Last updated: February 16. 2013 6:16PM - 391 Views

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I had the opportunity to visit two farmers' markets during kickoff season of the Northeastern Pa. summer harvest time. First, I loaded my SUV with kids, market tote basket and hungry bellies and headed to the Scranton Cooperative Farmers' Market. The open -air store was bustling with farmers unloading case after case of produce, breads and canned goods to sell to customers buyinga first taste of summer.

Premiering at the market but nearing the end of their season were sugar sweet shell peas and two- bite- big juicy baby plums. We snatched baskets of both and parked on a bench to enjoy nature's best.Cars packed the lots and people marched in and out like ants at the first picnic of the season. Shopping bags were filled with peaches and blueberries, first- of- the -season tomatoes and Kirby cucumbers, ripe for the peeling or the pickling.

Next, a friend and I headed to the South Side of Scranton to check out the opening of the farmers' market at the Iron Furnaces. The quality and uniqueness of their offerings makes this a must- stop shop for the foodie on weekends. It is open Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and offers an artsy, eclectic feel complete with music, art vendors and cooking demonstrations to teach the aspiring locavoire chef what to do with all that fabulous food. We chatted with farmers from Purple Pepper and Ant Hill farms and loved their funky fabulous products like hydroponic beets, waiting to be plucked from their pools; pickled garlic scapes, or, the tops of the garlic plant resembling green beans but plunged into a zippy brine to give them an addicting garlicy pickle bite; as well as spicy romanesco, tomatillos and a rainbow assortment of pepper plants.

I picked a few gifts for my family: lemon cucumbers for my daughter Morgan, more shell peas for Madison and Sydney and for my husband Eddie, a horseradish plant for his gardens. My little guy Blake toted our basket and snuck a few more garlic scape samples.

There's nothing quite like local fresh foods to fill window sills and fruit baskets. I'll be also replenishing my canning cellar. But that's for another article.

Stephanie Shimkus Decker is Program Director of the Kiesendahl School of Hospitality and Tourism at Lackawanna College.

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