Hamptons Epicure: Getting Farmy with Spring on the Turnpike

Dale and Bette's Farmstand
Dale and Bette’s Farmstand, Photo: S. Dermont

Next week Dan’s Papers will distribute our annual Summer Preview publication of everything new and hot and classic and must-see on the East End. Also, next week our big Memorial Day issue comes out. In it we’re planning to run a photo spread I shot of many of the new homes in Sag Harbor Village.

Lotta change in the sea air. What keeps me grounded is this ground—the earth of my garden and the land that brings forth local crops year after year, century after century.

Maybe the biggest change in Local Food World this season is the transformation of Dale & Bette’s farmstand, right next to Bay Burger, just outside of Sag Harbor on the Bridgehampton Turnpike. They’ve put in…drum roll, please…a REFRIGERATOR and they’ve raised the roof to accommodate it. Now people over 5’ 5” don’t bean themselves every time they stroll under it to buy some salad greens or eggs. Big change.

What’s in the fridge besides salad greens? Organic potatoes, asparagus and kale. The last of the sweet, tender kale that overwintered in their hoophouse. The eggs are still kept in a cooler—so they don’t get too cold. At home I don’t refrigerate eggs at all, but leave them on my counter at room temperature, which is ideal for baking. Outside the farmstand fridge you’ll find bunches of Bette’s lilacs and some dried foods—tomatoes and cornmeal for sale. Also, Bette has added a free book exchange.

Dale and Bette are a pair of the East End’s original organic farmers. They do everything “by the book,” right down to re-using cardboard egg cartons (no plastic), reusing shopping bags and, of course, reusing canning jars. There is no scientific farming question that Dale can’t answer.

I love the idea of the book exchange—take one tome, leave another. It could be the answer to downsizing the library that I call home. But I quickly realized that I was a little intimidated by it. I wouldn’t want to get caught dumping a bunch of crap books in there. I went through one of my bookshelves and found a thick volume that I thought worthy of an “organic book exchange”—Wild Flowers of America. I’d picked it up second-hand somewhere a few years ago because it seemed like the kind of book that every respectable home should have, and then proceeded to never crack it open.

So last Sunday after I’d taken all of my recyclables to the transfer station on the turnpike, I stopped at Dale & Bette’s to pick up some eggs and to drop off this volume. I figured I’d feel a little lighter after I did, buoyed by good will.

All was going well until I read the title of the top book in the book exchange basket—English 18th Century Cookery. I couldn’t leave without that. Maybe I’d just pick that up to borrow it…crap! The next book under it was The Edible French Gardenooh la, la, I needed this too. There were some other good books on offer but I figured I was really only entitled to two thin books for my one thick one, so I dashed.

Usually free book exchanges fill up with Tom Clancy paperbacks and blender cookbooks. I should have known that even Bette’s freebies would be of the highest quality. I might have guessed that other customers would be as diligent as I was about what to donate.

This farmstand is open dawn to dark, “farmer’s hours,” and now you can also partake in Dale & Bette’s produce at the Sag Harbor Farmers Market on Bay Street, which re-opens this Saturday, May 16.

They’ll bring all of their good stuff from the farm and they’d be happy to receive your old bags, cartons and canning jars, but, fear not, there will be no used books on offer there to tempt you.

You can now follow Stacy on Twitter, @HamptonsEpicure.

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