Baby Bean is Growing

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Monday, May 09, 2005

Strawberries out the wazoo

I love farmer's markets. I think my love was born in a dusty rail yard in Santa Fe when I went to take pictures for a beginning photography project. The Santa Fe farmer's market is unlike any other, more like a fair than a market, and fueled my passion for fresh, organic produce.

Out here in Southern California, the farmer's market is -- understandably -- a bit more commercialized, and a lot more plebian. That isn't to say that the produce is anything but wonderful, but I often miss the colorful people and atmosphere of the rail yard. Nevertheless, born from the dust of Santa Fe, it is a favorite Saturday morning ritual of mine to take a twenty dollar bill, a canvas tote from Trader Joe's, and an adventurous spirit to see what treasures the market will provide.

This weekend, I was surprised to see that cherries, peaches, and apricots have already made it to the booths. I refrained from purchasing any of them though, because I suspect they will be better in a few weeks. I did, however, splurge and get half a flat of strawberries, which looked and tasted absolutely perfect. (Note to self for future reference: buy strawberries LAST. They don't like being banged around while you browse.) The nice man who sold them to me told me that they were very ripe and needed to be eaten soon. He was very right. Because they were quickly headed for "past their prime," I ended up making a strawberry tart and a batch of strawberry jam this weekend. (Don't look so impressed. I used frozen pie crust and the jam is just refrigerator jam. The pastry cream for the tart was the hardest bit, but I managed it without scrambling the eggs, so all was well.)

I also bought a bunch of asparagus and a pound of broccoli from the same booth for three dollars total. Such a deal.

My next stop was a booth selling organic greens. I bought an assortment of four small heads of beautiful different kinds of red and green leaf lettuce. At home, I followed the instructions in one of my Weight Watcher's cookbooks for preparing them to keep for a long time: I washed them in several changes of cold water, tore them into bite sized pieces, let them soak in cold water for thirty minutes, then dried them and packed them in ziplock bags with a paper towel or two, pushing out all the air I could. Hopefully, they'll last us all week. Homemade bag 'o salad!

A little further down the line I made a stop at the mushroom seller's booth. They always come with a few flats each of four or five different kinds of mushrooms -- and they always sell out before the market closes. This weekend's special was oyster mushrooms, so I bought a few ounces for a stir fry we'll be enjoying tonight. I also got two portabellas which I roasted with garlic and which are waiting for buns to become a quick weeknight supper in my fridge.

To go with my oyster mushrooms, I picked up a few slender amethyst Japanese eggplant at the next stall. Asian foods are in abundance at this market, and I frequently pick up fresh bok choy, sugar snap peas, and snow peas for stir frys. The eggplants are slated for a stir fry with pork and garlic sauce this evening. (Mmm... My mouth is watering just thinking about it!)

Round the corner and up the other aisle brought me to a lady with the most gorgeous Cara Cara oranges (a variety I had never heard of before). Their flesh is a deep deep orange -- almost red -- and they are sweet and seedless. Who could ask for anything more? I bought four for a dollar.

After tasting and trying the cherries, peaches, and apricots and deciding to save those for another time, I made my way to my last stop of the day. With three dollars and some change left from my twenty, I picked up a bouquet of fresh sweet peas from the flower seller. He's dark brown from days in the fields, I imagine, and his hands are calloused and lined with work, but he is always smiling out from under his wide brimmed straw cowboy hat, always pleased to see you, and always admiring of his wares, even as he sells them to you. The sweet peas are incredibly fragrant and look so pretty, with their gradient of pinks and whites all the way to deep reds and purple, sitting on my dining room table.

Next weekend, who knows what I may decide to try! Baby squash and artichokes? Leeks and potatoes? Fresh eggs? A loaf of bread, some olives, or perhaps a piece of fish, caught fresh, and displayed in igloo coolers full of ice? Who can say? But whatever it is, it's sure to be an adventure!

2 comments:

Charlie said...

ooh, they have eggs?
I've been meaning to try a not-yet-reridgerated egg. I've heard they're better.

Lacy: Who Needs a Hat To Sing? said...

Huh. I don't know if they've been refridgerated or not. I'd ask, but the lady that sells them doesn't speak a whole lot of English...

She also sells whole chickens and ostridge eggs. She usually has one ostridge egg sitting on the table with a sign that says "TOUCH AT YOUR RISK!!!!"

=)

P.S. Is that how you spell ostridge?