Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Not Everything is Better at the Farmers' Market

Last Saturday I saw these beauties at the Union Square Green Market. Not only were the strawberries very attractive, they were substantially discounted in an end-of-day sale.

Good from far, but far from good

Great, right? The one hitch: the strawberries had very little flavor. (Sorry, Hiroko.)

I couldn't help but contrast them with some strawberries I had purchased earlier in the day, the kind of big, mass market agri-business strawberry that we usually assume are bred for easy packing and shipment around the country.

I actually taste good!

They were succulent.

I love the Green Market. But I would never assume that just because a Union Square farmer sells something I'm obliged to buy it.

One of my favorite vendors offered this ready-for-compost kabocha for sale. 

Choose the kabocha - but not one of these

On several occasions I've sucker-bought grainy, sudsy, and flavorless watermelons because of the farmer's sworn attestation about their deliciousness. (Memo to self: No whole watermelons! No whole watermelons!) Eventually the lesson sunk in.

After learning the hard way, I don't buy corn for the first few weeks it's for sale at the Market -- despite the frenzied crowds at the Market stands. Let those folks elbow each other out of the way to get at the immature, under-ripe goods. I guess it's hard to leave the produce on the vine or on the stalk when the incentive to bring it to market (Market) is so great. I'm doing my part by not encouraging this practice.

Likewise, I suggest that customers ignore the apples being sold in the summer. You know that these apples are about 8 months old, right? And it's not as if there aren't alluring alternatives in the summer.

We are not apples (photo taken last year)

Too wordy for an embroidery sampler but true all the same: 

Just because something is being sold - even under the umbrella of virtue that is the Green Market - does not mean you have to buy it.

So try a blueberry before you buy a pint; buy one peach before you buy a peck. And understand that while there may be many compelling reasons to buy directly from a farmer - good stewardship of the land; better labor conditions for workers; a human connection with the grower and seller; support of the local economy; minimization of wasteful travel; better variety of produce; typically low or no dependence upon chemical fertilizers and herbicides; etc. -- taste isn't always one of them.

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