Monthly Archives: May 2008

Farmers' Markets and family gardens

Farmers Markets opening in May

For a lot of years, I didn’t really think of Farmers’ Markets as a place where one actually did any food shopping.  I considered them a treat, a supplement to regular trips to the grocery store, where you bought highly priced peaches, an unnecessary loaf of bread and a single bunch of fancy herbs.  That all changed for me last summer, when I started walking down to Headhouse Square every Sunday morning to wander the Shambles and buy produce. I started shopping at the market because I liked the idea of being someone who supported local farmers and growers, but it soon became an unskippable part of my week.  If I was away for the weekend, I mourned my missing veggies all week long.

I discovered that during July, August and September, I could spend $20 and come home with bags overflowing with corn, tomatoes, lettuce, nectarines and zucchini.  I could eat happily, share with friends and still have food leftover at the end of the week.  This produce was so much better than anything I could find at the Center City vendors, even at my favorite, local Sue’s Produce.  It tasted better, it smelled fresher and it lasted so (so) much longer.  It also satisfied a need I had deep inside to connect a little bit more directly with my food.

I grew up in a family that always had backyard garden, and for the summer growing months, we hardly ever bought any vegetables.  The 24 square feet of tilled soil churned out tomatoes, spinach, squash, basil and string beans so abundantly that it was a struggle to keep up.  We became those people who pushed vegetables on friends and strangers, shouting out to people who walked past the house, “Excuse me, could I interest you in a few cucumbers?”  People were perplexed but frequently appreciative.  I remember one time, a friend from New York was staying for a day, and just before she left for the airport, we ran out to the garden and picked a large zucchini.  She made room for it in her suitcase and called later to say that she had cooked it with salt and garlic immediately upon arriving home.

I live in an apartment where I have absolutely no outdoor space.  I don’t have a place to grow tomatoes or zucchini.  I do have friends with a local community garden plot (thanks Angie and Thad!), and this year they planted some patty pan squash plants for me (if you haven’t tried patty pan, I recommend that you search for them this summer.  They are pale green or yellow and are shaped like flying saucers.  They are best eaten when they are the diameter of a saucer, as the skin is still tender and yielding.  They should be cut into wedges, steamed and served with butter and salt).  However, I still miss the earthy abundance of a personal garden.  While not entirely the same thing, going to Farmers’ Markets soothes many of the places that my lack of outdoor space leaves irritated

Perfect Sunday

Green garlic

Today was the first day of the Headhouse Square Farmers Market for the season.  I’ve had it noted on my calendar for over a month.  Last night, I set my alarm especially to get myself out of bed and down to the market.  It took me a little while longer than anticipated to get going this morning, but I finally headed out into the city around 11 am.

It was one of those perfect, spring days. People were out on the sidewalks, wearing cute summery clothes and flip flops, drinking iced coffee as they wandered. Walking down to the Headhouse Square Shambles, I took a rambling, zig-zaggy route that led me down blocks and alleys that are not part of my ordinary travels.  I sometimes forget that there are so many lovely areas of Philadelphia, with appealing (if ankle endangering) cobblestone streets and small city backyards.  As I walked down a stretch of Addison, around 10th Street, I noticed a black and white cat staring at me from a large picture window.  She was sitting on the ledge, the curtain caught on her tail.  I stopped walking for a moment to commune with this cat.  After a moment of quiet eye contact, she turned her head, seeming nearly regal, as if to tell me that the audience as over.

The market wasn’t as full of vendors as it was at the peak of summer growing season last year.  It was something of a disappointment, as I’ve been reading about the bounty of the farmers markets that people in other areas of the country have been experiencing and so I was hoping for something similar.  I was able to find some green garlic (which you can see above), as well as some delicious garlic turkey sausage (that I cooked up tonight into a sauce for whole wheat spaghetti), local lavender honey, some fresh, tender salad greens and a dozen speckled, genuinely free-range eggs (I’m hoping for vibrant orange yolks).  I had a long conversation about reusing egg cartons with the man who sold me the eggs and promised that I would bring his container back the following week.

When I had been at the market about fifteen minutes, the crowds in front of me broke briefly and I spotted my friend Roz’s head.  As I tried to push my over to her (the market was really crowded), my cell phone buzzed with a text message from her.  Thanks to Twitter, she knew I was down there and was looking for me.  We ended up gathering a couple more people and spending the rest of the morning at the market, listening to Hoots and Hellmouth play, munching on some snacks and enjoying the not-too-hot sun.

Mental droughts and random updates

I am in something of a personal blogging drought.  I feel like I’ve lost all ability to write interestingly or with any sort of meaning.  I have moments where I think a blog post might just be flickering through, but then the light dims and I can’t make out even the outline of idea.  So, in lieu, some random updates.

A couple of days ago, I got an email from my sister.  The subject line was, “My new house!”  Inside the email were pictures of Raina sitting in a pale pink Volkswagon van, grinning broadly (this has been the car of her dreams for some time).  My mother wrote back saying, “I’m so proud?”

A couple of weeks ago, I submitted several of the essays from my thesis to a literary agent.  She responded yesterday, saying that she had enjoyed reading them and thought I had a strong and appealing voice.  While she didn’t think she could represent me, it was the nicest and most complimentary denial I’ve ever received in my life.

This week has moved so fast that I am feeling a little dizzy with the fact that tomorrow is Friday.  In fact, I am agog that it is already May (and that my birthday is in two weeks), boggled that Scott and I have been dating for five months (and living together officially for one month) and that I am heading into my seventh summer in Philly.