Saturday, August 29, 2009

Saturday morning at the farmer's market

In honor of slow food, I took my time this morning perusing the wares at the farmer's market at the Cheyenne Depot Plaza.

Trees and bushes lined the entrance. I would love to buy more trees and bushes, but will wait for spring. I spent most of the spring and summer growing things with middling success. I also discovered that the crabapple tree I've nurtured from a sapling for four years is actually a plum tree. I ate one of the fruits, and it was more sour than sweet. I'm just chagrined that I didn't know it was a plum tree. Perhaps I should have known something was up when it never produced crabapples. My horticultural skills still need polishing.

My first stop was the Heritage Hills booth. This organic farm is located a few miles east of Cheyenne. I wrote about it after it was featured in a Wyoming Tribune-Eagle article about eating locally. I bought some spaghetti squash, two bunches of carrots and a bunch of beets. I told the young guy behind the counter that I'm not a beet fan and haven't been since eating too many canned beets as a kid -- and crappy salad bar beets as an adult. But he vouched for his beets, said they would turn me into a beet lover. Also said I should eat the leaves. "Toss 'em in a salad -- they're great." I'll let you know about the beets later.

I know it's corn season, but I passed up hundreds of good-looking ears. I'm sorry -- I know that this jeopardizes corn farmers who need to sell all their corn so they they can carve their fields into spooky Halloween mazes. But last time at the market, I bought three-dozen ears and we couldn't eat them fast enough. My cat liked it, though. I accidentally left out a bowl of shucked corn ears and in the morning found three ears gnawed down to the cobs and my cat passed out on the floor. A sad sight. Perhaps I would have reconsidered but I didn't see any of the Olathe, Colo., sweet corn that usually shows up this time of year.

I rounded out my purchases with a big basket of Palisade peaches, some Japanese eggplant from Monroe Organic Farms near Lasalle, Colo., a loaf of homemade cinnamon-raisin bread from Baumann's Bakery and a bag of Costa Rican coffee beans from Jackie at Jackie's Java in Fort Collins. I had a couple reasons for buying the coffee. First, Jackie's a fellow CSU grad and started her business while still a student. Second, the cover on the coffee bag told an interesting story. I'm a sucker for good stories, especially ones about food and beverages.

The bad showed a photo of Jackie among the coffee plants when she visited La Amistad Estate last March. Here's the copy: "Located inside a Costa Rican National Reserve, La Amistad is a finca like no other. Powered 100% by hydro electricity, shaded by banana trees dispersed amongst the natural rainforest, and processed completely on the farm to keep quality control at its peak."

Damn. That sounded so good that I wanted to open the bag right then and eat some of the beans. I didn't. I'll brew some of the java in the morning. I'm a coffee snob, that's true. But I also know how coffee was grown for so many decades. Big plantations owned by U.S. firms in cahoots with Latin American dictators. Peasants picking coffee for pennies a day. Coffee in the U.S. was cheap -- and horrible. Now it's expensive and very good. Grown in self-sustaining fincas that deal directly with small vendors and roasters in places like Fort Collins.

Bottom's up, coffee fans.

Why am I at the farmer's market when I have a garden of my own? Good question. I'm still waiting for most of my tomatoes to vine ripen. I've harvested some nice squash and zucchini and green beans and broccoli. But I don't have a peach orchard. I do have one plum tree. Who knew?

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