Foodies flock to indoor farmers' market in Portsmouth

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PORTSMOUTH — Kale isn’t just for Portuguese soup anymore.

Just ask Melissa Yahia, whose bags were overflowing with the hardy green cabbage as she browsed all the fresh produce at the Aquidneck Growers’ indoor winter market, which opened for its second season Saturday.

“It’s delicious raw if you just chop it up and make a really nice dressing, or you can dehydrate it by making kale

chips in the oven,” said Ms. Yahia, who couldn’t get enough of what William and Barbara O'Reilly of Ballymachree Farm had on display.

“I bought dinosaur kale and a curly kale and a beautiful Romaine, but look at this Tatsoi over here,” she said, pointing to a huge, green leafy thing that everyone was talking about. “Have you ever seen anything like that? Oh, it’s great. You just sauté it up with a little olive oil.”

Ms. Yahia was just one of many satisfied customers who turned out in droves to the indoor market, which runs from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays through next May at St. Mary’s Church’s old parish house, 324 East Main Road.

“It’s a pretty good turnout — full parking lot,” said Saturday market manager Judy Hestnes, adding that she saw a few new faces Saturday.

The winter market is a continuation of the summer one hosted by Newport Vineyards in Middletown. Shoppers can browse for fresh produce, cheese, meats, seafood, breads, gourmet coffee — even knit items and wooden cutting boards. A revolving cast of melody-makers — Patty and Buster performed Saturday — provide a musical backdrop.

The O’Reillys, who were set up in a room separate from the main hall, had a steady crowd of foodies around them all morning. Ms. O’Reilly said the farm grows six varieties of kale, four of which they sell at the market.

“Our biggest sellers are sweet potatoes and beets and the tatsoi that you see right there. People juice it and people sauté it and they eat it raw in a salad,” she said.

Ms. Yahia said she’s a regular here.

“Every weekend I come here and it’s incredible what they do inside because normally most farmers’ markets close late September or early October,” she said. “This keeps going and there’s so much abundance here; it’s incredible.”

With that, she was off to another table.

“I’m going to get some things from Olga’s (Cup and Saucer) in the other room,” she said. “My mother lives in Massachusetts and she makes me bring her bread every time I come here, so I’m going to bring it back to her on Sunday.”

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.