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Make a locally-grown dinner with farmers market produce
Lettuce was one of many items for sale Tuesday at the Hall County Farmers Market. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Hall County Farmers Market
6 a.m. Tuesdays and 7 a.m. Saturdays
Where: At the corner of East Crescent Drive and Jesse Jewell Parkway in Gainesville, near Interstate 985 Exit 24
More info: Hall County Extension Office, 770-531-6988

Early spring fruits and veggies are ready for the pickin' at the Hall County Farmers Market.

Squash, tomatoes, okra and beans are still in the ground and waiting for warmer weather, but right now there is still plenty from early harvests, like turnip greens, broccoli, green onions and strawberries.

Glenn Waldrip, a farmer from Gainesville, was at the market on Tuesday and had an array of homegrown produce like turnip greens, green onions, beets, broccoli and leaf lettuce.

"I have about 5 acres of corn, tomatoes, beans, things like that," he said. "It's going to be another six weeks before the tomatoes."

He said the leaf lettuce he sells is great for a salad.

"We take this lettuce and cut it up and put green onions on it and then fry some streak o' lean (fatback) and pour the grease over it and it is good - and then put vinegar," Waldrip said.

Waldrip also had some beets for sale at his booth, which he said his wife uses to make pickled beets each year.

Peggy Robertson, manager of the Hall County Farmers Market, added that the turnip greens Waldrip had for sale were perfect for cooking up a big dinner.

"I just cook turnip greens and make a big mess, 3 or 4 pounds ... with ham hocks or fatback," she said. "It's hard to say fatback because people don't want to hear that, especially the young people."

It's important to thoroughly wash the greens, she said.

"Most people wash every leaf. ... They make sure there's not any bugs on it or any worms. I think most people wash it three or four times."

Fresh-picked strawberries were for sale at the Dahlonega Vegetable Farm booth, which is a pick-your-own farm.

Phil Lingerfeld, who works at the farm, said the strawberries have been in season for about three weeks.

There are many ways to prepare fresh strawberries - preserved in jams and jellies or enjoyed with strawberry shortcake and in pies. But Lingerfeld said he goes with a more basic way to enjoy the spring fruit.

He eats them "raw with sugar on them."

Robertson said it's important for local residents to support the farmers market. First, she said, the produce has less pesticides and more flavor than store-bought varieties.

"The produce may cost a little more but is better than you can buy in the store," she said.

The Hall County Farmers Market is open through the fall on Tuesdays and Saturdays. More farmers are expected by mid-June with summer produce - as long as the weather keeps warming up.

This will be the first year for Kathy Atkinson, a Braselton farmer, to sell produce at the farmers market.

"I grow a lot of heritage vegetables," said Atkinson of her garden. Heritage vegetables, or heirloom vegetables, are grown from open-pollinated seeds that are at least 50 years old.

Atkinson said she soon will have garlic, several varieties of beans, okra, Italian peppers, Italian squash and - hopefully - melons.

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