It's the height of summer, and the tables of farmers markets around the country are overflowing with firm-fleshed, scarlet tomatoes; bunches of fragrant basil; and -- depending on where you live -- juicy stone fruits, avocados, and more. Such bounty makes it easy to celebrate National Farmers Market Week August 1-7 by visiting a market near you (you can find one via the Eat Well Guide, LocalHarvest, or USDA). And there almost definitely is one near you, as there are now more than 5,000 around the country, up an astonishing 13% from the previous year.
I'm lucky enough -- or cursed, depending how you see it -- to live in Oakland, Calif., where every day I have several farmers markets within 20 miles to choose from, all the way through the winter. And I love them. I've been doing the bulk of my produce shopping at them for five years now, trying varieties of apples I never see in the grocery store, and practicing seasonal martyrdom by forswearing strawberries and tomatoes until they reappear in the spring and summer, respectively.
Whichever market I go to, I always run into several friends, either shopping or selling, and I come home in a better mood than when I left -- something I cannot say about supermarket shopping.
I'm in a rut, though, with my farmers market routine. I know what I like, who I like to buy it from, and I head straight for those stands. So this year, I'm going to celebrate National Farmers Market Week by forcing myself out of my vegetable comfort zone. I'll be picking up whatever looks weirdest or most unfamiliar to me - kohlrabi, say, or Romanesco broccoli -- and figuring out how to cook it.
Care to join me?