Fresh produce and homemade goods at the Bass River Farmer’s Market

What’s the hottest spot in town for gourmet seafood, healthy vegetables, and fresh-baked artisan breads?

It’s the Bass River Farmer’s Market. And yes, it’s more than just a place to grab a few ears of sweet corn for dinner — although that’s never a bad idea.

The market now hosts over 20 vendors on Thursday and Saturday mornings, peddling just-picked produce, fresh-caught seafood, gourmet pastries, olive oils, pickles, jams, relishes, scented candles, pet treats, jewelry and too many hand-crafted goods to list in a single blog post.

The Bass River Farmers Market has is a great spot to browse for handmade gifts or to pick up fresh, locally produced foods

Longtime market manager Carlene Veara says the myriad crafters make the market ideal for visitors to hunt for that perfect Cape Cod gift. But, she said, the biggest attractions are still the food vendors.

Lane Gardens of Dighton and Oakdale Farms of Rehoboth truck in their fresh-picked seasonal vegetables. Fireking Baking Co. of Braintree draws early birds looking for the first choice of artisan breads. And fresh seafood vendor Denice Lapierre brings succulent sea scallops caught on her partner Chris Merl’s day boat, the Isabel and Lilee.

The seafood has piqued interest and made the Bass River Farmers Market a locavore’s destination — where finnicky foodies can gather locally sourced ingredients to create the perfect gourmet meal.

Lapierre’s specialty is day boat sea scallops, harvested on short trips and brought to shore in small loads. Day boat scallops also called “dry scallops” aren’t treated with additives that preserve the seafood and help the meat retain water. Because they have less water content, the scallops don’t ooze liquid when they sizzle in a frying pan. And that means they can be sauteed to perfection — delivering the crisp, caramelized coating that food-lovers expect from local scallops.

Denice Lapierre’s specialty is fresh “dry scallops” from her partner Chris Merl’s boat, the fishing vessel Isabel and Lilee, named after their two daughters.

She sells her dayboat sea scallops. In addition to the fresh sea scallops, Lapierre sells haddock and other finfish, depending on what’s available from her supplier, Red’s Best. Sometimes she has black sea bass, sometimes striped bass or even the largely undiscovered treat of local skate wings. All of the fish she sells are wild-caught, except for the salmon, which Lapierre said is farmed in Maine and was added to her inventory after repeated customer requests.

Lane Gardens owner Laura Smith says the presence of Lapierre’s seafood has boosted overall turnout at the market, which makes everyone happy.

Smith brings fresh-picked vegetables, berries, fruits and herbs to the Bass River market, with specific items varying by the season. During the mid-August bonanza, her wares include just about everything that can be grown in New England — sweetcorn, carrots, cucumbers, broccoli, scallions, tomatoes, beets, peppers, eggplants, potatoes, salad fixings, and summer squashes, along with basil and other herbs. Lane Gardens also has layer hens for farm-fresh eggs, which she said sell out quickly at the market. The farm also has a certified kitchen for pickles and other processed farm foods. If you don’t see what you want, just ask, and Smith will bring it next time, she said.

Smith also accepts SNAP benefits and is registered with HIP, the state’s Healthy Incentives Program, which offers instant rebates to customers who use their EBT cards to purchase healthy, farm-fresh goods. If a customer has $100 on an Electronic Benefits Transfer card and buys $30 worth of vegetables, Smith accepts payment and immediately refunds the full amount to the customer’s EBT card via HIP. So, in effect, the customer is getting high-quality, fresh local food for free.

Laura Smith of Lane Gardens in Dighton sells fresh vegetables, berries, fruits, and eggs at the Bass River Farmers Market in South Yarmouth.

The popular program helps low-income families eat healthier while supporting local farmers — which is always a worthy endeavor.

“Eating locally grown food lets us support our farmers and helps to grow our local economy in Southeastern Massachusetts, the Cape and the Islands,” said Karen Schwalbe, executive director of the Southeastern Massachusetts Agricultural Partnership.

Strong demand at our local markets has allowed farmer’s markets to diversify their products to include locally caught fish and shellfish, along with value-added products like salts and seasonings, jams and jellies, and baked goods, she said.

If want to support local food producers by shopping at Bass River Farmers Market, here are some things to know:

  • The market is located at 311 Old Main St. in South Yarmouth, and it’s open on Thursdays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., rain or shine. (Look for the signs placed around town by Veara, who rises with the roosters to let everyone know it’s market day.)
  • The season begins in mid-June and ends this year on Sept. 7th.
  • Parking is available at the market or nearby lots.

Photo credit: All photos by Lilee Merl

Andy Tomolonis is a textbook author, travel writer and freelance multimedia journalist.

Exotic adventures await mini-golf fans in Yarmouth

The Taylor brothers would be proud.

New York mini golf developers Joseph and Robert Taylor are credited with the zany idea of placing windmills, wishing wells, and other elaborate obstacles into their courses. Who knew the trend they started in 1938 would evolve to such extremes?

Thanks to the brothers’ Taylor, today’s mini golf courses are one part Pebble Beach and nine parts Disney – with creative obstacles that not only make it more challenging to sink the ball in the cup but also draw families with children who revel in the theme-park settings.

It’s enough to make you smile at muffing a 2-foot “gimme.”

Yarmouth residents and visitors are lucky enough to have four flamboyant mini golf courses in town, each with its own assortment of ostentatious obstacles – from life-sized jungle animals to a half-sunken pirate’s galleon to Captain Ahab and the elusive white whale. But the icing on the kitschy cake has got to be the giant steam-spewing skull with light-up eye sockets just a couple miles west of the Bass River Bridge.

SKULL ISLAND AT BASS RIVER SPORTS WORLD

Skull Island Adventure Golf wasn’t always a maze of waterfalls, mountains, and palm trees.

When owner Lou Nickinello and his father Tony opened 60 years ago in 1961, it was essentially a flat course with traditional sculptures. The holes were challenging, Nickinello said, but it wasn’t nearly the attraction that it is today.

Nickinello hired Castle Golf and spent two years renovating and expanding the old facility to create an elaborate Swiss Family Robinson-themed minigolf adventure park – complete with 18 challenging holes.

Today Skull Island is a 38,000 square-foot-marvel, with 20 waterfalls, 25 fountains, a haunted treasure cave, and a towering treehouse. Nearly a quarter-acre of the course’s surface area is covered in water.

Every hole has a water obstacle, and all 18 holes are challenging. But the hardest hole might be No. 3, which runs uphill, Nickinello said. If you don’t hit it just right, the ball comes rolling back down.

When the redesigned Skull Island first opened, not everyone was a fan of the giant namesake statue, Nickinello said. But today, the skull is a Route 28 landmark. It’s a familiar meeting place and a setting for parties, functions, and charity events. It hosted this summer’s Yarmouth Pirate Festival and it marks the starting area for the town’s world-famous St. Patrick’s Parade. Wedding parties pull up in their limos so people can get out and take pictures with the iconic skull, Nickinello said.

If you want more than a 90-minute round of minigolf, Skull Island Sports World is ready to accommodate. The sprawling complex at 934 Main St. (Route 28) in South Yarmouth also features a driving range, batting cages, a go-kart track, and an indoor arcade. That means you can practice your long game or your short game, while the kids ride go-karts or play in the arcade.

Skull Island’s season runs from April 1 through the end of September. Find more information on prices, birthday parties, special events, and hours by calling 508-398-6070 or visiting skullislandcapecod.com.

WILD ANIMAL LAGOON

Can’t make it to the zoo this summer? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered – with 18 holes of challenging mini golf to boot.

Wild Animal Lagoon, 62 Main Street (Route 28), West Yarmouth, offers the chance to putt your way past elephants, a mountain gorilla, a white-horned rhinoceros, and other exotic beasts – all while listening to the roar of cascading waterfalls.

The course features bank shots and boulders to make the putting more interesting, along with watering holes where jungle-themed statues hang out. Think of a bellowing hippopotamus and sunbathing crocodile. By the way, have you ever tried to sink a putt while standing next to a giraffe and fighting the shadow of a crashed airplane? Here’s your chance.

Call 508-790-1662 or visit https://www.wildanimallagoon.com/ for prices, a coupon, and more information.

PUTTER’S PARADISE MINI-GOLF

Maybe you’re a Cape Cod traditionalist, who prefers lighthouses, sea captains, and spouting whales for mini golf statuaries. If so, head straight to Putter’s Paradise, 119, Main St. (Route 28) in West Yarmouth.

The 18-hole course features concrete statues of a stern-looking Captain Ahab holding a harpoon in search of the elusive white whale – which just happens to be spouting water in the nearby lagoon. There’s also a concrete lighthouse, lobsterman, and squirming pink octopus clutching a putter, all created by local artist T.J. Neil.

After your round of minigolf, you can pick up an ice cream cone, smoothie, frozen yogurt, or sundae made with Gifford’s ice cream from Skowhegan, Maine. And what could be cooler than that?

Call 508-771-7394 or visit puttersparadise.net for more information.

PIRATE’S COVE ADVENTURE GOLF

You’ll find more cascading waterfalls – along with caves, skulls (albeit considerably smaller than the big one at Skull Island), and a model pirate ship – at Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf, 728 Main St., (Route 28) in South Yarmouth. Pirate’s Cove is one of more than two dozen pirate-themed minigolf courses in a chain that stretches from Florida to New Hampshire and Arkansas to South Dakota.

The Yarmouth Pirate’s Cove features two 18-hole courses – the Captain’s Course and Blackbeard’s Course, which is handicap accessible. (There’s also a special rate for those who want to play all 36 holes.)

Pirate’s Cove is usually open into October, but this year the attraction will close Sept. 12 for renovations before opening again in the spring of 2022, according to the company’s website.

Call 508-394-6200 or visit piratescove.net/locations/massachusetts/south-yarmouth/ for more information.

Andy Tomolonis is a textbook author, travel writer and freelance multimedia journalist.