Friday, March 20, 2009

Farmers' Market

I finally made it to the Canberra Farmers’ Market last weekend. (It only took six months.) This is one of the things that I want to do here that is difficult to do without a car, since it’s several miles north of the city center, and it’s only open from 8-11am on Saturdays (farmers are busy people, you know). Difficult, but not impossible; it is on a bus route, and now that I’ve scoped it out, we’ll see just how devoted I am to the Farmers’ Market (FM) ethos when I have to schlep all the way up there on a bus and lug all my produce home on my back.

The Canberra FM may well be worth all that effort. It is by far the biggest FM I’ve been to, with a couple of dozen stalls in a big open shed selling produce, meats, fish, cheeses, baked goods, plants, flowers, and more. Even having gone by car, I still didn’t have enough time to see everything I wanted to (I’m not sure even three hours would be enough), but I still managed to do plenty of damage.

Of course I was thinking the whole time about how excited I was, and how I was going to blog about it, and taking pictures, etc. But then afterwards I was thinking, what is it? What is it about the FM that would drive me (a seriously lazy person, as anyone who knows me personally can attest) to get up early on a Saturday morning and spend an hour each way on public transport to buy potentially more expensive versions of the same things that I can find at the supermarket? I know everyone talks about buying organic, buying local, buying seasonal: and those are all good, compelling—even noble—reasons for going to FMs. But none of them adequately explains the sense of excitement, of possibility, of rightness that I get every time I walk into one.

Five Reasons Why I Love the FM
1. There is no better way to see what is actually in season where you live. When you go to the supermarket, you can buy pretty much the same stuff all year round. The only way you can tell if something is in season is that it gets cheaper (assuming you notice that sort of thing).
2. Things that are in season are not necessarily more expensive at the FM. In fact, when they are at the height of their season, they are quite likely to be cheaper, as farmers will have a glut that they want to get rid of.
3. Much as I enjoy food shopping in any form, there’s no question that the supermarket is a pretty sterile environment. Sometimes, even standing in the middle of the produce aisle, among all those shiny, perfect displays, it’s hard to imagine or remember that someone actually grew the stuff. Not so at the FM: often the produce is still dirty, the displays are haphazard at best, and chances are good that the person you are buying it from is also the one who pulled it out of the ground or off a plant early that morning.
4. You can find things at the FM that you will probably never, ever see at the supermarket. My find of 2008 was a basket of sour cherries from the Greenfield (Mass.) FM. On this, my first trip to the Canberra FM, I found finger limes (see above), an indigenous Australian variety that I had heard about but not yet seen anywhere.
5. FM food just tastes better. It hasn’t been shipped as far as supermarket food, so it’s fresher; it hasn’t been bred to look good, travel well and last forever, at the expense of its flavor; and it’s grown in small, specialized varieties and quantities, rather than mass produced.


PS: I know I sound like a broken record, but I have to reiterate yet again how good roasted rhubarb is, and how amazing it is mixed with fresh peaches. I made it again this week with some of my FM booty, and this time I added cardamom as well as cinnamon (and sugar). It was so good I nearly floated away. I've already eaten it twice today. Those of you in the northern hemisphere, please make a note for when there's some seasonal produce handy. As far as I'm concerned, this leaves the time-honored strawberry-rhubarb combo in the dust. And not just because of the Fail Jam incident. Although I did think, when I was eating this, "Why would I bother trying to make jam again when this is so much better?"


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Diana P. said... Best Blogger Tips

Wouldn't you know, despite the fact that I live/work all of 5 minutes away from the twice a week farmers market in my 'hood, I didn't make it there ONCE last year?

This year, I will be blocking off time in my calendar to go every week.

I'm excited already and in my part of the world, there won't even be a market until almost June...

Zoe said... Best Blogger Tips

Finger limes are AWSUM, aren't they?

Roving Lemon said... Best Blogger Tips

Hi Alanna - Thanks for stopping by. If you're not a spambot, please come again.

Diana - Sometimes life interferes with life, you know? And even something as good as the FM is just too much effort. I hope you'll be able to be a regular this year.

Roving Lemon said... Best Blogger Tips

Zoe - Yes! I was going to use them in something special, but then I cut one open and now I'm just eating them out of hand.

C. said... Best Blogger Tips

I'm waiting and waiting for the FM to be up and running here, but ... it really is too early. And you know, the taste issue is really true. Food grown in season, in sunlight and dirt, TASTES BETTER. It's like hydroponic tomatoes. They're cosmetically pretty, but they taste like water, you know?

What do finger limes taste like? I never would have guessed they were a citrus fruit from the picture.

P.S. The Canberra FM was bigger than the Victoria one? 'Cause that one was HUGE!

Roving Lemon said... Best Blogger Tips

Hi C - the inside of the finger lime has been nicknamed 'caviar' because the citrus pulp looks like small, round, pinkish-green pearls. The ones I have taste like lime, but not overwhelmingly acidic.

I don't think the Victoria Market is exclusively a FM--I thought there were a lot of wholesalers there too. Canberra's isn't as big, but looked to me to be mostly farmers/producers selling their own stuff.

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