In my ongoing attempt to both buy fresh, local produce and avoid the crack of dawn, I’m visiting a second farmers market that operates in the afternoon. Last time it was the Durham Farmers Market, where I discovered Hakurei turnips; this time, I checked out the Raleigh State Farmers Market.

First up, Carolina Mushroom Farm sold me two types of shrooms, King Oyster and Lion’s Mane, the latter of which looks like a cluster of white pom-poms. Most mushrooms are full of vitamin D, but Lion’s Manes are purported to elevate mood and improve cognitive health. On the flavor front, neither variety has much if eaten raw, but once cooked, they become rich and meaty, with a slightly astringent finish, as I discovered while making a quick weeknight pasta dish.

I browned butter, added dried thyme, and tossed in the farmers market mushrooms along with sliced button mushrooms. Once the shrooms caramelized, drawing out their sweetness, I deglazed the pan with white wine and reduced the liquid. To that I added al dente, torn lasagna noodles along with a cup of the starchy pasta cooking water to help transform the mushrooms and liquid into a silky sauce. I finished it off with grated Parmesan, a couple nubbins of cold butter, and the juice of half a lemon. I was bowled over by how delicious and satisfying it was.

My second discovery from the State Farmers Market visit was patty pan squash, flying saucer-shaped veggies in shades of bright yellow and sage green. At Debra Lee’s stand, I learned that yellow patty pans, also known as scallop or pitty-pat squash, taste similar to zucchini (which are green), while the greenish ones taste more like yellow or crookneck squash. Go figure. Regardless of color, the smaller ones tend to be sweeter, but adding a pinch of sugar while cooking helps counteract any bitterness. You can also bake them as you would autumnal squash varieties like acorn or butternut, which concentrates their sweetness.

No matter how you slice pattypan squash—some folks slice them vertically, while others cut them horizontally to create larger, “steak-like” slices—make sure pieces are uniform to ensure even cooking. For a light summer side dish, I trimmed the squash’s top and bottom and cut each one into about eight wedges, cooked them in bacon fat with half-moon slices of yellow onion, and seasoned the mixture with salt, pepper, and a pinch of sugar. Once the squash and onions caramelized, I added a quarter cup of water and finished cooking the squash until they softened around the edges but maintained a firm center.

A few additional takeaways from my visit to the State Farmers Market:
  • The Seafood Restaurant on site has very fresh, well-cooked Calabash-style seafood on offer; portions are huge, so consider sharing.
  • The Market Bakery inside the Market Shoppes sells loaves of soft, slightly sweet sourdough that are perfect for tomato sandwiches.
  • Contrary to conventional wisdom, it is possible to grow cherries in N.C.; they’re being harvested now and should be appearing at the Farmers Market soon.