Once more I find myself apologising for my terrible neglect of this blog! But it seems I have decided to celebrate the end of my holidays by coming down with a virus, which is most frustrating and not very conducive to cooking (or writing about it). Still, virus or no virus, the first farmers’ market of the new year was not to be missed, so hither we hied this halcyon (h)morning (no, I don’t know why I wrote that either. Fever? It would explain so much about my writing if I were permanently feverish. Sadly, I fear I have no such excuse…).
The season is definitely changing again. December’s cherries and apricots and raspberries have gone (though it’s possible we were just too late for the raspberries this morning), and instead we have plums and blackberries… and the odd blueberry and strawberry of course. Apples and pears are increasing in variety and the rhubarb is huge.
Yes, that huge.
We have tomatoes and capsicums of many colours, and eggplants and teeny tiny pumpkins, and my favourite potato man actually has potatoes at last – several different varieties, even! There are zucchinis of every possible variety and colour (which reminds me, I’d better go out to my garden and check for marrows-in-progress), and I even saw grapes, which are new to this market. Anyone would think autumn was approaching, but it’s too early for that, surely?
As usual, I intended to start my rounds with a proper lap of the market but was thwarted – thwarted, I say! – by the Italian lady. What can I say? She had zucchini flowers!
And yes, I do know that I, too, could have zucchini flowers since I have mad zucchinis going on in my garden, but I never know which ones to pick and I worry about accidentally forestalling the Great Marrow Revolution of 2012 (and I don’t want to be the first up against the wall when the zucchinis come for us) and I have officially no idea where I was going with that sentence anymore, but the upshot is that I had to get zucchini flowers. The Italian lady approved of this, and carefully lifted the top layer of flowers to select the best ones for me. (And now I know she likes me, because our friend E., who came with us, arrived at the stall a few minutes after we left and had to choose her own flowers. I am special, apparently.)
Of course, I couldn’t just buy zucchini flowers. There were quail eggs to be had, and little salad onions, and lovely broccoli. I don’t know what she does with her broccoli, but it’s definitely the nicest I’ve eating. We will probably have it with ricotta and lemon over pasta in the next few days. The zucchini flowers will, of course, be meeting more ricotta and herbs and passata, because stuffed zucchini flowers are one of the great pleasures of garden cooking.
Having completely derailed my journey, I had to go back and buy the aforementioned mammoth rhubarb (last bunch at that stall), before continuing on my strange little dance around the markets. I hadn’t had breakfast, so the French-style baker was irresistible. There are no photos of the chocolate croissant, so you don’t really know whether I had it for breakfast or not (though I can tell you it was delicious). The bread and the onion rolls, however, looked fabulous, and the onion rolls in particular looked a lot like lunch…
After that, I thought I’d better focus and start being methodical, so I really did do a proper lap and went back to start with the woman who has the colourful radishes that I must resist because I buy them and then forget to eat them, and the really good coloured carrots. She also had an impressive display of marrows in many colours – it’s nice to know that I’m not the only one who has a marrow problem (but I can quit any time, honest!)
(Kids, I’m telling you, don’t do zucchini. You start with the zucchini flowers and the little pattypan squash, and before you know it, you’ve moved on to the hard stuff, like Australian Blue Pumpkins. Have you ever tried to cut into one of those?)
We bought multicoloured carrots and leeks and green beans and thought about pasta bakes and salads and summer stews. And about the Great Marrow Revolution of 2012, which may be further advanced than we had realised. (I am beginning to have concerns about the allegiances of my delicata squash, to be perfectly honest.)
Next door was the tomato lady who is making me so happy this year with her eggplants. Which sounds like some sort of paradox or joke, but isn’t. She also had beautiful capsicums and peppers of all kinds and free basil (aargh, I just typed free zucchini – I really am in a zucchini-themed fever-dream here) if you bought $10 of tomatoes etc, which really wasn’t going to be a problem for me.
I did display a small amount of sense and carefully did not buy cherry tomatoes, which I am beginning to have in abundance at home, but the peppers and eggplants and capsicums and tomatoes were all screaming ‘ratatouille’, and while many people think it is a bad thing when inanimate objects start talking to you, I’ve never really viewed food as inanimate, so I just go along with it. This post is just getting odder and odder, isn’t it?
Anyway, Mr Lovely Potato Man (NB: this is not his real name) was next door, with actual potatoes this time, which was very exciting. I asked him which ones were the best, and he told me, but reader, I cannot tell a lie, I actually have no idea what kind of potatoes I bought in the end. Except that they were pretty. Which is important (we had a whole conversation about this, which was apparently much more memorable than actual names of what I was buying). I also bought strawberries and garlic, as is traditional.
Then there were berries at the berry stall! But still no raspberries. I bought blackberries – not the thorny kind which have been trying to eat South Australia, but a more domesticated variety – and blueberries, which I don’t really like, but they are very good for you, and also, you can make them into Pascal’s Triangle, which is more important than actual flavour. Also, they are blue, and I am in favour of blue food.
(In case you are wondering, this is not wholly Feverish Catherine reasoning, I actually taught myself to like a number of vegetables on the grounds that they were pretty colours. Also, blackberries really are trying to eat South Australia, or at least they were when I was at school. They are a major weed. Goats are also trying to eat South Australia. Presumably they don’t like blackberries, or that would solve one half of the problem? I have no idea why I am writing about this, either.)
Speaking of pretty colours the man who has the mad-coloured tomatoes is back! In theory, I, too, have mad-coloured tomatoes, but not very many of them yet, and mine never get very big. So I got some of those, with salads in mind. And he had curly kale which I have never seen outside of decorative borders, and yellow zucchini and beautiful young shallots, as well as teeny tiny pumpkins which I now regret resisting.
Then we went to visit The Green Man (also not his name, but I sort of like the idea of him being an ancient woodland god, and maybe he is, because his greens are always amazingly vibrant, and far beyond anything else I’ve seen at these markets) to look at herbs. I can never really express how gorgeous his stall is, with buckets and buckets of herbs and lettuces in all the different shades of green imaginable. This time, I stuck to lettuce and parsley and coriander, and then started just eating the lettuce when I got home instead of putting it away. That’s how gorgeous and tender and lush it is.
It’s not autumnal enough for quinces yet, but the apples are just beginning to be good again, and we have pears, too. Andrew doesn’t like pears, so we didn’t get any. He doesn’t like plums, either, but he doesn’t get a vote on that one, because they had the plums which look just like the ones from the tree we had in our garden when I was little, and I am an absolute sucker for those. That’s OK – I’ll eat the plums, and he can make do with apples. Somehow, that sentence just generated a double meaning, but I’m going to pretend I didn’t notice.
And then we wandered around a little more and looked at plants (which I do not need) and came home, where I had a nap which doesn’t seem to have made me any saner. If only sleep had that effect!
And now I really need to figure out dinner – which is to say, just what I’m going to do with those zucchini flowers, since one must use them pretty much immediately – and lunch for tomorrow and dinner for tomorrow night. Tomorrow, I start the journey into granty inferno… through the circles of increasingly elaborate and tortuous forms and ethics requirements to the terrible frozen centre… where we find the scientists who won’t do what they’re told even if hell freezes over. Hmm, that metaphor got a bit more apt than I expected.
I trust your January will be a little less feverish and tortuous than mine is shaping up to be!