Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Farmer's Market

I went to the downtown farmer's market yesterday morning before work. I enjoy going because there's a certain simple, back-to-nature feeling to it. It's reminiscent of a time when merchants would set up shop in the village square to sell their wares. It's also more personal to do business with the person who actually grew the food I'm going to eat, rather than buy it at some overpriced grocery store from some guy in a uniform and a nametag. It's also great because the produce is fresh, and I'm supporting local farms. It also costs a lot less than the grocery store. Yesterday I bought 2 green bell peppers, 6 large tomatoes, 8 onions, 1 acorn squash, and 1 butternut squash. I spent less than $10, which is hard to do nowadays with the price of food going up. That's why the farmers market is better.

I've been going to the farmer's market all summer long. Previous weeks I bought things like sugar plums, red plums, figs, and pears (a lot of fruit for some reason). It was also the Summer of the Squash because I bought a lot of zucchini and yellow summer squash, too. Now I see the selection of fruits, vegetables, and squash changing as the summer waves goodbye and winter sneaks up on us. The strawberries and blueberries are all gone. My favorite summer squashes have been replaced with their strange-looking and almost deformed winter cousins. There's still a lot of corn. There are apples by the bucketful. Enough with the damn apples! I'm going to have to make some apple crisp one of these days. Pretty soon we'll be seeing piles of pumpkins and I'm going to have make pumpkin pie!

If you're going to the farmer's market, there are some things you need to know to make your trip more enjoyable for both you and the farmers you're going to buy from. I decided to give some tips to the farmers market newbie:

1. BYOB: Bring Your Own Bag (or Basket) - If you provide your own bag (tote bag, backpack, etc.) or basket it will save a lot of trouble and cost for the farmers. For the bargains you get on the food, it's the least you can do for them. Once I overheard one woman say to one of her customers, "Thank you! You're one of the first people I've seen who actually brought there own bag." I understood, and since then I've brought my own (a nice blue tote that my grandma Elle gave me... thanks grandma Elle!)

2. Bring change - Not everyone has proper change, so there's lots of large bills being passed around. Many of those farmstands don't see anything smaller than a $10 bill. It's hard to make change for customers when they're exchanging it all for large bills. To make it a little easier on them, try to bring a lot of ones, quarters, and a couple fives.

3. Browse around - Don't just buy the first cucumber from the first person you see. Look around for a few minutes and see what everyone has to offer. Ask questions about their produce. You might find someone else selling the exact same thing for 25 cents less. You also might see fresher or better-looking produce, or something different that you haven't seen before. You also may not want to buy from certain shady-looking characters. I won't buy my produce from anyone who looks unhygienic or is smoking (that is disgusting!). I usually end up buying one or two things at several different stands.

4. Get touchy-feely - Don't be afraid to pick things up and inspect them. Feel them to ensure that the produce isn't mushy or too soft. Some produce may be bruised or overripe, and some may even be rotten. Many of the farmers prefer if you pick out specifically what you want anyway. Ask for assistance if you're not sure.

5. Try new things - You should come to the farmers market with little expectation because the flavors are always changing. Produce changes with the seasons, so stop moaning because the cherry-picking season is over! Weather and other factors also affect growing conditions and crop yield. There is also the factor of supply and demand; if a particular crop is not that popular, farmers will sometimes stop growing it. So you'd better come to the farmers market with an open mind and be prepared to challenge your pallet.

6. Be kind and courteous - Say hello and good morning to everyone you meet. Comment on the weather. If you have any questions, don't feel afraid to ask. Engage in conversation. Not everyone will want to chat, but they'll appreciate your acknowledgment. Always say thank you. They work hard all day to bring food to you, and some of them have to drive several miles to do so, therefore the least you can do is thank them for their time. Conclude by wishing them a great day in parting.

I enjoy my trips to the farmer's market on Tuesday mornings. Unfortunately, the last one of the season is October 16. I'll be sad when it's over, because then I'll have to go back to getting my California-grown produce from Juan or Betty or whomever at Wegmans' check-out line ("line" is not the word!). I'd better start packing away the fruits and vegetables over the next 3 weeks while I still have the chance.


Monday, September 24, 2007

Apple picking... sort of

My dad picked me up yesterday and he and his wife and I drove outside of Syracuse to get some apples. We went to this farm where they're famous for their apple cider donuts. We didn't get to pick the apples straight from the tree, which is the whole point of apple picking, but at least we bought them fresh and locally. Sylvia got some donuts, but dad and I got the miniature apple pies. The pies were okay, just a little dry; we would have been better off with the donuts.

Afterwards, we drove around the area in Auburn, Skaneateles, and Elbridge. Just cruisin' 'round with no particular destination. It was a beautiful, sunny day for a little road trip. We stopped at the Bass Pro Shop at the Fingerlakes Mall and walked around for a while. When we returned to the city, we stopped to eat at my dad's favorite Chinese restaurant (so far... there have been several). What a way to spend the first day of fall! Now I have a ton of apples to eat!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Autumnal equinox

Since today is the autumnal equinox (or the first day of fall in layman's terms), I've decided to "turn over a new leaf." I started this blog so I could keep track of my entries and have regular access to my blog. I have a blog on MySpace, but sometimes I have difficulty logging into my account. It just made blogging more of a hassle. Therefore, a resolution was in order. This new blog will allow me to make regular entries available for my friends and family to read. I can now proceed with my "bloggings" with ease.

Have a Happy Autumn!