The Italian vegtetable lady approves of me. “You always choose the really healthy vegetables,” she tells me, as I bounce up and down like a demented Energiser Bunny in her stall. “I always choose the really interesting vegetables,” I correct her, and then bounce over to another corner of her stall “Ooh! Wild greens! What kind are they?”. She tells me their names, but all I retain is ‘milk thistle’. This doesn’t stop me from buying three bunches of unidentified greens as well as the milk thistle and some wild fennel which I actually *can* recognise. Oh, and she has sprouting broccoli again! I’ll get some of that. And there are still some peppers? I grab a handful, and she drops a chilli into my bag as well. Naturally, I already have cardoons. Indeed, I made a bee-line for the cardoons the moment I entered the market.
I am decidedly sleep-deprived this morning. Yesterday, after making about 80 scones, two kinds of butter and lemon curd, I went off to a baby shower afternoon tea for one of my colleagues. They were still going strong after five hours, and by the time I got home and made dinner it was very late indeed. So I am more than usually manic and flighty at the market today. The pie man is there, so I send Andrew off to buy us pies – two for lunch today, and four more for the freezer: lamb with mint sauce, beef with red wine, thai pumpkin and plain beef mince. Meanwhile, I get eggs, and resist the call of the bread. I still have about two dozen scones at home, as well as last night’s sourdough efforts, and I definitely do not need more.
The potato lady tells me that I should get Nicola potatoes, (which she sells by mentioning that the inside is almost chartreuse in colour – I find this hard to believe, but note that my reputation for liking weird vegetables appears to be spreading) but I am seduced by the pink potatoes, so she pops a nice big pink potato into the bag too. I have no idea what I will do with it, but it is pink, and that’s what counts.
I’ve never bought jam here before, but I’ve been hearing good things about this jam stall, and I have all these scones at home. The lady has crabapple jelly, which I haven’t seen since my Oma used to make it, and also raspberry and apricot jam. As these are my two favourite jams, I am very willing to find out what they taste like when added together.
Apparently, there is a kind of apple called a Statesman. Andrew suggests that it has family connections and influence, but I still only buy two apples of this type. And maybe two Pink Ladies, to act as political hostesses when they invite the pears over to discuss the annexation of the nearby orange and grapefruit stall. Incidentally, the pears are claiming to be Beurre Bosch, which concerns me a little, but they do not look particularly monstrous, so I get some anyway. And then I go next door to the stall with the oranges (which I really, really do NOT need) which also has the beautiful raisins on their stems, and the pistachios, and get some of each.
I need more vegetables, and one stall has teeny tiny skinny little leeks, which are always fabulous. They also have what look like baby parsnips, and some very lovely baby spinach, just in case I didn’t have enough leafy greens yet.
Actually, I don’t have enough leafy greens yet, or at least, so I discover when I get to the next stall (also known as the home of the stripey beetroot), and realise that their kale looks particularly gorgeous and clearly needs to be added to my collection of extremely green vegetables. I also collect some colourful carrots and some long, skinny beetroots, since I have plans for beetroot gnocchi in the near future. I am offered some free kohlrabi; I don’t really know what to do with kohlrabi, but I never refuse free vegetables, especially when they look like they come from Mars, so they get added to my stash.
You can really tell it’s winter, now. There are fewer stallholders around, and we’re pretty much living in the land of root vegetables and green leafy things, with the odd apple or pear or citrus fruit for sweetness. Quite a bit of dried fruit around, and the pies are selling out very early each week. I must admit, I’m enjoying all the greenery, but there’s a sadness about this time of year too – July isn’t too bad, but I know from experience now that by August things will be very lean indeed, and will remain that way into September. Some stallholders won’t reappear until then. I was reflecting on the colour palette at this time of year, which leans heavily towards dark greens with a little white, purple and orange. They are the right kinds of vegetables to eat just now, too – lots of filling root vegetables, with their sweet, nutty flavours and vitamins, and lots of green leafy vegetables to provide us with iron for energy just at the time of year when we feel lethargic and disinclined to move (especially after eating all those root vegetables). One gets to feel very nutritionally virtuous when eating seasonally.
Now I just need to think of things to do with all my “really healthy” vegetables – starting with a really spectacular vegan and gluten-free menu for my guests tomorrow evening…