Tuesday, September 06, 2005

14th Market
Oak Park Farmer's Market 9/3/05
Win Some Lose Some

I love my farmer's market. I love nearly all farmer's markets. I do, however, recognize a few flaws with markets. For one thing, they aint cheap. I spend around $50 or so each week, and I've been a bit more careful this year, less vegetables, less flowers, not as much meat as I'd like to buy. The other thing, though, is that money-schmoney, there's a crap shoot angle to the market. Now, I am looking for puffball mushroom segments, or Piedmontese beef, I do not have many choices. Either it's good or not. For most things, I have multiple vendors to choose. Sometimes I make the right choice...

...And sometimes, not so good. You go by several things. You pick up, smell, poke, inspect, taste. That works sometimes. Other times, with apples that reveal very little or peaches that are not quite ripe, reputation plays a big part. Sometimes, you rely too much on reputation. Skibbes Farms is the biggest "pure" fruit vendor at the Oak Park market. They combine better than necessary prices with outstanding fruit. They also do a great job with variety, and most weeks I visit them last to supplement whatever seasonal fruit I still need. For instance, they will have blackberries when no one else does. This week, perhaps because the donut line was too long, I started with Skibbes. They had a great price for local grapes. Without doing much, I snagged a bunch (or bunches so to speak). Turns out these grapes taste as sour as currents.

I wished I waited for Nicholl's Farm. They had green Niagara grapes that, six more hours, would have been on the vine too long, but the result was incredible sweetness against the musk of Northern grapes. I did get a basket of Champagne grapes for the freezer again. Also, a bunch of apples including the pink Dayton and the classic Cox Pippen. I skipped the cannonball sized Wolf River, but my daughter zeroed in on one variety, I did not catch the varietal name, that she wanted for her teacher. It was the teacher's apple. So exactly appley apple-red, so apple-curved apple shaped. It even had a distinct, woody, thick, Pisa leading, visible stem. It will grace a desk very well.

Besides grapes and apples, I picked up green Bartlett pears, yellow flesh peaches and raspberries. I admired the selection of heirloom tomatoes at Nicholl's, especially the dark Cherokee Blacks, but I have a ton of tomatoes still. I admired those puffballls mentioned above at Nicholl's, but I had no desire to buy. More things I admire around the market including palm sized mini-cabbages, multiple brands of melon, cheddar cheese colored cauliflower. Everything else is great and worth the money. Nothing beats local fruit in season.

See ya next week.

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