You call it summer….I call it Farmer’s Market season. Thank goodness for the availability of fresh picked, local produce. Although many people frequent the farmers markets for organic fruits and veggies, for me the draw is FRESH. Often, the fruits and vegetables are picked the same day they are sold at market and you couldn’t get much fresher than that unless you have a veggie patch of your own. Honestly, though, I’ve been a hit or miss visitor to the Saturday market in Arcata. My two sides pull at me – my healthy, cook-from-scratch side is thrilled with the options, especially when Japanese eggplant and lilac bell peppers arrive. However, my thrifty side winces at the cost of a $6 bag of wax beans I bought for a bean salad. You can blow $20 with no effort at all.
This year, that all changes. I’ve had an epiphany of sorts. I shop happily at Winco every week. I love their variety and just shopping there is an adventure. At certain points in the month, it CAN be overwhelming -- families with unruly kids in tow doing their month’s shopping -- and I’ve learned that if I shop with my iPod in my ears, the infernal squawking of the store intercom isn’t half as annoying. The prices on produce have always been reasonable but I’ve found the quality has become marginal of late. Bananas bought green ripen into inedible bruised fruit; the same with cantaloupes and nectarines. The last straw was two “clamshells” of strawberries purchased on Thursday night that were a mass of black fuzz by Saturday morning when I hoped to make a fruit salad. Those went to my hens along with two of the four “on the vine” tomatoes. When you factor in waste, the low prices are not so low.
I decided I would start hitting the farmer’s market more regularly to supplement my CSA farm share box I get each week from the College of the Redwoods farm. The produce there is a little more expensive but SO tasty. Fresh greens for salad along with lemon cucumbers. Little baskets of sweet cherry tomatoes in a variety of colors. None of it will go to waste. I wish I didn’t have to go all the way to Arcata for the big market but the one in
The upshot of this is a new word added to my vocabulary – locavore. It’s a word coined to identify those who choose to eat food grown or made in their area. eatlocalchallenge I’ve always supported local businesses -- the fact that our local breweries produce an awesome product makes THAT particular decision pretty easy and there’s something very cool about buying fish directly from the docks and the people that caught it. Soon I'll be picking fresh berries on the roadside to make jam. Choosing locally grown vegetables and fruit assure that my family is eating a food that was picked within days if not hours of sale. It wasn’t picked green somewhere before being shipped vast distances. I’m sure that the intension is that green pit-fruit and tomatoes will be tough enough to withstand the violent bouncing they will receive in transit but they still bruise and the damage isn’t seen until AFTER it ripens which is generally also AFTER I’ve paid good money for it. I've already stopped buying apples in the stores choosing, instead, to limit my apple purchases to local apples during apple season. That may mean a trip to the orchards of Wrigley, Clendenen or Arrington or maybe to Myrtle Avenue Market where I can count on them to have local apples but no longer to I buy autumn apples in the off-season only to be faced with a handful of mealy, flavorless, OLD apple.
My CSA farm share boxes have just started…greens and kohl crops mostly but a little basil thrown in to give me the promise of pesto season. Before long, the boxes will be overflowing with tomatoes and peppers, melons and squash. Maybe a few too many beets for my taste though but, thanks to included recipes, I’ve learned that borscht is not so bad. My fingers are crossed for figs that we were tantalized with two years ago. So here’s to a season of flavor and getting my moneys worth.