Hooray! We’ve swapped Sundays, which means a sad goodbye to the pizza lady and the green leafy man (sounds like a Roman Green Man hidden face, and actually, his stall would look amazing with one of those), but hello again to my lovely Italian lady and her vegetable stall!
Actually, it was hello again to a lot of people, because first Sunday of the month is also the pie lady, and, even better, with the warmer weather starting up again, several of my favourite vegetable stalls are poking their heads out of the spring soil… or rather, bothering to make the trip into Melbourne after spending the winter closer to home.
We had to start with the pie lady, because I had an order from my Local Friendly Tenors for as many pies as we could carry in as many varieties as possible. Andrew and I got a couple of pies each, too… mmm… lamb and mint pie for lunch (and a beef pie stashed away for a rainy day in the freezer. Not that it rains often in my freezer, but I am now prepared! Also a little silly, but you probably noticed that part).
Having fulfilled my choral duties, I immediately went racing over to Italian lady, with Andrew and Elise trailing amusedly behind me. “We’re back on your Sundays again! What do you have that’s exciting?”
Quail eggs, that’s what.
And that’s actually very exciting, because I’ve heard of quail eggs, but never seen them before, and they are astonishingly cute. She also had broadbeans, which I did not grow this winter and am therefore not thoroughly tired of shelling yet. Actually, I rather like shelling broadbeans. For the first kilo or so. After that, it gets old very, very fast.
Chicory is another thing I’ve never cooked with and will need to consult my books about – all I know about it is that it is bitter, which is generally not something I like, but one can’t be sure one won’t like something until one actually tries it… and it’s supposed to be very good for you.
Also, did I mention quail eggs?
She also had broccoli, which, of course, so did everyone (in fact, I accidentally bought broccoli from two different people), but hers came in a bunch with all the side shoots. Somehow, this makes it more fun. That, or I am off my head with sleep deprivation (I had strange and gory dreams all last night, which was not restful, and my subconscious needs to know that just because it is revealed at the end of a dream that I was wearing a red hood that doesn’t make the dream a re-telling of Little Red Riding Hood, which is not a fairy tale that normally involves cursed corpses. But I digress. Again.).
There was a tomato stall, something I have never seen at this market before. The tomatoes actually looked almost shockingly red for this time of year.
My friend who brings me asparagus was sad to say that the weather recently has not been conducive to asparagus. I consoled myself with red, red rhubarb and baby spinach and (oops) broccoli again.
Purple potato man was back, though not with potatoes, because they aren’t ready yet. Instead, he had really gorgeous fresh garlic, still with its shoots, and sweet spring onions and beautiful strawberries. I’ve never managed to grow garlic successfully, so this was a definite win.
(No, I have no shame. Also, I’ve been cackling over that one ever since I thought of it. Sorry.)
Incidentally, you can really tell that we’re moving towards summer now – my veggies have gone from primarily light green with a little yellow, purple and orange from winter-heading-into-spring to brighter, deeper greens combined with deep reds and pinks. Admittedly, this is partly because I didn’t buy carrots today (I still have a lot from last time), but… the red things just weren’t there a couple of weeks ago. Even the rhubarb was pale pink and green, not this lush ruby colour.
I wanted to buy vegetables from absolutely everyone today, (I’m rather sad that I didn’t take more money but there was another stall that had to take priority. Ever since I learned that Lilydale isn’t all that free-range with their chickens after all, I’ve been avoiding chicken and I miss it. Today, though, there was a chicken stall at the market, complete with lots of photos of the chickens going about their business and information on how they are kept and treated throughout their lives. They are not, as it happens, strictly free-range (though they are organically raised), but they have a large, moveable pen that is part covered and part uncovered, and gets moved to a new part of the field each day – so that the chickens get fresh grass and the grass gets a chance to recover. In short, these are chickens who have lived reasonably content chickeny lives and are also environmentally about as good as it gets (the chickens going about their business also fertilise and weed the pasture). Which means I was allowed to buy chicken! I’m not sure whether I’m going to roast it whole and make stock with the bones, or whether I’m going to cut it into pieces and use it in five or six different meals across the week, but this is one chicken I am going to appreciate.
Of course, this is possibly the most unhelpful I have ever been to myself at the farmer’s market – there is so much lovely stuff that I haven’t got a clue what to do with! Or rather, I know just exactly what I’d like to do with it, but Andrew doesn’t eat the easy things. I’m pretty sure the quail eggs ought to be boiled whole and eaten with broad beans and asparagus, but I’m not sure of the rest of the equation. And that beautiful, soft, fresh garlic looks far too nice to be used for ordinary garlic purposes. I wonder whether this is the occasion on which to try chicken with 40 cloves of garlic? I’ve been eyeing off that recipe for years…