It’s the hipster in me that wants to say “I was into Farmer’s markets before they were cool.” At least I wish I could say that. When I was a kid growing up in Virginia Beach, the Farmer’s Market was one of those things that my parents enjoyed that felt like a punishment to me. After all, the four food groups to me were chicken nuggets, chips, Butterfinger bars, and Soda. Anything green was the enemy, so the Farmer’s Market was dangerous territory.
Man, what a difference a few decades makes. Going to the NC Farmer’s Market is a treat now, a chance to get to experience seasonal and local foods that my immature palate couldn’t handle a few years ago (*sigh* the dark days of my college eating, where every meal meant cereal and a side helping of grilled cheese). Yeah, I know it’s good to be green and I like the idea of the slow food movement, but it’s for more selfish reasons that I like the Farmer’s Market. Who doesn’t want their food to taste its freshest and best?
There a couple of things to consider about the produce:
a.) For those who are used to the food they want all year round, Seasonal food means letting go and learning to appreciate food at its peak and doing without favorites until its their time of the year. Squash, Zucchini, and Tomatoes are in full bloom now that it’s summer, so I’ve been buying them from the market and roasting them in just some salt, pepper, and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Yum!
b.) It can get overwhelming shopping there; there are many vendors selling the same produce and a general crush of people. I get a little claustrophobic, so my advice is to get there early (think Sundays before 10:00 when the after church crowd starts gathering) and try samples. Right now, most vendors have samples of watermelon, peaches, and tomatoes. Pick vendors you like and since most vendors congregate at the same spot each week, it helps making shopping easier.
When you need a break from the crowds, the Farmer’s Market has a whole other section with regional goodies. Our favorites include In the Red farm, which offers antibiotic and hormone-free meats and goat cheese. Oh, the goat cheese, I need to wipe the drool off of my laptop. This is some of the best I’ve had. Their goat cheese logs come with different versions, my favorites are the spicier kinds, such as one rolled with a crust of red pepper. They’re great to serve at parties, but we tend to just buy and devour ourselves.
If you’ve got some time to hang around, get in line for a cool drink at My Kids & Me bakery. They have lime, lemon, and orangeades that are to die for. The best is the medley, all three juices in one drink, complete with fresh slices of citrus and maraschino cherries. It’s so simple, yet so delicious. There’s usually a line, but it’s worth it, especially in the heat.
What if you’re hungry? It’s not hard to understand, my stomach growls just looking at all of the yummy food on display. It would make logical sense to grab a sandwich at the N.C Seafood restaurant there, but stay away! For the price you pay, you would be better off just eating a peach out of your grocery bag. I ordered a catfish sandwich, Tony had the same with hush puppies. What a disappointment. The fish was dry and the breading was pretty tasteless. Plus, it’s not the best place to sit and eat during the summer. It was so hot, my soda was gone in a minute. I felt bad for all the people still in their church gear, three-piece suits or frocks with pantyhose was not the way to go. Tony’s eaten there a few times and says that the fried oyster sandwich is great and not at all dry, but the wait for food and the price makes me rethink going back.
So, there are dozens of good ethical reasons to go to the Raleigh Farmer’s Market. It’s Green, the produce is less likely to have pesticides, you’re supporting local economy, blah, blah, blah. But any foodie will tell you that you have to go where the taste is and there is deliciousness a plenty there.