At The Market: A bounty of basil

FRESHWATER GARDENS Tammy Southard of Freshwater Gardens. Janine Volkmar | Union

Tammy Southard’s booth has the most beautiful fresh basil at the market. The aroma pulled me in and I had to stop and admire it. All her other vegetables and starts were glowing on a grey day at the Thursday market.

“My secret is that I put it in water,” she said with a smile.

Southard farms Freshwater Gardens. It’s her first summer at the Arcata Farmers’ Market but she did do the winter market in Arcata this year.

She’s one of those up-and-coming hard-working farmers who sell at many of the markets. Her busy schedule includes Tuesday morning in Old Town Eureka, Thursday morning at the Henderson Center Market, Thursday afternoon in McKinleyville, Saturdays on the Arcata Plaza and “every once in a while, the Friday night market in Old Town.” How she finds time to grow her vegetables is a secret known only to other farmers.

Southard farms on property preserved by the North Coast Regional Land Trust, off of Myrtle Avenue. Known as Freshwater Farms Reserve, the land is a wildlife area where coho salmon spend the winter. Besides Southard, the Native Plant Society is also a presence there.

“I grow a lot of squash, kale, chard, herbs, starts, and I have chickens,” she said. Her herbs are a mix of medicinal and culinary.

A customer comes up to buy fresh basil as we are chatting and tells us about the squash blossoms stuffed with cheese and then dipped in batter that she and her husband made for dinner the previous night. “He grows an extra hill, just for the blossoms,” she said as she ran her fingers over the abundant basket of various squashes on Southard’s table.

Southard started at the farmers’ markets years ago when she had a dog biscuit company. “I met a lot of farmers that way,” she explained. Now she farms about “an acre and a half,” and, during the busy season, tries not to worry about the weeds.

Her basil doesn’t seem to worry and she grows so much of it that she makes lots of pesto for her own use. “It freezes well, especially in small containers.”

I'm glad for the advice and plan to get to work on that project right away, while the basil is abundant. To take a container out of the freezer on a rainy winter day and warm up the pesto for a meal is to smell the aroma of a summer that never seems to last long enough.

Southard is an example of what we have to be grateful for in Humboldt County: a single person working hard to bring fresh food to those who don't have space or who are not able to garden. What a gift that is to all of us! Thank you Tammy.



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