Saturday, October 27, 2007

Three Bags Full

The wind whipped up overnight and brought chilly breezes into town, dusting yellowed leaves off the trees lining city streets. (When did the colors change? How did I miss that?) And this morning I woke up to the melancholy heart of autumn... a perfect morning for the last farmers' market of the year.

Only about ten hardy souls had their tables and tents set up with the last produce of the year, but it's no exaggeration to say that their tables were still loaded with plenty of excellent food. I took my time making my rounds, wanting to enjoy that last conversation with some of my favorite people until next spring.

The Amish farmers had big, lush bundles of parsnips, one of my favorite fall vegetables, so I bought two along with a bundle of long and lean celery and a bunch of carrots.

I visited at length with the Cheerful Lady and Handyman Joe, all the while letting my eyes wander over all their vegetables. As she told me how the deer had been "pruning" her spinach crop regularly, I pointed out that the spinach leaves she had brought (one bag full) were the perfect size for a dinner I'm planning to make for My Wonderful Parents, so she set it aside for me along with a mixed bag of broccoli and cauliflower. I added two more heads of cauliflower, a butternut squash, a small bag of basil, and two small heads of Chinese cabbage to my bags, asking them to give me a call if they had any more good produce next week.

The Madcap Farmer greeted me with his usual warm smile, and he had more of the same offerings as last week, so I bought another bag of spinach, a pint of raspberries, and a small bag of those tasty sweet potato chips.

The Spelt Baker and the Sheep Lady, sharing a table once more, were happy to stand and chat with me while sipping coffee in the chilly morning air. I bought more spelt flour, spelt berries, spelt pasta squares, a chocolate chip-spelt cookie, rosemary, and rose hip jelly, wishing I could have stocked up on even more pasta. (At least I have the Baker's phone number now for when I run out of spelt berries... maybe we can work something out for winter!) And the Baker tucked an osage orange into my bag; even though it's inedible, she said, it's good for insect control.

Finally, I visited the Gentleman Farmer and his Wife and finished filling my backpack, basket, and a couple more bags with lettuce, green tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, green beans, sweet onions, eggplant (purple and white), an orange sweet pepper, and a handful of jalapeno peppers. She threw a few extra bulbs of garlic into my bag, and we exchanged phone numbers so that I can invite her over when I'm ready to make baklava for the holidays.

This might be the end of the harvest season, but like any good fireworks display, the best was saved for the last! I don't expect to have lots of cooking time this week, but as I hope to make two meals for other people, I know I'll use a lot of that produce very quickly.

Once I had finished unpacking my bags and putting food away, I settled back in my cozy chair with a cup of tea, gathering strength for what cooking I have yet to do today. How odd it seems to know that next Saturday, I will have a leisurely start to the morning (unless, of course, I get called in to work at the Inn) and will have plenty of time to shift into fall baking and soup-making. I'm looking forward to the change away from food preservation, as much as I enjoyed that, but there are still so many exciting things to do in the kitchen in the colder months. (Maybe I'll even start a new round of herbs and vegetables on my windowsill.)

And then, someday, I can also start counting the weeks until next year's farmers' market begins!


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