My trip to the farmer’s market today was wonderful! Our region had been waiting for this day all week: the forecasters promised sunshine and temperatures of 20 C and we were not disappointed. The first thing I noticed were the crowds of people enjoying the weather and a small band playing music. The market was on the corner of a lovely residential urban neighbourhood, at a town hall, and the feeling of community was strong.
Strolling past the booths it soon became apparent what was in season right now and I felt like my education had begun. There were lots of salad greens, kale, and swiss chard. The rainbow chard shown in the photo above was picked this morning and I had it for dinner tonight sauteed in olive oil, garlic, and a few red pepper flakes. It was delicious! I’m pretty sure the guy selling it was Albert himself; chatting with him is not something that will ever happen in the produce aisle at Superstore! He also had some sprouted chard, exact same variety, for planting. I bought six plants and also a 12 pack of salad greens (shown at right): Bergam, Red Butterworth, Red Sails, Luma, Cardinal, Conquestador and Salad Bowl (with duplicates of some). I cannot WAIT to harvest a fresh salad from my garden – no more rotting, wilting greens in the fridge! I’ll write about planting them in my next Veggie Tales post.
I also noticed potatoes and apples. I was so overwhelmed by all the sights and sounds that I forgot to ask about that: I’m guessing both have been stored over winter, having been harvested in the late fall…? I’m pretty sure neither are growing right now. I bought a small bag of red potatoes and made a yummy potato salad out of them, using fresh chives and parsley snipped from our AeroGarden just minutes before tossing the salad. I also bought six of the organic Fuji apples, which came from the South Okanagan – about three hours away. I’m amazed that they might be a few months old – they were quite tasty!
Inside the hall we found more yummy stuff. I got sucked into buying some homemade almond and honey nougat – the real thing with rice paper and everything. They were handing out free samples and they were just too good to pass up! I’ve decided the Kalley Kandy couple are the crack dealers of the farmer’s market! My other splurge was some herb Fromage Frais from Little Qualicum Cheeseworks (shown in the first photo) that tasted alot like Boursin but is local, fresh and made by happy cows! We had that for lunch with some crackers and a couple of the Fujis bought today.
I had a nice chat with Wade, the soap guy. I’d promised myself not to buy any solid shampoo until I use up the crappy stuff I have right now, but I did buy a little soap sampler for $4. Sadly, I somehow lost it! That was the only bummer of the day – I cheat on the Buy Nothing Challenge and then don’t even get to enjoy the product (must be Crunchy Chicken karma). But it was neat speaking with a real live person about soapmaking!
We stopped by the Bee Lady and bought some honey. There were several varieties on offer and Bee Lady explained that, for example, Blueberry honey is made from bees who have pollinated blueberry plants – it’s not blueberry flavoured! Since Daughter is used to the who-knows-what-kind-of-flower honey they sell in the grocery stores I asked the lady for something without too much fragrance. She handed us a jar of Summerflower honey. Daughter was particularly impressed with all the products you can make from bees. There were beeswax candles, cloudy and clear honey, bee pollen, honeycomb, and of course honey sticks!
Finally, I bought 2lbs of ground pork – grass fed and humanely raised. The suppliers, Pasture-to-Plate, have a wonderful attitude (at least as far as their website copy says!) and the girl selling the frozen meats did seem to know her stuff – I asked her what type of pigs they were and she knew, said they were well-suited to the region (they are a few hours north of here), though I forget the species name now. I paid $12 for the pork, which is pricey by grocery store standards. But I’m planning on using it to supplement our favorite rice-and-beans recipe so it will go a long way. And it certainly it feels good to buy ethical meat!
As we sat out in the sun munching on fresh-baked cinnamon buns from the Pie Lady (man it was hard not to buy a wonderful fresh-baked berry pie!) I felt like I’d spent a lot of money. I want to eat local as much as I can, and I think I can still do this while being frugal and sticking to the grocery budget. But let’s face it, the cheap food I get at the local big box mart comes with a hidden price tag. There is real value in the food I bought today (I feel a future blog post coming on…). And the truth is, I bought a fair amount of stuff that wasn’t really necessary, not part of our usual grocery list. It’s hard to avoid all the treats at the market. But if I can incorporate farmers markets into my weekly shopping I think it will become easier to restrain myself.