7.22.2010

Farmer's Market


Wouldn't you know that my visit to Maine would be dominated by food and art? When we aren't wandering in and out of galleries and museums, we seem to be popping into markets and gardens.

Photographs of the most beautiful vegetables and pies and jellies seem to be spilling from the groaning board of my camera. If I can't eat constantly, at least I can let my eyes feast.

Well, what would summer anywhere be without the bounty of farmer's markets? Mid-coast Maine has several terrific ones. My friend Judith and I spent a while browsing through Beth's Farm Market in Warren, Maine. Everywhere you turn there seems to be an opportunity for a simple luxury. Who doesn't like radishes cut into thin slices and served with a dab of fresh, creamy butter and a sprinkle of coarse sea salt? And all that cabbage...the only way you can get cole slaw without too much mayonnaise is to make it yourself. Perfect with the lobster rolls.
Run by Beth and Vincent Ahlholm, this farmer's market is full of delicious produce. I didn't pay much attention to whether things were organic or not, because by now I've grown used to the way many farmers have simply given up with the cumbersome regulatory process involved in organic certification. You can tell, by looking, whether produce looks "too perfect" or has been waxed or coated. What sets Beth's apart from many markets have visited is the personality and quirkiness in how everything is presented. Outside, potted plants are displayed on thick slabs of granite. The first thing that greets you under the tent is a couple of tables laden with drying garlics. As you wander through the market, there are shelves and bins and boxes of produce.

Not only are some of the vegetables among the handsomest I've ever seen, but the market also offers unusual items, like their Concord grape juice in large Mason jars. I love the handwritten signs on shingles stuck in various bins, explaining to shoppers how to pop corn off the cob, or suggesting ways to enjoy the juice, or simply bragging about their large heads of cabbage.


I'm always trying to convince my sons not to buy the popcorn in the prepackaged bags because of the chemicals in the plastic linings. Do they listen? Of course not.
But how much more exciting it would be to pop the corn right off these cobs into brown paper bags. A touch of DIY.




























Naturally I gravitated towards the shelf covered with handmade soaps. You can always count on me to find...product, rather than produce. Somehow, farmer's markets to me are as much about the things people make with all these great ingredients--gorgeous yarns, knitted things, baskets, sachets--as they are about the things you can buy for cooking.
I came upon Pure & Simple Soaps from Bowdoin, Maine. I have a thing about goat's milk soaps--their fragrance, the soft feel of the suds, the fascinating mixtures of herbs. They're made with pure essential oils. I love their labels: Pomander. Summer Breeze. The sheer poetry of the soapmakers is balm for the soul as well as the skin.

Sadly, I won't be in Maine long enough to visit writers Eliot Coleman and Barbara Damrosch in Harborside, Maine, at their Four Seasons Farm; they are a model of small-scale sustainable farming, and manage to grow vegetables all year round. Both of them write excellent books; they're worth exploring. This is the perfect time to support your local farmers; you'll be the richer for it. And their slow-growing love will nurture yours...

28 comments:

hip-chick said...

Great pictures. I love farmers markets! Here in New England they take on a very special place in the hearts as we wait so darn long for the nice weather. I do hope your trip to Maine was a bit cooler than it has been on the coast of N.H. and southern Maine. It's been beastly hot and humid.

pve design said...

Some people like shoes, I love farmers markets like that with good ole fashion marketing.
pve

Cristina said...

yes, those handwritten signs alone are worthy a trip to the local farmer's market...

Jacqueline said...

A feast for the eyes as well as the tummy!

fabrika said...

I was already looking forward intensely to a week in Maine with family and friends. Thanks for the info about the dolcelinos and the Farmers' Market.
I really enjoy your posts, Dominique. I missed the editorials so much when House and Garden closed it's doors.

One Woman's Journey said...

I also love Farmer's Markets. Wonderful post and great pictures.

casacara said...

Oh, Dominique, your photographs are magnificent! You certainly "make an effort" there, and succeed!

LLH Designs said...

I hardly know where to leave a comment with all of these wonderful Maine-inspired posts! I was supposed to be at your Rockport reading but my mom got the date mixed up. I was so sad to miss. Anyway, I'm reading your blog just a few miles from Beth's! I'm a big city girl from Houston who has the blessing of escaping for a month each summer to Rockport Harbor and the endless inspiration found in Midcoast Maine. Enjoying your blog!

Sheena MacFawn said...

I am the soapmaker you wrote about in your article on Beth's Farm Market in Warren, Maine and was delighted to see the photo and high praise of my soap! Thanks for the great article on Maine. -Sheena MacFawn, proprietor
Pure & Simple Soaps
Bowdoin, Maine
www.pureandsimplesoaps.com

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