Ann Arbor Farmer's Market Haul

I have often seen these “haul videoes” on YouTube, where people share what they picked up at the store. People seem to enjoy these videos as there are so many of them on YouTube. So I decided to get into the act. But I want my videos to be more than just what I bought, I want to be able to teach. And I wanted to highlight one of my favorite places to shop, the Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market. Watch the video below. I did one take, no editing, so I am not promising a perfectly polished video. I will get better with practice. So bear with me and be kind! Here it is:

Here is recap of what I bought.

Transparent Apples

Transparent Apples
Super early and super tart. My 4 year old daughter has no problem eating them out of hand though. Go figure. Transparents make really good applesauce – the texture is superb. Use them fast, they won’t last long. They will actually crack on you as they age.

Black Sweet Cherries
I love these deep, dark cherries that I get from Kapnick Orchards. Full of flavor. Nothing at the grocery store can touch them.

Apricots
Also from Kapnick Orchards, I got the first apricots of the season. I love them because they are small. The huge apricots you find in the store are often mealy and flavorless. The small ones are packed full of flavor.

Green & Gold Zucchini
I got the zucchini to shred in my food processor to put on top BBQ shrimp tacos I was making. I got this idea from chef Jamie Oliver and his rainbow salad recipe.

Clingstone Peaches
My first Michigan peaches of the year. They are clingstone, which early peaches tend to be. The flesh does not release from the pit very well. These were so clingstone it was almost like dealing with mango. The flavor was good, so I could overlook that. These peaches were an early Flamin Fury variety.

Vista Bella Apples

Vista Bella Apples
Another early season apple that is richer in flavor than the Transparent. Still very tart.
Bunch Carrots

Lemonade Apples

in Fruit & Vegetables

Lemonade Apples

There is nothing like biting into a tall, crunchy glass of lemonade. Wait biting into? Yes you can now sink your teeth into lemonade in all new way with the Lemonade apple. I picked up this New Zealand apple at Meijer (for $1.99/pound) in Ypsilanti, Michigan during the month of July. I saw much earlier last year in the month of May I thought I might have missed out on them this season. They are a product of the Yummy Fruit Company (what an awesome name!). The apple is a mostly yellow with some green undertones in some specimens. You will notice it has a more elongated shape.

My Experience with this Apple (Rating Scale 1-10)

Aspect Score
Crispiness 8
Tartness 4
Apple Flavor 6
Sweetness 6
Juiciness 8
Where I Bought Them Meijer (Ypsilanti MI)

Lemonade Apples

Overall Feeling:
In the spring and early summer it can be hard to find any good apple to eat. Most of the apples in the stores are sweet, crunchy, with little flavor. It is refreshing to have the Lemonade apple come along. It has sweet enough for out of hand eating but with enough tartness to satisfy me. It is a juicy apple. The juice seems to burst in your mouth like bubbles if you can imagine that. I can almost imagine myself drinking sparkling juice. The flavor is good, but don’t expect it to taste like lemon. The color of the apple and the tartness to it, is why the lemonade name fits.

Be careful when choosing the apple in the store. They can brush easily if not handled properly. Also if they are too bright yellow this may indicate age and that the apple is not going to be as cris

Want to learn more about the Yummy Fruit Company? Check out this video below that tells their story.

What to Buy at Fresh Thyme Farmer’s Market

in Tips Where I Buy Food

What to Buy at Fresh Thyme Farmer's Market

The grocery business in an ever changing landscape. Stores come and stores go. Recently I had to say a sad farewell to Hiller’s Market in Ann Arbor (the store where I first tasted Cotton Candy grapes), now a member of the Kroger company. But as Hiller’s presence in Michigan fades away, a new store is just beginning to make it’s presence known in the Mitten State. Over the 4th of July weekend, I got to visit my first ever Fresh Thyme Farmer’s Market store in East Lansing. Three other locations in Michigan are about to open up this week: Troy, Rochester Hills, and Northville. Plans have been submitted for a store in Ypsilanti.

What to Buy at Fresh Thyme Farmers Market

The purpose of this post is to guide you through some items that are worth buying if you find yourself inside a Fresh Thyme store. This isn’t meant to be an overall critique of the store.

What to Buy at Fresh Thyme Farmers Market

1. Produce Sales
Produce is to me is the heart and soul of every grocery store. Without good selection and good prices including amazing sales, then you won’t find me shopping there much. Fresh Thyme does have those things. They were offering blueberries for 88 cents a pint when I was there, which is a great place only topped when the Michigan crop comes out. This is the kind of sale that brings people into the store to begin with. I easily felt I could grab any vegetable I needed for dinner without “overpaying” for them.

What to Buy at Fresh Thyme Farmers Market

2. Bulk Foods
Every good grocery store should have a bulk foods section – that place where you can buy a small amount of a item to try. I was disappointed years ago when Meijer did a way with their bulk food bins. On this shopping trip my daughter wanted some key lime yogurt pretzels. She has been a big key lime yogurt kick lately. We saw in a 1 pound container but didn’t want to make that big of a commitment. Thanks to the bulk bin I was able to get her a few to try out for a snack. Without a bulk section, I probably wouldn’t have made that purchase at all. Besides yogurt pretzels, they had all the traditional standbys of nuts, dried fruits, granola, flour, oats, etc. And they have some more unique, trendy bulk items like…

What to Buy at Fresh Thyme Farmers Market

3. Honey
Besides just your regular bulk stuff, Fresh Thyme also has honey in bulk. They have local Michigan honey that you can depense yourself so you only buy actually how much you want. Besides honey they also have bulk…

What to Buy at Fresh Thyme Farmers Market

4. Bulk Oil
Add oils to the list of great bulk options at Fresh Thyme. Again buy as much or as little as you want. Only need extra virgin olive oil for one recipe this week, then you can buy a small amount and you don’t need to commit so much of your weekly grocery budget to a big ticket item.

What to Buy at Fresh Thyme Farmers Market

5. Cheese for a Good Price
We are a cheese loving family, so good prices on cheese is a must for us. Fresh Thyme had a lot of basic cheeses that were affordable (in the $2.99 to $5.99 per pound range). The mild cheddar you see in the bottom of the above photo was price at $2.99/pound and made in Michigan!

What to Buy at Fresh Thyme Farmers Market

6. Chicken Breast Sales
Whenever you can get boneless skinless chicken breasts for under $2/lb is a time to rejoice. While this may not be the everyday price, a sale like this gives you a chance to stock up and freeze them. And most grocery store will repeat these kind of sales regularly enough so that when you run out, it will be on sale again soon.

What to Buy at Fresh Thyme Farmers Market

7. Ground Beef Sales
At the same time as the chicken sale, was a time to stock up on ground beef as well as it was going for $3.99/lb for 85% lean. Another thing to stock up on.

What to Buy at Fresh Thyme Farmers Market

8. Ground Game Meat
Like an alternative to beef? Fresh Thyme carries Blackwing ground meats that include venison, antelope, elk, and bison (labeled as buffalo). These kinds of meat can be more difficult to find in the larger supermarket chains, so I am glad to see Fresh Thyme carrying these products. The now departed Hiller’s also sold frozen game meat, so it’s good for local consumers to immediately have a new option in the general area.

What to Buy at Fresh Thyme Farmers Market

9. House Made Sausage
Their meat department isn’t a huge one, yet the selection of sausage is incredible. We tried three different types for our dinner a night later and were very pleased with the taste. We tried both pork and chicken sausages.

What to Buy at Fresh Thyme Farmers Market

10. Michigan Made
Nowadays everyone is getting into carrying local products, even the Meijer and Kroger of the world. So any new store has to feature them and Fresh Thyme does it well with several end caps featuring Michigan made products. So you can get your favorite local jams, jellies, BBQ sauces, coffeees, etc.

What to Buy at Fresh Thyme Farmers Market

11. Local Milk
Each store is going to cater to it’s local region. I am glad to see that the Fresh Thyme in East Lansing is carrying Mooville milk, one of my absolutely favorite dairies in the country. Their chocolate milk may be the best ever. They also carry cream-line milk that has not been homogenized – very to find. People believe this milk is easier to digest.

What to Buy at Fresh Thyme Farmers Market

12. Salt Water Taffy
If you got a sweet tooth, make sure to grap some salt water taffy on the way out the door. They have a nice selection in a very appealing display. They brilliantly marketed a bag full of patriotic colors for Independence Day. It’s fun to let the kids pick out a few flavors of their own for a road trip or to have a bowl of them on your dinner table when welcoming guests.

What to Buy at Fresh Thyme Farmers Market

Where to Find Saskatoon Berries in Michigan 2015

in Fruit & Vegetables

Saskatoon Berries Michigan

Here I was a year ago, shopping the produce department of the now departed Hiller’s Market (stores were sold to Kroger, boo!). As I am browsing over by the berry and grape refrigerated section my examining eyes catch the glimpse of a colorful brochure. Nearby are small clamshells of berries labeled Saskatoon berries. Had never heard of them before but was attracted to their grown in Michigan status. Brought some home for family to try. My wife fell in love at first bite – she says they have better texture and taste than a blueberry. Even thought it may look like sort of like a blueberry is doesn’t taste like one. You will have to seek them out to try them yourself. I have shared them with many people and have heard people saying the flavor had notes of cranberry, almond, plum, and concord grape.

Saskatoon Berries Michigan

Besides their unique, awesome taste Saskatoon berries may very well be the next big “superfood”. They are said to be higher in antioxidants than even a wild blueberry. They are also high in fiber. And with a real push for these types of “superfoods” there is potential for a big boom in the Saskatoon berry market in the coming years.

Saskatoon Berries Michigan

Saskatoon berries are native to North America, growing in the northern climate from Maine to Alaska and across Canada, so they can take some serious cold. Amazingly they are are related to an apple than a blueberry (just look at the shape of their leaves). They grow as a deciduous shrub that can get as high as 16 feet.

Saskatoon Berries Michigan

Unfortunately for me I only got one package last season and I think the pack I bought was sitting on the store shelves for a little longer than ideal as the texture of some of the berries as soft. I knew then I had to feature them on the blog. Fast forward a year to July 2015. The timing worked out for me to take a trip up the Mitten to Williamsburg, Michigan to give Saskatoons another try, but this time I got to pick them right off the bush.

Saskatoon Michigan Berry Farm Sign

On Sunday, July 5th, I visited the Saskatoon Michigan Farm and Nursery in Williamsburg, Michigan. The farm is the home of Steve DuCheney, who 6 years ago when the economy took a downturn decided to use his property to plant Saskatoon berries as another source of income. He now offers his berries for u-pick and sells them in local stores. U-pick is by appointment, check out the website for contact information. Season began on July 4th and should last 2 to 3 weeks. My family had a tremendous time picking the berries on an ideal sunny morning in beautiful surroundings. You will be able to read more about my experience in my upcoming new e-book series “Fruit of their Labor” to be released in August 2015 (a little teaser for ya!).

Here are the stores that Steve is supplying to this year. He also has value added products such as pie fillings that are just starting to hit store shelves.

1. Oleson’s Food Stores (both Traverse City locations)
2. Village Market (stores in Elk Rapids and Rapid City)
3. Evergreen Market (Williamsburg)
4. Hoxsie’s Market (Williamsburg)
5. Cherry Street Market (Kalkaska)

Saskatoon Berries Michigan

Other Sources for Saskatoon Berries
There are other sources across the state of Michigan to find Saskatoon berries. Unfortnately with Hiller’s out of businesss they are no longer an option. Here are some other options (and for more information check out the Saskatoon Berry Institute website):

1. AJ’s Berry Farm of Lachine, MI (near Alpena) has a crop this year for you to pick or buy in their market along with jars of Saskatoon jam.
2. The Saskatoon Berry Patch in Williamsburg began u-pick on July 8th
3. Erwin Orchards in South Lyon, MI
4. Jacques Orchard in Hemlock, MI has bushes planted but not producing a crop yet.
5. Vallads Saskatoon Berry Farm in Kalkaska, MI
6. Cross Farms in Northport, MI

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