First Timers at the Farmers' Market

The next time I take a friend to the farmers' market for the first time I'm going to ask her to give me her money before she gets out of the car. "It's for your own good," I will explain.

First timers to the farmers' market are an easy spot. They're the ones walking around with hibiscus plants and iris bulbs. They buy dark chocolate covered almonds, marmalade made from fruit that is as difficult to spell as it is to pronounce. They buy the handmade dishes from the woman with artisan honey, a lavender sack to rest upon their eyes. And they need the soothing fragrance once they realize they've spent their grocery money on a flower that won't grow in the fog, a jelly too pricey to eat on ordinary toast and a dish that is crooked. (Note: I love dark chocolate covered almonds and crooked dishes.)

First timers don't see the bunches of kale, rainbows of peppers, potatoes, apples or eggs the color of dirt. They are blind to cucumbers, carrots and cabbage. Who cares about cilantro, cauliflower and corn. What, there's watermelon? Radishes? Broccoli? Get out of my way, they seem to yell rushing past the produce and zeroing in on Swedish waffles, crepes with bananas. They jostle for position in the line for kettle corn, indian food, cheese bread, cinnamon rolls. They stock up on tamales and olive tapenade; taste cheese priced in double digits and buy candles made of beeswax.

The cute guy went to the farmers' market once to do our weekly shopping. I kid you not, he came home with granola, sausages and lettuce. That was it. "It was too overwhelming," he said. He's right. It is.

That's why I will take my first-time-to-the-market friend's money. I don't want them getting home with an empty wallet, nothing to eat and a bad taste. It takes practice to see the real food through the fair like atmosphere. To put on a grocery shopping hat when nothing about the farmers' market resembles what most of us are used to. Except the impulse buys to lure us away from buying plain old real food. Those exist everywhere.

If you're in the market for impulse buys, the farmers' market is the best. Just don't take your grocery money.

And if you're at the farmers' market for groceries, keep your hat on and buy real food first. Then decide if you need a jar of the calamondin marmalde. (It is delicious.)


Anonymous said...

I recently tried out the new Farmers' Market in the centre of Sydney. Great initiative by a farming co-op to the north of Sydney: bringing beautiful produce, still smelling of the earth to us city folk.

Strawberries, the most wonderful beetroot and vegetables, goats' cheese, a Jersey milk seller, mushrooms, amazing pink lady apples and so much more.

But the biggest queue was for the gozleme seller. These are a cross between bread and pastry, filled with spinach and cheese and then cooked on a barbecue. They're delicious, but available everywhere. Surrounded by all this wondrous produce, that's all most people could seem to cope with buying.

Green Bean said...

So true. It takes a while to figure out how to shop and get used to the faire-like atmosphere. Once you do, you realize how truly enjoyable grocery shopping can be.

Donna said...

Pretty funny! I've learned to buy my groceries first at the market, but I still have trouble resisting the chocolate-filled croissants.

Anonymous said...

Oh my gosh, this post is so spot on. You can see the first timers from a mile away. They buy the things that the rest of us just ignore.

So glad to see you taking the Eat Local Challenge again ...

Kale for Sale said...

Kathryn - I love that you notice the Jersey milk seller. I eat yogurt made from Jersey milk and all I can think about are those big cow eyes framed with impossible lashes and that my Grandmother had a Jersey cow named Angie. For whatever reason the milk tastes different. And I'm excited that pink lady apples grow on the other side of the world. Aren't they gorgeous?

Thank you for educating me on gozleme. I've not ever heard of such a thing but you know I'll be in the queue if I ever find one. We are a funny people everywhere.

green bean - Exactly, but there are still days when the seasons or the weather changes and the market is a brand new place with my favorite growers absent, new ones in their place and I can't figure out what's local or organic and really all I want is one of those cinnamon rolls. The farmers' market is always an adventure.

donna - Good for you. My treat at the end of the market these days has been a pit fruit from a growers on the corner of the lot. I'm not sure how they grow them so good but they are seriously as good as a chocolate-filled croissant. I know I'm a freak for even suggesting such a thing but it's true.

jen maiser - I guess I should have mentioned that I have a backyard full of hibiscuis and iris bulbs. Kidding.

As to the ELC, I can't help it. I'm hooked. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Totally agree. And as I read your post I realized my favorite markets are the ones with the kale and potatoes, the stuff that came straight from the dirt. Even the $5 bread sometimes feels excessive. I just really like interacting with and buying from the actual farmers.

Theresa said...

When I first went to the farmer's market I was a bit confused by the popcorn stand and the guy selling birdhouses and the bannock bread place that doesn't sell real bannock bread.

But I did like the harpist and the violin player, and put some money in their instrument cases. With a big goofy grin I eventually found the cucumbers and the carrots and the lady who sells hardy cherry trees - the market is feast for the senses, that's for sure!

Anonymous said...

It's especially overwhelming when you shop at the Marin and SF farmers markets! Those are so big. The first time I went to a farmers market was the Marin one and I had never seen chard before, let alone multi colored chard. That along with lettuce were the only two things I bought. The chard guy gave me tips for cooking it and ever since then chard has been a staple in my life.

The Marin market still leaves me glassy eyed so usually I leave Scott to shop while I wrangle with the kids, oh and hold the coffee. :)

Kale for Sale said...

audrey -Do you ever notice that the farmers look like their food? Or is it the other way around?

theresa - Thanks for reminding me to see the musical people. I've been so caught up in apples and tomatoes recently I haven't stopped to appreciate them.

kendra - I've seen you at the market -- kids, stroller, two cups of coffee? Husband with a bag of produce in each hand? What fun.

As I think about it, I don't think I've actually ever seen chard sold in a grocery store. Or maybe I didn't have the eyes for it. Now I gush over how beautiful it is. And I like eating it too but honestly that's secondary.