Violets are up in full force. I'm planning to pick some and make a batch of candied violets in the next day or two, so I will try to post details and pictures on how to attempt this very simple procedure. Also, today I ran across this post on violet extract via foodgawker.com. I will be attempting this as well, so we'll see how it turns out.
I went down to the Metro Centre farmer's market this weekend, on both Friday and Saturday. I didn't stick around to investigate too much. As I suspected, not much is coming to the market right now. The stand on the far end is selling vegetables that could only have been trucked in, so no thank you. However, if you are interested in looking for plants, several of the farms that will later be selling produce are selling a number of plant starts, especially tomatoes.
This is one area where I recommend checking out what they have. Pretty much all of the tomatoes that you find sold at places like Home Depot etc., are going to be hybrids like Better Boy, which are great for producing lots of pretty, round, mealy, and flavorless tomatoes. I figure if you want that, it's probably best to just go to the grocery store.
I know I sound like a snob, but for tomatoes, heirloom varieties are really the only way to go. They won't necessarily produce the perfect red globes that you're used to, or the abundance that some plants put out, but the different flavors and textures are incomparable, imho. Some of the smaller garden shops around here carry a few varieties of heirloom tomatoes, like the pink brandywine, which is truly amazing, but you're going to pay a premium for getting those varieties. Farmer's markets can usually offer you a better price for the same heirloom varieties, though they will of course be selling the more generic varieties as well. But if you didn't start tomatoes in your garage a month ago, you would do well to check out the farmer's market for your starts.
Things to keep an eye out in the next couple of weeks will be fresh local asparagus and rhubarb, and possibly some salad greens.
Finally, as a local area gripe, why is it that no one goes out to eat on Sunday night? The only places that you can go for dinner after 7 pm in Peoria are the chain restaurants out by the malls or downtown, and perhaps a bar or two. The more interesting independent places all shut down by 7 pm because they just don't have enough business, if they open at all. I suppose I gripe in part because as a chef working 7 days a week, Sunday is the only night I get done early enough to go out somewhere for dinner, since we shut down at 7 pm. But every time some new restaurant opens, they try to be open on Sundays and then have to give up, it seems. Why must everyone be homebodies on Sunday night? Sigh.