Monday, September 12, 2011

Sprouts in September.

Unconventional grown produce at the union square farmers market.

Years of living in San Francisco, decades of eating produce planted and picked in the fertile ground of California, well, you can imagine how I was going through a bit of a transition moving all the way to the other side of the country. I'd seen what Chinatown had to offer, giant tasteless Fuji apples, limp cabbage and dull oranges. I'd been to Whole Foods, and yes, it's a completely reasonable place to shop organic. But, I am a California girl who loves her produce and I wanted to meet the people who worked the farms.

Yesterday I made it over to the Union Square Farmers Market. And it was wonderful. I sampled beer bread, just picked apples, goat cheese, sprouts, kale salad, ginger tea, and watermelon. There was no shortage of variety. Walking up the crowded main isle of the market I felt a few different things: like I was in a movie set, that I was lucky to live here and relishing all that was new. Smiling and happy I zigzagged left and right making sure I hit every stand. It started to rain and I didn't have an umbrella and I didn't care. I loved the people watching, the sampling, the browsing. Wandering slowly, sample in my hand, chatting with my friend, the rain felt cool and refreshing.

One of my favorite stops was at the Unconventional Produce Stand also known as Windfall Farms. The stand was full of bins with every kind of sprout imaginable: sunflower, daikon, radish, adzuki and more. They had lettuce that looked like an artist had painted each leaf by hand, in green hues that existed outside of nature, unimaginable colors, not even known by Crayola.

The most unusual thing I found was a bin full of green bullet shaped something or others. Flecked green, it looked like what you'd get if you mated a watermelon with a midget cucumber. Tiny and adorable, about an inch long, it looked like the worlds smallest watermelon. I bit into it. It had a soft crunch to it, a tangy taste and a gel like coating around its interior seeds. I was smitten but at a loss as to what I might do with it. Other than tossing it in the air. Standing next to a tall, thin, tattooed man who was shoveling them into a bag by the dozens I asked him what he was planning to do with them. "They're in a recipe on our menu tonight." "Oh really? Where do you cook?" I asked. "Eleven Madison West," he replied. I had never heard of it and I didn't know what to say next. Ok, and he was cute. Ok, and I was tongue tied. After a little online research I found an article that called them a sour mexican gherkin. I wonder if I can lobby for a better name. In fact if there was a job to be a person in charge of naming things, I would apply. But I digress.

I didn't end up buying any 'gherkins', but maybe I should pop by that cute chefs restaurant? In the meantime I did buy some fancy lettuce and a handful of gorgeous purple wax beans. It cost me $10.75, which made me pause in reaching for my wallet but really, what was I going to do? Put it back?

At the end of day I walked home with a huge bag full of New Yorks finest. A bounty I had been skeptical I could find: kale, apples, fresh eggs, mixed greens, sprouts and purple beans. I walked home with a skip. Excited to make a kale salad, scramble some eggs and, most of all, to get back there next Saturday.


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