There are a few glorious markers of spring in my world: cherry blossoms bloom, fresh green buds appear on trees, a daffodil or 100 pop up here and there and – happy day – Round Swamp Farm re-opens for business. The earth revolves smoothly once again.
Until recently, I was lucky to live within walking distance to this mecca of tasty treats. When I bought my new house, an early task was to determine the quickest route to this farm stand on Three Mile Harbor Road. I’ve got it down – should take me no more than two minutes to get there barring any slow landscape trucks in my path.
We are blessed with field-upon-field of beautifully grown vegetables and fruit in the Hamptons as well as a bevy of wonderful farm stands selling said freshness. So what makes this country market so notable? Round Swamp is truly a family affair, started by Carolyn Lester 40+ years ago on her father’s farm land, whose logo is “Farmers of Land and Sea” – and they truly are a family filled with farmers and fishermen (and great cooks). I’ve never seen a harder working group who, despite the hoards of pesky New Yorkers lining up on holiday weekends, always offer a smile and “how ya doing, Hon?” as they hoist your 50 lb. shopping basket onto the check-out counter.
Why, you ask, is my shopping basket quite so heavy? There is so much goodness! The family grows pretty gorgeous produce – particularly (for me, at least) their peppery arugula, spring asparagus, radishes, snap peas, lettuces, a variety of potatoes, some of the best local corn and outrageous heirloom tomatoes – and catches some dang fresh fish and seafood. Autumn brings fat stalks of brussel sprouts, beautiful winter squash, fluffy white cauliflower, beets and other root vegetables.
It’s the prepared food, though, that makes this place a standout. A summer dinner party doesn’t pass at my house without Round Swamp’s blueberry crumb pie for dessert (or peach or tri-berry for that matter). It’s, quite simply, the best pie ever. Weekend house guests can anticipate chock-full-of-blueberry muffins, pecan sticky rolls, health muffins or farm-fresh organic eggs for breakfast. The fabulous guacamole, seven-layer Mexican dip and assorted pot-stickers are cocktail hour staples. Spicy jalapeno cheddar corn muffins can’t hit the shelves fast enough for my liking in October.
Because my life is crazy-busy in the summer (or maybe because I’m a tad lazy), my kitchen is stocked with an ever-rotating inventory of Round Swamp items: curried chicken salad, Dijon potato salad, “picnic” chicken, barbequed spareribs, grain and lentil pilafs, seared sea scallops, awesome crab cakes, skewers of grilled shrimp, Caprese salad, sesame snap peas, fresh lemonade and sun tea. Lunch is perfect when it’s a thickly sliced beefsteak tomato topping a sandwich of their best-ever chicken salad. The jams, fruit butters, farm-fresh jarred tomatoes, bread-and-butter pickles and other pantry items are worth keeping around. As the season turns a bit chillier, I look forward to their Boeuf Bourguignon and truly sinful whipped potatoes.
Round Swamp Farm will be opening for weekends this Friday, April 20th.
Round Swamp Farm, 184 Three Mile Harbor Road, East Hampton. Tel. 631-324-4438