To my mind, May is a colorful and celebratory month. After a chilly and damp spring here in the Pacific Northwest, the days are getting longer and colorful signs of spring are popping up everywhere. The rhododendrons, which are Washington’s state flower, are finally in bloom. While I don’t suffer from allergies, many of my friends do. Thankfully, one benefit of our damp spring is that pollen counts have remained generally low. Even the pine tree pollen that blanketed the cars parked along the street in a dusting of yellow earlier this month was less than in previous years.

I love rhododendrons both because they come in so many different colors and because they’re a relatively low-maintenance plant.

The farmers markets are in full swing, numerous festivals are opening up, and Memorial Day caps off the month. Getting up on a Saturday morning and visiting the local farmers market is always a fun way to spend a couple of hours outdoors, plus I get my walking in and have a chance to chat with so many people. Small farms comprise 83% of the more than 39,000 farms here in Washington State, so farmers markets are also a great way to support small, local businesses.

The produce is fresher than I can find in any store, and everything I cook just tastes better. With vendors selling flowers, cider, soaps, honey, hand-crafted textiles, fresh-baked bread and treats (even doggie treats for Piper!), I seldom leave without a bag full of goodies.

Honey in every shade from pale gold to dark brown at the local farmers market.

Farmers markets are also a great way to get new ideas when I get in a rut for what to make for lunch or dinner. Just ask – farmers love to share their secrets, tips and recipes on how to prepare their fresh offerings. I challenge myself to try one new thing each time I go. I’m debating what to do with the rhubarb I bought, perhaps a rhubarb cheesecake? Although I picked up a recipe for rhubarb honey chicken that sounds very tasty, so I might end up making that instead.

Rhubarb, with it’s tart/sweet/spicy flavor is wonderful, not just in baked good, but in savory dishes as well.

If you’re in the mood to share, I’d love to hear some of your favorite farmer’s market recipes!

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