I’m that crazy lady at the farmers market inspecting each cherry tomato for flaws. Yep, the one sniffing all the melons before she picks a winner. That’s me. I’m the weirdo and I can’t help it. As a girl who grew up on five-can casserole, I love the farmers market.
There’s nothing quite like it. The food is fresh, smells like it came from a farm (crazy, I know!) and the people selling it usually grew it and feed it to their own families. It’s amazing. I’ll gladly accept the many side-eye glances sent my way if it means I get to enjoy all the aroma-sniffing, squeeze-testing and thump-checking I can when I’m there each week. And I never miss a week.
I’ve got a gazillion ways to prepare the mountains of kale and rainbows of citrus that gets us through winter, but by the time March rolls around, I’m ready to bid them farewell. I’m giddy with excitement when I spot the first spring asparagus and peas. I’ll comparison shop for mundane things like broccoli and onions, but I’ll gladly fork over any price asked by the lady selling olallieberries for two glorious weeks in the summer. It’s great to see the frenzy that happens when the heirloom tomatoes first arrive in July, even though I’ve learned to wait and buy them by the case-full later in the season when they’re thumbprint-ripe and half the price.
READ MORE > 10 FARMERS MARKET SHOPPING TIPS
Going weekly has changed my internal calendar, since I can tell what time of year it is based on what’s for sale. The first time cherries appear, usually in late May, is a sign stonefruit season has officially kicked off and the floral apricots of June will be next, followed by sugary peaches in July and August.
Am I the only one who gets heart palpitations when offered six varieties of chile peppers? Anyone else?
Plus, there’s plenty to buy that doesn’t require a vegetable peeler. There’s a dude selling eight kinds of olive oil, a father-son duo with orchids in three sizes and an adorable elderly couple offering sticky jars of honey in every shade of amber. A few random purveyors join the fun, too: the overly friendly hummus guy, the Peruvian lady who weaves huge baskets and the wheatgrass juice-slinging hippie chick. Like a cast of sitcom characters, no week is complete without an appearance from each of them.
If you’re doing the career-and-parent juggle like me, the farmers market is also a fun, local, outdoor excursion that doesn’t cost a fortune. My kids don’t get excited about the first of the persimmons but they have their own highlights: The balloon lady who twists animals on demand and Harmonica Joe’s drum that makes a wooden kitten dance with the beat. Honestly, I think it’s a bit creepy, but my stroller-riding baby can’t get enough. While he’s entertained, I buy groceries for the week without ever stepping in a store. If I’m really lucky, I might run into a friend for a quick hug and a five-minute catch-up.
READ MORE > 10 THIRTY-MINUTE DINNERS FOR BUSY WEEKNIGHTS
My parents did the best they could and I appreciate every from-a-can meal they served. But the farmers market nourishes so much more than just my stomach. Tonight, when I set down platters of grilled vegetables in front of my kids, I’ll be giving thanks for every farmer who lovingly grew that food. I’m grateful they brought it to the market in its seasonally ripe glory, because that’s what perfect food looks like. Besides, cans aren’t nearly as much fun to squeeze and sniff.