On Wednesday mornings in old downtown, right across from the Methodist church and next to the elementary school playground, is tiniest farmers' market. Could be so tiny because it's still early in the season. Or because it is Wednesday, and Saturdays offer bigger crowds. Or maybe because there are several other markets around the metro area and our neck of the woods isn't known as a hotbed of activity. Today it was even tinier because of all the carnival rides and trailers sharing the lot, in preparation for the our city's Downtown Days street festival this weekend.
No matter. It also means you get your shopping done real quick. A quart of red, juicy strawberries, a dozen fresh eggs, some organic tomatoes, a bag of cinnamon pecans (oh dear), Amish granola and a cream cheese pound cake made their way into my bag in all of 15 minutes. Yummy. Chatted it up with a couple of the old farmers, hanging around the tents like flies while the wives took the money. You boys stay out of trouble, you hear? The oldest one winked at me and said, "Well, we'll try. But I ain't promising nothing."
Local strawberries, though. Is there anything else so wonderful? The chain stores out here in the Midwest buy most of their strawberries from far, far away. California, mostly. Which means the berries are hardly red when they are put on the truck. And by the time they get here and on our grocers' shelves, they are redder, but not sweet at all. They are huge, bakers strawberries... with no flavor.
When I lived in Southern California, one of my favorite things to do was to buy a flat -- not a pint, a FLAT -- of large baker's strawberries, too ripe for grocery stores or shipping cross-country, from the little farmer stands that popped up here and there, along freeway exits and on canyon roads. A flat for, like, $7. Those strawberries. Heavens to Betsy. Huge and red all the way through. Nothing -- nothing compared to them. I'd slice up enough to fill a bowl and eat them for every meal, sitting cross-legged with the bowl in my lap. I don't miss much about the Southland, but I do miss the darned near perfect weather and those strawberries.
The ones I picked up today are delicious. Small, but so sweet and juicy. Enough to stain your fingers. No need for sugar, honey, just pop 'em in your mouth. I'm doing my best to stay away, because I'm fairly sure they are going to taste fantastic on that cream cheese pound cake with double churned ice cream after dinner tonight. Yum.
And why didn't I buy 2 quarts?