Food Friday: Farmers’ Markets


Here we are on the very first day of summer! It starts at 11:54 AM EDT today, Friday, June 21, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac. Are you getting ready to celebrate? School is out, the summer reading list is varied and full of challenges and delights, the shady front porch beckons with its welcoming wicker chairs and the creaky glider. Tomorrow is Saturday, a day chock-full of potential. Who wants to sleep late when it is summer vacation, and the farmers’ markets are in full swing and in all their glory?

Some of you might be lucky enough to live just a stroll or a bike ride away from the market. We have to drive about ten minutes. Last week we decided to have a Saturday road trip, and we drove an hour to try out another town’s market. There is nothing like a little Saturday car ride, with NPR playing softly in the background, as we drove in the sunshine over bridges, past farms and miles of car dealerships, tooling through little towns and hamlets. After one stop for coffee and a Diet Coke, we arrived.

I don’t care if it is 8:30 in the morning, or 3:00 in the afternoon, those wretched kettle corn vendors always stop me in my tracks. Popcorn is such a miracle and a delight, and kettle corn is insidious and always irresistible. Here is my money, give me some fillings, please. This fool soon parted with her cash, and then had the necessary energy required to walk around the couple of dozen white tents nestled under a grove of large oak trees. In the tents were tempting fruits, vegetables, flowers, crafts, live geese and bunnies, organic eggs, jewelry, seafood, and coffees. There was even a live music performance, with a little family jug band: I bet holidays at their house are raucous and joyous events!

We wandered around for a while, saying hello to the many dogs who were behaving so nicely. I fear that Luke the wonder dog might have a little too much energy for such a public outing. The other dogs all seemed inured to the passing variety of people and dogs. There were few surprises for these farmers’ market habitués, as they tagged along with their yoga pants-clad people. An ancient, white-muzzled black lab waddled after its plump, madras shorts-wearing folks. A young springer spaniel struggled to contain himself on a short pink and green leash with its young Lilly Pulitzer family. A mutt (rather like Luke) was sartorial in a pink bandana; nothing makes a dog look more jaunty, I think.

Luke would have leapt at the opportunity to gambol with his fellow dogs, scarfing spilled kettle corn, hoovering up dropped sausage biscuits, and sniffing appreciatively at little girls who walked by with ice cream cones, held temptingly low to the ground. Poor thing. Don’t tell him what he missed.

We stood in one line that snaked out of a tent and around an oak tree for some ears of corn and heirloom tomatoes. Then we found the second longest line for some new potatoes. The farmer told us as he manipulated the digital scale and calculator that he had dug the potatoes on Thursday afternoon. Pretty amazing when there is no middle man! While waiting our turn to pay we admired some produce that was unusual for us – golden beets! Gorgeous! To describe them as jewel-like is not excessively florid.

And then we got in the car, hoping that it was time for Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!, as we turned toward Luke and home. We could have saved a couple of hours and just buzzed over to the grocery store to make our produce purchases, but it was a worthwhile adventure to get out and meet the folks who raise and grow and dig our food. It was a sunny beginning to summer.

Now it’s your turn. Go out to your farmers’ market tomorrow and buy some kettle corn, some home-churned ice cream and some heirloom tomatoes. Pat some dogs. And maybe you’ll try one of these recipes for those beauteous golden beets. Happy summer!

“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”
– F. Scott Fitzgerald

About Jean Sanders

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