Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Northern Virginia Residential Farmers Market

The motel we are staying at in Centreville, VA is in a mixed residential/commercial neighborhood off a main road.  To our delight, when we entered the short road our motel is located on (along with a number of apartment complexes) a sign announced a Friday evening farmers market from 3:30 to 6:30 pm.

We had to go and see how it differed from the farmers markets in the Binghamton, NY area that we live in.  Northern Virginia is  two gardening zones "ahead" of us (zone 7a for Centreville vs. 5b for Binghamton), which would make a difference in what was ready.  We couldn't wait to see the local food that awaited us.

One stand featured produce from nearby West Virginia:  early white and yellow peaches, Mountain Pride tomatoes, white nectarines, cantalope, Shiro and Methley plums and okra.  The farmer was sampling many of his varieties- the delicious sweetness of almost everything sold us.  We purchased a quart of plums and a couple of huge Mountain Pride tomatoes.  We can get excellent Amish cantalope where we live, so we passed.  As for okra....no thanks.  I don't miss the fact that it doesn't grow well where we live (it isn't hot enough for long enough) although it is an ornamental plant.

He also had blueberries.  We are in blueberry picking season where we live, so we also passed.  (I tried one and it was very tart.  I think ours are better.)

Another booth had what looked like Striped German tomatoes along with corn and melons.

And then, there was the prepared food.  One booth offered crab cakes and steamed crab, another booth BBQ'd chickens (huge chickens) and southern style potato salad and a third booth a wonderful honey wheat bread.  Obviously, they were set up to offer meals to go for hungry commuters.  Alas, the prices (from the viewpoint of people who live in a lower cost of living area) were a bit much.  $7.00 for a loaf of bread?  $8.00 for a dozen ears of corn? (our going rate would be around $4.50 a dozen).

Have you every noticed regional differences in corn?  Some areas of the country will only eat all yellow, some only white, and some only bicolor.  In our area, almost all the corn is bicolored.  In this market, the corn was all yellow.

At 4:30 pm, the heat was absolutely brutal.  The peach vendor had a wet towel draped on his head.  The market was set up in a paved parking lot and I felt so sorry for the vendors-especially the BBQ man.  The air temperature, at that point, was 104 with around a 114 heat index. As commuters arrived home, sales became brisk despite the heat.


Tomorrow, we head home with our purchases and with memories of wonderful Civil War commemorations.

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