Recently I had the pleasure of visiting the amazing Orange Farmers Market store in Orange, CT. From the outside, my expectations were minimal; after all, who would have thought that tucked inside a plaza whose asphalt parking lot has seen better days there would be an affordable grocer stocking fresh and unique produce. After a short initial trip, all I can say is: I’ve found my new “happy place.”
First, I want to clarify that this is not a sponsored post. No “New Haven/Connecticut” posts on this blog thus far have been sponsored. I probably should have noted this on earlier posts, but each mention or profile of a New Haven restaurant, bar, shop, or other foodstuff is because, when it comes down to it, I love New Haven. I love the whole area. I love Connecticut. I get a little thrill every time I take the exit towards Downtown off 95. I love the familiar feeling I get from breezing down the Hamilton Street exit as I head to Ferraro’s Market. I love walking through Wooster Square, especially during the Saturdays of summer, when the City Seed Farmers’ Market is in full swing. Granted, I’m still new to the area and part of it is undoubtedly the excitement of exploring or discovering something new but nevertheless, there is something so special about it here. It felt like home almost immediately.
The Orange Farmers Market—which despite it’s name is actually a traditional brick and mortar grocer and not what we commonly think of as a “farmers market”—is my latest discovery. I stepped in and wove my way through the isles. It was wall-to-wall produce, with the outer walls lined with some pantry staples—canned and dried beans, pasta, some bread—and some more unusual dry goods—black forest honey, honeycomb, and massive jars of tahini for prices so low my jaw dropped (and the low price does in no way reflect the quality, either). Gorgeous looking fruits and vegetables filled the heart of the store in crates and skillfully assembled produce displays. But beyond what you’d expect to find in any grocery store, they offered an array of unique items: red dandelion greens, cranberry beans, and lady apples, to name a few. The quality of everything was impressive—nothing looked like it was turning or past its prime like you may find at larger supermarkets—and in fact it’s been the one place that I’ve been able to source ripe, ready-to-eat avocados that actually taste like an avocado in several months.
At the register, the prices were described to me as “very fair” by the woman that rang me up, but I would say “generous” is more accurate. I left with twice as much arugula for half the price of the supermarket’s going rate, and a bundle of cilantro so large that I thought it’s pricing must have been mismarked. I was so astounded by the selection I almost didn’t notice the complete absence of meat. But really that’s just as well—that’s what Ferraro’s is for—and the produce is enough to justify a trip.
What really stood out to me at Orange Farmers Market, were these little green pods in a plastic clamshell next to the green Thai chilies. As I eyed the package inquisitively, I had no idea what these little things were, and the package was not labeled. A younger woman that worked at the store noticed me from a few feet away, were she stood stocking fresh green beans. She explained to me they were fresh chickpeas/garbanzos still in their shells. I had never seen them like this before and it was fascinated. Noticing my continuing curiosity she plucked one out of the package, popped it open and offered me a sample. To my surprise, it was a bit starchier than their cooked counterparts, but pleasantly so, and it had a grassiness that matched its pale mint green color. It was almost like what I would imagine a hybrid of meaty garbanzos and sweet, fresh peas to be like.
I grabbed the packet and put it in my little basket. “Okay, so what do I do with these?” I asked. I was already committed to purchasing them; I just need guidance on what to do with them when I got them home. She told me to put them in the oven with a little water, oil and salt—“cooked this way, they’re so good,” she said. She also told me to try grilling them the same way (in a grill basket, I assume) when it gets a little warmer out—and I’m certainly going to (but I think I’ll toss them with a little ground cumin and coriander to compliment the smokiness of the grill).
The simple oven preparation left me with a snack reminiscent of edamame, so I sprinkled them generously with coarse sea salt flakes once they were plated—much like steamed edamame still in their shell. As you bite down on the pods they pop the chickpea out and into your mouth. You get the taste and texture of the salt this way, but you could always pop them open by hand by just lightly pressing on the pods—either way, just don’t eat the pod itself. As is also true with edamame, these are just as good piping hot as they are at room temperature, or even with a little chill to them (although the shells can get a little tacky and soft after being refrigerated, especially if they’ve been salted).
All I can say is you have to try these. I can’t say that I can see myself buying fresh garbanzos to shell, and cook the same I do canned or dried, but the fresh version prepared this way is a truly unique experience that doesn’t require much work. So if you ever stumble upon fresh garbanzos you should definitely try this.
If you’re lucky enough to live in close proximity to the Orange Farmer’s Market be sure to stop in. It’s a small, family operation whose pride for quality products and service beams intensely from every crate of apples, every box of Sicilian eggplant, and each bushel of fava beans. With warmer weather moving in, and seasonal produce becoming more locally available, I can only imagine what you’ll find in the coming weeks.
Orange Farmers Market
254 Bull Hill Lane
Orange, CT 06477
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