I get a lot of pleasure from going to the garden, filling a basket with vegetables and carrying it back to the kitchen. The colors, textures, shapes, and sizes of this abundance create a vegetable still life, inspiring both in its beauty and in the cooking and eating possibilities it suggests.
This kind of pleasure is multiplied many times over by a walk through a farmers’ market. Last weekend we were in Portland, Oregon and went to the Saturday market downtown. It’s one of our favorite farmers’ markets and a highlight of a visit to Portland. The city park setting with its green lawns, tall trees and rows of farmer’s stalls spilling out gorgeous, fresh produce always makes me think that if I lived here and didn’t have a garden I’d still be fine.
I would face the dilemma that Portland market shoppers face at this time of year though, as the summer produce is winding down and fall and winter crops are coming in. Do I stand in line for late summer vegetables and make one last batch of caponata? Eggplant, peppers and tomatoes are still on offer.
Or do I join the lines for fall carrots, beets, celery root, parsnips and sweet potatoes and make the first batch of roasted roots?
Either choice would match perfectly with beans. What a treat to find fresh shell beans at the Viridian Farms stall. As their website http://www.viridianfarms.com/ explains, they seek out heirloom seeds from southern Europe. The purple beans are Alubias de Tolosa, a Basque bean. The white beans are Haricots Tarbais grown in southwest France and used for cassoulet. And the beans still in the pod are Fabes Asturianas, so large that the Viridian Farm’s shelling machine can’t handle them; you have to shell them by hand. They are the base for a classic Spanish bean, pork and sausage stew. I could be a grateful, regular customer here and at all the other stands.
If Scott’s photos haven’t already shown you why we like this market so much, take a look at the Portland Farmers’ Market website to learn more about the farmers: http://www.portlandfarmersmarket.org/markets/psu/. It conveys the scope of this market and the Interactive Market Map gives a brief biography of each farm. Click on it to find stories of the people who grow these vegetables with such care and pride.
If you don’t have a garden, a farmer’s market is a perfect alternative and a very tempting one even for those of us who garden.