need to strain the asparagus mixture to remove some of the fiber attached to the stems. I like it nice and creamy. No matter what produce you are using, be sure to wash well in one part white vinegary and three parts water. Then rinse. This will remove most of the bacteria. Wash melons, apples, squash, etc., before cutting or peeling them.

Wow! You only need three items to make the asparagus rolls ups and to make the soup, you probably have most of the seasonings already in your pantry. Very little waste and so yummy!

The Farmers Market Council Bluffs, located at Bayliss Park in downtown Council Bluffs on Thursdays from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. is worth the trip. Another farmers market to check out is at the YMCA Healthy Living Center (formerly The Center at 714 S. Main St.) on Saturday mornings. Just remember to wash all produce before eating or making your recipe.

Need just a snack? Try the corn or flour tortilla chips with pico de gallo from Erick’s Enchiladas or Norm’s fried pork rinds. Both can be found at Farmers Market Council Bluffs.

Council Bluffs Farmers Market is not only a great way to get your produce, but you can meet your friends there, listen to music, or just relax and eat your chips and get a cup of coffee from Hype Bike Coffee Company at the beautiful Bayliss Park.

Don’t forget the Teeny Tiny Weener Wagon.

— Need recipes? Email me at laynie@cox.net.

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