Roadside farm stands are making a comeback. They have been around forever, more common in some places then others. I saw a lot of self-serve apple stands growing up in New England. Today, some of the farm stands where I live are edging close to becoming one-stop shopping spots, with loaves of bread and balls of pizza dough — delivered to the farm stand by a local bakery — available for sale alongside veggies and home-baked zucchini bread.
If you have a stocked pantry and live in the neighborhood, a quick stop by the farm stand on the way home might save you a trip to the store. From a farmer’s perspective, the potential benefits are also compelling. Selling produce at the edge of the field offers the shortest commute imaginable. You don’t have to pack and unpack a truck, or deal with customers at the market, perhaps in the rain and wind. Farmers who do make the trek to market can rely on their farm stands to unload unsold produce. Those who sell their produce at wholesale prices to stores, restaurants and distributors, meanwhile, might find they prefer getting retail prices by letting the produce sell itself.
A close friend built his family’s first farm stand five years ago on the road beside his field — long before the virus hit — and they were quite happy with the results. When COVID hit, the farm stand moved from being an experiment to a lifesaver. Farm stand sales shot up 500%, which more than picked up the slack from declining restaurant and market sales.
“People didn’t want to go into crowded stores or farmers markets, and the open air, self-serve nature of a farm stand was really appealing,” he told me.
It all made sense. But to his pleasant surprise, farm stand sales continued to improve this summer.
“Going into this year, our concern was that our farm stand would trickle. It’s no longer going to rage, because people are going back to stores and the farmers markets. In fact, the opposite has happened,” he said.
Most of their sales now come from the stand. He isn’t looking for new wholesale accounts and quit going to the market altogether.
We were having this discussion in his barn as he trimmed garlic with a team of interns and employees, while a welcome splash of rain rattled the metal roof. Somehow, the conversation turned to a meal that he had recently made from produce that he had snagged from the farm stand. It consisted of sweet corn pancakes topped with fresh salsa, alongside a fresh potato salad. The general response to the meal boiled down to: “I was like, so full, but I like, needed to keep eating.”
My family reached a similar conclusion after a very enjoyable cooking session. I modified his recipe to make the pancake batter thinner, so the finished product was more like a crepe. It’s so much fun to work with the beautiful tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, onions, corn and cilantro. It feels like hanging out with friends – old friends who I haven’t seen since last year’s harvest.
These light, delicate crepes will go well with either sweet or savory toppings. For this meal, serve it with salsa and new potatoes, and garnish with meat. Serves six.
1 cup corn meal
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 T oil
4 cups fresh corn, cut off the cobb
2 cups water
2 cups buttermilk
Butter for frying
Mix the corn meal, flour, salt and baking powder. Add the oil, eggs, water, buttermilk and three cups of the corn to a blender and liquify. Combine with the dry ingredients and let sit for about an hour. When it’s ready to cook, melt your butter on a hot skillet and pour the small crepes about 4-inches across. Flip them when they start to bubble – after about 3 to 5 minutes.
This recipe is best with a diverse range of tomatoes that only summer can provide. Serves six.
8 cups chopped tomatoes
2 cups chopped sweet onions
2 cups sweet peppers
Hot peppers or powder al gusto
Chopped cilantro al gusto
1 teaspoon salt plus more to taste
Combine the ingredients and let sit for about an hour.
Farm stand New Potato Salad
A little bit Asian. A little bit German. A little bit of mayo. What else do you need? Serves six.
2 pounds new potatoes
4 cups chopped yellow onions
Three cloves chopped garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons mayo
10 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
Cut the potatoes to equal size and steam until tender. Meanwhile, sauté the onions and garlic in the oil. When the onions are translucent, add the soy sauce and lemon and simmer for five more minutes. Add the potatoes and stir to coat. Add the mayo and bacon, stir again and serve.
(Flash in the Pan is food writer Ari LeVaux’s weekly recipe column. It runs in about 100 newspapers nationwide, nourishing food sections large and small with complete protein for the belly brain.)