Saturday, October 01, 2005

Harvest Festival

Due to the local version of Oktoberfest clogging the main streets of town this weekend, the farmers' market relocated to another parking lot, away from the trailers for beer and brats. But the change in scenery failed to diminish the sheer variety of produce and goods available, and instead I found even more to buy in my attempt to stock up for winter.

I stopped to buy more Concord grapes from the sweet older couple, who told me that their grape crop had been especially fine this year. I can't argue with that! And I ended up buying another pint of honey from them because, well, you can't have enough good honey to get through the winter.

The Asian lady proudly showed off bins of newly-dug sweet potatoes, with the sweet rich dirt still clinging to their deep orange skins. She sold them by the pound and encouraged me to keep adding more to the bag until I had a hefty 5-lb bag containing 10 to 12 of these gems. And while there, I decided to buy a bunch of beets in the hope of learning to overcome my dislike of this vegetable.

The older ladies camped out next to her offered their cooking suggestions as I shopped, so of course I had to give them some of my trade by selecting a big, long-necked butternut squash. And as I cast my eye over the rest of the table, I spotted something that made my heart leap and my mouth water: English walnuts, still in their bumpy brown shells. I only bought two quarts this week as my pack already weighed a good deal, but I'm hoping to find more next week!

Down the row I went to greet the cheerful lady and to relieve her of some lettuce, rainbow chard, and fresh sage. We had a good chat about the market, writing, and her offer to deliver fresh greens, herbs, onions, and garlic, even after the market ends on the 15th. You'd better believe I'll be taking advantage of that offer!

I also picked up onions from the gentleman farmer, a pint of maple syrup from a lady sitting all by her lonesome, and broccoli and a loaf of wheat bread from the Amish folks before I took my turtle's-pace hike back home, smiling all the way.

As the cheerful lady commented to me, "I've never seen anyone get so excited about the food here as you do!" Probably not, and I'm sorry about that. I don't apologize for my enthusiasm, of course, because giving so much attention (and money) to the farmers and their goods this year has helped me to appreciate each fruit and vegetable in its own time, to taste the goodness of local foods, and to get to know more about the people who work hard to bring such quality produce to market.

No, I'm sorry for the folks who don't see that this local bounty is worth getting excited about, who don't fully appreciate the fresh flavors, who aren't enjoying the seasons as they roll by.

The true festival is here -- at the farmers' market.

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