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The Poorest Elders

Wednesday Morning Farmers’ Market

[EDITORIAL NOTE: If you have written any blog posts on political issues this week, be sure to get links to me by Friday for the Sunday Election Issues post. If you're wondering what I'm talking about, see this post.]

category_bug_journal2.gif It tells you something about my life that the day I most look forward to each week is Wednesday – Farmers’ Market Day at Monument Square in Portland, Maine. It lasts from about May to October and during that time, there is a constant shift in produce week-to-week as different fruits and veggies come into season, reach their peak and fade away when their day is done.

To my enormous disappointment, arugula is finished for the year as is a local pea hybrid with shells so crispy and sweet I eat them raw like candy. They last only two or three weeks, but there are other delights each time I visit.

The Market opens at 7AM and I like to be there early before the best is picked over. I left home yesterday at 7:30AM and noticed the hydrangea bush in front of the house is vaguely tinged with pink this year. Last summer it was pure white. What could have changed? No one I know of has been sticking pennies in the ground.


It is only a five-minute drive to the Market, smack in the middle of town on Portland's main drag, Congress Street. This is my third year at the Farmers' Market and I've come to know the sellers now, so it is a social occasion in addition to stocking up for the week.

Even though the planting season is close to over, hot pepper plants are still for sale at the Farmers' Market. Not to my taste, but they’re weird, a bit alien and fun to look at.


Every one of these tomatoes had reached the point of perfection – round, smooth and ready to burst with juiciness.


Yesterday, I chatted with a woman named Elizabeth, clearly an older hand at the Market than I am. She waits until the end of tomato season to buy a large amount of the last, not-so-attractive tomatoes at cheaper prices, cooks them down into a thick sauce to freeze in bricks for winter when she can break off chunks to include in stews and soups as needed.

Terrific advice I will use this year. Although I bought one giant tomato weighing more than a pound at another stall, other delicacies were on my mind this week, like...

Row upon row of Maine’s specialty, blueberries, available at about half the stalls. These are cultivated, but there are wild ones too, smaller and usually sweeter. I buy both kinds while they are in season; each has its charms.


Strawberries are done for the year, but raspberries and wild blackberries are still here to go with the blueberries. I gorged on all three for a late breakfast when I got home.


I took a little break from drooling over the food to get this photo of Millie Garfield’s favorite flower. Sunflowers are at their peak right now and it seems like every farmer grows some in addition to whatever else his or her specialty is. I like them this way in the subdued, early morning light.


There are about 20 stalls at the Farmers’ Market packed with locally-grown fruits, vegetables, herbs, homemade jams and jellies and honey. Local means fresher – off the tree, bush or vine just yesterday instead of weeks on a train or truck - so they last a lot longer than supermarket produce.

My eyes nearly popped out when I saw French cherentais melons this week. I hadn’t had one since I was last in Paris 20 years ago because when they are available in Manhattan, they go for about $10 each. These were only a dollar a pound. The farmer said this is the first year he has grown them. I bought a cantaloupe too because I’ll undoubtedly have the entire cherentais for lunch today. Moderation is not among my skills.


Root vegetables are a feast for the eye at the Market. Those in the middle are yellow beets. They taste the same as red ones, but don’t discolor everything else in the salad or on the plate.


I like the bunches of multi-colored radishes – I’d never seen any but red before moving to Maine. And on the far right are baby, white turnips – sweet and delicious when they are boiled and mashed, but I like them even better cut up raw in a salad.


The early morning light is dim, but Freedom Farm’s stall deserves special mention. I buy my lettuce, herbs and other greens there and the root veggies above are all from their organic farm. It is where I found the cherentais, and they also grow an exquisite, small watermelon, oblong in shape like an extra-large zucchini, with yellow flesh and an intense flavor that I finished in two days last week.


I shopped at farmers’ markets in Manhattan, but never with as much delight as I feel at this one. Winter arrives sooner and lasts longer in Maine than anywhere else I’ve lived, and maybe that’s what helps make this market the highlight of my week. (I've become such a boring old lady.)

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Brenton "Sandy" Dickson explains what it took to get Elsie in a Bottle.]


Farmer's markets are flourishing all over the country and they provide an outlet for local growers and a place for us non-growers to get quality fruit and vegetables. Our Santa Fe Farmers Market is moving into a new home in the Railyard District. This new building, which will open to the outside for nice weather, will give us a year round source of local meat, vegetables, and fruit.

You can grow arugual in pots, Johnny's Seeds sells a nifty arugula (and other herbs) little paper disc with the seeds spaced out in it. You stick it in a pot and voila, herbs! Reminds me to get mine going for the winter.
I take the plum tomatoes, cut them in half and roast them with garlic and olive oil at 450 until they are well done and the skins are brown. Then let them cool, remove the skins and freeze the sauce. I usually eat the skins, they are so good but you don't want them in the sauce. And I make tomato soup and freeze that.
We have a fantastic farm stand in Sherman Farm, in East Conway, NH. They have 60 acres of vegtables and beef, pork and veal. It is open all year. And cheese and ice cream.

The one thing I miss about living in France is the market experience, available three times a week. You are fortunate to have a market in Portland. I enjoyed the photos. Thanks for sharing!

I love this post. The Farmers Market is one of my favorite places to visit each week.
I usually go on Friday. I do not know if ours in Nashville compares to yours. I know my daughter lives in Massachusetts and it seems hers is comparable to the one in Maine. This post was so good I may go to the market today!!!

Never boring. "Old" and "lady" are just fine.

We grow a lot of our own produce but can't begin to plant everything we love. We enjoy the various farmer's markets and share the same excitement in browsing that you express here.

Definitely not boring. I am so hungry after reading this post! I have not gotten to any of our local farmer's markets in weeks, because they are not that local and take about a 15-20 minute drive, but you remind me that I ought to. The quality of the produce is so much higher, and I also enjoy the atmosphere much more than at a grocery store.

I will try to make it to one of them this weekend; there's not so much of summer left that I want to squander the chance at the fresh produce.

There's nothing prettier than colorful produce at an outdoor market. I took some photos in one last week, but mine weren't as pretty as yours.

Old, yeah. A lady - well maybe - but boring, oh no never.
To me, farmers' markets are a joy and a delight. Their food has flavor. (And they are re-training people to eat seasonally, a dying skill in this Supermarket age). It's great that they are proliferating. More power to them!
And I loved your pics.

We can still find fresh okra at our markets here in Cowtown. Last week I bought a large basketful - very tender pods that fried up perfectly! They're also good to toss into a pot of almost-done black-eyed peas. Add a big hunk of sweet onion and a wedge of homemade cornbread slathered in melting butter, some fresh sliced 'maters and cantelope...yummy supper.

Hey, when else do you get to be a "boring old lady"? Easier to paddle downstream, I've learned.

Farmer's Markets here are many and varied. I suppose that the current trend of eating locally has contributed to their success. We've had a CSA for four years now and relish things as they come into season. It brings memories of when I was a kid and we had a large garden, my Mother canned everything, veggies and fruits to see us through the winter. But it was the first raspberries and the first pears from our bushes/tree that we waited eagerly for. Nothing tasted so sweet. That same goodness comes in our CSA every week.


Does Ollie wait for you to come home from the market hoping you have brought him some catnip?

Boring , never - old, not yet - a lady, always!!

Enjoyed the photos of the Farmers Market, especially the sunflowers. :-)

Do you freeze blueberries too?

I am sooooo jealous! I have to buy all of my produce at the grocery store and the tomatoes are tasteless, as are the peaches. Everything was picked so green that there is no flavor at all. I have to qualify that; our melons and blueberries were great this year and I feasted on them.

When fruit is in season and ripe I cut up every kind of fruit available and mix with yogurt. That is my summer breakfast and I miss it in the winter.

Oh, Ronni! I haven't been to a farmer's market all summer! I am horribly envious! We live in a city apartment and have five big urns out on the patio growing tomatoes and green & red peppers. Our tomatoes have done beautifully and we're enjoying them every day - one way or another. Peppers are slower, but coming along. My Dad always had a garden, and I remember picking corn and rushing with it to the house where my mother had the water boiling and ready to throw the ears of corn in. Now that was some kind of fresh! Usually three or four times during the summer, my partner and I manage to drive out into the country and stock up at farm stands, but we haven't done the farmer's market although I know darned well they are out there. So, you've given me a purpose today - to find the farmer's market closest to us and make sure we get there! Boring? Oh, I think not! You don't know what a new and lovely world you've opened up for me since I discovered your "Time Goes BY" site!!! Thankyou!

Mom and I are also learning (or, in her case, relearning) the joys of farmers' markets/stands and fresh vegetables or fruits. We paid a visit to a farm market she remembered from a while ago and found some beautiful small eggplants at 2 for $0.79. We could have bought a third for 20 cents more but held off. We can only eat so much and have a small freezer. The only time now-a-days I wish for more room is when I think how nice it would be to put more of this wonderful food by. I notice that a couple of comments mentioned CSA. We did look into it but found that it doesn't really fit for just the two of us with a very limited storage space.


You have put your finger on something about living in Maine. The very long winter makes you appreciate - and marvel - at the variety of produce that grows in Maine. It borders on miraculous.

Arugula? Ronni, you elitist! ;^)

Not boring, Ronni! You are "with it", the new mantra to eat local, to keep yourself in good health, support our local farmers, and save on energy and pollution by not buying food transported long distances. Yay!
And it's very European to shop at town centre markets. I think we're seeing a revival of that in North America, thankfully.

Well if this is boring, I'm all for it! Love your photos of the market, and back in Toronto after a couple of months in Nova Scotia, I hear you on small town markets! It's great that there are farmers' markets in the big cities now, but they will never be so wonderful as the small town ones. Especially in Maine/Nova Scotia ;-)

Briefly, there was a farmers market just over the hill. When I became tempted to check it out, it was gone. There's another one two miles down at the beach, but there's no parking for those of us who need to ride.

Homemade pies and cakes there too.....no moderation here either.

Your pictures should be in a cook book. Age gives us perspective on what is worth doing.

I've enjoyed our local farmers' market for the last 20-some years. Even before they became popular, you could always get fresh produce from farm stands by driving 20 minutes to the country here in Buffalo NY.

Our local market always --or at least on the days when we're practicing "being here now"--my sister and I are each moved by its beauty and inspired again with gratitude for the abundance we're so lucky to have.

I like to freeze some of the things and keep them so that, in the midst of our winters, I can enjoy a taste of summer. I make it a point to keep something available (blueberries!) until March...when the arugula is just around the corner!!

I'm drooling doubly--first because I live in the Mojave Desert, and our weekly Farmer's Market isn't filled with the riches of yours, and second because your pictures were so vivid I could almost taste blueberries and tomatoes as I stared! Thank you for so lovely a start to my hot desert day!

Good post. Loved the pix. Nothing boring about simplifying life and appreciating nature's bounty.

Well, "boring old lady," ... (I don't think so on all counts -- wait until you're older than me to even consider being old and define "lady" for me.) ... your pictures remind me I haven't visited our local farmers market since my husband died. Actually, the surrounding communities within easy driving distance each have their own markets, too. They (about four I know of) are scheduled on different weekdays with three of them in the evening. The night markets feature local live musical groups for entertainment. Perhaps I should resume my market visits.

From Jan. thru July I haunt a strawberry patch about a mile north of my home closer to the foothills to feed my addiction. They sometimes offer tomatoes, sweet onions and other misc. veggies.

Your pictured blueberries look delish. I like to top my morning oatmeal with them if I'm not using strawberries and bananas. When the stores offer a good peak seasonal price on blueberries in years past I have bought quantities to freeze, then use throughout the winter -- so much better quality than the stores frozen packaged ones.

Lovely pictures and mouth-watering descriptions!

You, boring? Never!

Oh boy! To think that two years ago in October, I went to that farmer market with you! Is that the one?
Lovely photos!

Wow - that is an amazing amount and variety of produce!

I'm hosting a Farmer's Market Report. Maybe you'd like to submit this post? Come on over and check it out: http://toeverymeal.blogspot.com/2008/08/farmers-market-report-august-23rd.html

Beautiful photos, Ronni, you lucky dog. We have a small farmer's market in our little town; but, it closes at noon. Our summers are just too hot for produce (or people) to want to be in a hot lot for very long. Unfortunately, by the time I get my walk in (the market is beyond my normal walking range, anymore) and/or my yard work done and a shower taken, it is too late to go. More power to you, Interesting Younger (than I) Woman!

Wonderful pictures.
I, too, live in New England and love the late summer bounty available at our local farmer's market and farm stands. It's hard to return to eating supermarket vegetables once winter closes in.

awesome pics, my mouth is watering!

Ronni-Beautiful and Yummy Pictures....Bon Appetite....you are one smart and talented and never boring lady..

My wife wrote about money or the lack thereof. I was just wondering, when did the inordinate desire for wealth supplant God, country, patriotism, and caring for humanity?

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