I start to get excited in mid-June. First the wagons appear. Then the signs. Then the awnings. Then finally, they are here.
I have lived in several places on the East Coast; so, I am hardly an expert. But I have never seen as many produce stands as on the Eastern Shore. The Eastern Shore is a paradise for fresh produce.
Even before the wagons arrive, local supermarkets sell produce from local farms. Local farmers’ markets offer an array of produce, meats, eggs, flowers, and ready-made goods. They also sell a variety of organic vegetables and humanely raised meats. My advice—never, never, never go there hungry.
Local farms allow us to purchase or pick our own produce. Blueberries and strawberries are safe enough for picking; but, for obvious reasons I no longer climb trees for the other fruits. My sister gets me the freshest greens and tomatoes from the local organic farm.
But the produce wagons are my favorite. Maybe their rustic nature reminds me of the farm life that I was born into. Maybe it is the bright colors of the fruits and vegetables lined on the shelves. Maybe it is the young people who help me select the ripest produce. Maybe it is the oppressive heat that reminds me of my childhood. Or maybe it is because they are so convenient.
But they always make me smile.
Every produce stand is awash with color: bright vermillion, multi-colored, yellow and green tomatoes; fuzzy green beans; yellow wax beans; dark green zucchini with white speckles; creamy yellow, funny-shaped squashes; green and white freckled pickling cucumbers; and bright red, and green and yellow colored peppers. And, of course, the sweet corn…yellow, multi-color and white…so fresh and so sweet.
I am especially fond of the fruits come and go with the seasons. In the farmers’ markets, local farms and the supermarkets, I purchase bright red strawberries through early June.
In July, when the wagons come, there are fragrant white and yellow peaches, beautiful yellow fuzzy spheres with bold orange and dark red blushes. Next to the peaches are baskets of bright purple plums and yellow and dark red cherries. A table is stacked with dirt-encrusted cantaloupes whose fragrance wafts through the air. One side of the wagon is dedicated to everyone’s favorite: watermelons of all shades and patterns of green. Their thick rinds hide the crispy, watery, sweet, beautiful red and yellow fruit inside.
I take advantage of every supplier.
Okay, summer on the Eastern Shore isn’t perfect. The weather can be formidable. But it is a small price to pay for the produce bounty of the Eastern Shore.
Now it is time for the other tradition, the kitchen sauna; created by boiling and cutting the corn from the cob; blanching green beans; or making tomato sauce.
This morning I returned from the produce stand. After lugging my heavy shopping bags into my home, something told me that I hadn’t bought enough.
Time to go back.
Angela Rieck, a Caroline County native, received her PhD in Mathematical Psychology from the University of Maryland and worked as a scientist at Bell Labs, and other high-tech companies in New Jersey before retiring as a corporate executive. Angela and her dogs divide their time between St Michaels and Key West Florida. Her daughter lives and works in New York City.