Lovers of greens have an ally in farmer Mike Noreen. The owner of Burning River Farm grows an impressive array of vegetables at his Frederic, Wis., acreage, but what makes a visit to his stand at the Mill City Farmers market on Saturday morning a necessity is the ever-changing selection of fresh, vibrant salad greens.
Last Saturday's yield from this wet and generally uncooperative growing season featured what was probably some of the region's first baby arugula, each ¼-pound bag a genuine thing of beauty with delicate, pale green stems and leaves. A quick chew revealed a subtle peppery bite that merely hinted at full-grown arugula's fiery, sharply intense flavor. "It's early, and it's young, so it's not so spicy," explained farmer Adrienne Logsdon.
Arugula is a major Burning River crop, a treasured staple in the farm's CSA boxes -- shares in Noreen's community supported agriculture program are still available -- and a market crowd-pleaser. But arugula isn't the only leafy green that Noreen cultivates. As spring segues into summer, greens-minded shoppers can turn to the Burning River stand for mustard and dandelion greens, baby kale, baby red chard and a decidedly colorful and delicious romaine-loma salad mix. But right now, it's all about baby arugula, and it's lovely.
For the farm's staff lunch -- this year's crew of three are planning on opening their own farms after gaining a season of hands-on experience -- Logsdon prefers highlighting the baby arugula's gentle gifts by relying on a simple blend of lemon juice, olive oil and sea salt. What a perk.
Arugula ($3 for a ¼-pound bag) from Burning River Farm (www.burningriverfarm.com) at the Mill City Farmers Market, 2nd Street and Chicago Avenue S., Mpls., www.millcityfarmersmarket.org. Open 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. For an arugula recipe, go to startribune.com/tabletalk. For a map of Twin Cities metro-area farmers markets, go to startribune.com/taste.