Has it really been a year since I’ve been to a farmers market? Unfortunately, I think that’s true… and that’s sad, especially since I live in Los Angeles, where there are fantastic farmers markets all over the place, all year long.
Although I’ve been to farmers markets countless times, I’ve never been to a farmers market at night, until last week. Have you? My cousins live in a nearby neighborhood called Eagle Rock, and their local farmers market is held on Friday evening. It’s a weird time to have a farmers market, but I’m not complaining! And while this farmers market is smaller than others I’ve been to, I found some items I’d never seen before… and that makes this farmers market a winner!
The market was divided into two parts. Produce vendors lined one street, selling all sorts of fruits and vegetables:
Then, in a parking lot, there was a collection of prepared food stands, featuring all sorts of cuisines. (My photo of this area didn’t come out.) There were a bunch of tables and chairs set up, and a live band, too.
Here’s my big farmers market tip: Do a lap before you buy anything. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve bought something from the first vendor I stumbled upon, only to see better-looking inventory – or better prices – two stalls down.
During my lap, I came across a vendor selling a couple items I’ve never seen before. Jackpot! I love trying new types of produce! I’ll buy stuff I’ve never heard of before, take it home, research it, and figure out what to do with it. It’s one of the ways I inject some excitement into my eating, which can occasionally become routine and boring. I’ve devoted dozens of blog posts to my explorations with new-to-me fruits and veggies, and those posts are all indexed here.
So… who knows what this is?
Here it is in better light:
It’s called a Chinese gourd, and, according to the farmer, it’s a vegetable that tastes similar to zucchini.
The same farmer had these, and when I first walked up, I thought they were some sort of segmented insect or worm, which definitely peaked my curiosity:
But they’re actually pigeon peas, which the farmer said could be used like edamame, and are popular in some Caribbean cuisines.
I couldn’t resist. I bought both the Chinese gourd and some pigeon peas. I don’t know what I’m going to do with them, but whatever I figure out, I’ll share right here! If you have ideas for me, leave a comment below!
My cousins told me that another vendor was selling a food item that I’ve never tried before, although I didn’t see it for myself. That item is called balut, and it’s a popular Filipino street food that I’ve seen on reality shows featuring bizarre foods from around the world. Balut is a fertilized and aborted duck egg, where the embryo has grown to the point where it has bones, a beak, and feathers. You boil it like a hard-boiled egg, and then peel away the shell, and eat the entire embryo – including feet, head, and everything else.
You know what? I’d try balut, just because I’m an adventurous eater. But I’d rather try it at a restaurant, where I’d know that it was properly prepared. I don’t wanna have to cook it myself, so farmers market balut is off the table. Plus, I read that balut requires 25-30 minutes of simmering, after which time your entire house will reek of sulfur. Good times.
Back to what I did buy. In addition to the pigeon peas and Chinese gourd, I bought some spring onions and tomatoes (spring onions are more mature scallions):
And some Brussel sprouts:
And I paid $7.50 for everything, split between three farmers.
That brings me to my second big farmers market tip: Play fast and loose with your shopping list. The fun part of a farmers market is discovering what’s new and what’s seasonal. My farmers market shopping lists are pretty vague: Enough fruit for 4 days. Veggies that will pair well with the fish I have in the freezer. Stuff like that. Go to check out what’s there, not because you have specific needs for a recipe. Chances are you won’t find everything on your list.
After buying my veggies, I joined my cousins, my aunt, and my uncle in the food court area, where my 14-month-old cousin Espen tried ribs for the first time:
He’s a cute boy, that Espen! I didn’t buy any prepared foods, because I went straight from the market to the gym, where I took a new class for the first time, and I wanted to eat after working out. That class, by the way, will be the subject of my next post, so stay tuned for that!
The whole excursion made me excited to go to farmers markets more frequently… I’ll try to follow through on that plan!
Keep it up, David!