Wednesday Market at Cesar Chavez Park
I don’t especially like rural or country areas. I like the vibrancy, diversity and speed of the city. However, my Sacramentans, there is one place that the two converge in delight of one another; a place where the best aspects of country and city living come together to inspire and satiate our engagement in life. That place is the farmers market.
My favorite cities in the world are cities where I remember happening upon a display and splendor of crop and crowd—a farmers market, marchÃƒÂ© ouvert, le Suk.
You may be walking along a dull outdoor cement corridor, and all of a sudden stumble into an open market, with life colorfully exploding all around you. You see every color, smell life emanating from fresh foods, hear varied voices interacting, feel the thick swell of interaction between those alive and those things keeping us alive.
At Cesar Chavez Park on a recent Wednesday, I experienced that beloved sentiment and always-unexpected rush of connectivity to the living world.
As I entered from the northeast corner of the park off of I Street around 12:30 p.m., the farmers market was bustling with people, colors, smells of fresh and cooking food, and soothing sounds of sax and guitar music.
Among an assortment of the normal summer fruits that I got for $1.50 at the J & J Ramos Farms stand (each stand has a banner with the farm the produce came from, so you can remember your fave and make friends), I found a few new treasures.
My very first purchase was an impulsive one. I’m a firm believer in comparison shopping, but with enough practice, a good comparison shopper will know when they stumbled upon a deal sans comparison. V.F. Garden had a pesticide-free serrated-edged deep purple Thai basil for only a buck per generous bushel (what could you really do with a large amount of basil before it went bad anyway?). It was so fragrant and vibrant and tasted slightly of black licorice.
Another one that was new to me was quark from Spring Hill Jersey Cheese in Petaluma. Since I’d never heard of quark, Matt, the young, friendly gentleman behind the table, filled me in. While handing me a half-strawberry filled with the creamy, spread-like cheese, Matt explained how quark is like a German style cream cheese, but unlike cream cheese, this spread is derived from yogurt cultures.
I’d describe quark as certainly tasty with a slight distinctive flavor like that of an extremely mild, chevre frais (fresh goat cheese), but with a delicate subtlety that only fine, fresh, thick cream produces. In fact, Spring Hill Jersey Cheese makes their cheeses with milk from Jersey cows, which produce milk that is typically creamier (or higher in butterfat, for those in the know), than that of their larger bovine counterparts.
At $5 for a mini tub, this fresh quark is a touch pricey, but for a dinner party or date, it could be a great and fairly un-pretentious way to impress.
Although I had a seedless watermelon chilling in my fridge, my very last purchase was a light-rinded yellow watermelon. At $1 per pound, this seemed like an expensive purchase, except that the full size of this watermelon was the size of a large grapefruit. It ended up being a touch tart and soft, but when mixed with seedless watermelon and chopped purple basil in the salad I made when I got home, it paired nicely.
Patrick’s Garden brought berries galore from Placerville for Sacramentans. Along with the usual berry brigade, the selection included golden raspberries, olallieberries and tayberries (both variations of black/raspberry blends). They were a bit pricey, but no more so than at the super market and probably fresher and healthier. I thought it was funny that Patrick’s Garden also had huge red and yellow onions the size of big boobs. Berries and onions? I guess there have been stranger accompaniments.
Just because produce is at farmers market doesn’t mean that it is all good. When picking any fresh produce, think about your selection process to ensure the best of the fresh.
Like anything in life that inspires any sort of feeling, make sure that the produce you pick is inspiring—at least to your appetite. Pick a bushel of spinach that looks green, vibrant and flavorful. Make sure you don’t grab thin-fleshed fruit, like peaches, plums, tomatoes, apricots or nectarines that look like they’ve been involved in some intense bouts of domestic violence. If you have to put them in a bag for a walk or bike ride back, you’ll surely end up with the baby food equivalent of what you’d hoped would be a tasty treat.
Fruit should speak to your senses, saying, “I smell like a sweet invigorating bite of life! Pick me!” Oftentimes, people are off-put by anything that has a very strong smell, so they’re inclined to choose nearly odor-less produce. Unlike fish, the stronger a fruits’ sweet smell is, the fresher the fruit is and the better it will taste. Try it.
I encourage anyone who can make it down to the farmers market to do so and see what kind of inspiration hits you, such as the inspiration to respect connections in the living world; or the inspiration to begin or finish a project that results in positive contributions. Or maybe you’ll feel inspired to eat, which wouldn’t be all that bad either.
If you can’t make it to the Wednesday market from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Cesar Chavez, you can find listings of other farmer’s markets online at california-grown.com, click “market times & locations.”