The perks of shopping at your local farmers market.

Last Saturday, I was out on a rather large delivery with one of our drivers. As we came down the Arterial, I told him that I needed to make a quick stop at the farmers market that is held every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday in the summer at the Curley’s parking lot at the corner of State Street and the Arterial. I stopped off and found some delicious blueberries, really fresh asparagus and a good-size bunch of beets. It all happened in just a few minutes. No long aisles. No waiting at the register line. Certainly, I am not giving up on Wegmans, but I find the market a great place for certain things during the summer.

On our way home, my friend, who had looked over the produce, commented that he didn’t see any great bargains, but he did concede that everything looked fresh. But there was no great selection like you see at the supermarkets. I let him go on. And then I explained that he was missing the whole idea, actually a couple of ideas, of shopping at farmers markets.

He mentioned freshness. Yes, these days the large stores are buying from nearby farms. I think that is a great idea to get really fresh foods. Granted, this is not always the case, but most of the things that we see at the Auburn Farmers Market were picked that very morning, or late on the previous days. It is nice to see, too, that nearly all of it is washed and nicely presented.

But I think that one of the reasons I go there two or three times a week is for conversation. I can learn how the produce is grown, what other crops the farmer grows and when the best time will be to buy this vegetable or that. And I can chat with people, the farm folks who are there every open day and friends who visit one or two times each week. That is the main reason that I visit the market: people. How long have I been in love with these markets? I remember that my dad would take me, when I was 8 or 10, every Saturday when it was held in an open field on Washington Street, across from the Polish Falcons.

I love gazpacho, that cold veggie soup that originated in Spain. Over the weekend, I made my first of the summer. I picked up a couple of small, but firm cucumbers, and two onions from Bob Horsford. Then it was off to Sharon Vitale for some ripe tomatoes. Dan Button’s stand had some really fresh and juicy garlic. I had some celery at home, and since it was too early for local peppers, I stopped by the supermarket and picked up a pepper and a jalapeno. I had the rest in my pantry.

The rest is easy. Chop these vegetables: One medium onion, one half of a large green bell pepper, a large stalk of celery and one peeled cucumber. Then run them through your food processor until totally pureed. Set them aside. Now take the same number of each of the above vegetables, as well as a large clove of fresh garlic and a couple of tablespoons of parsley, and run them through the food processor until each piece is the size of a whole peppercorn — we want the coarseness. Add this to the puree and mix thoroughly. To this bowl, add a cup and a half of tomato juice, four tablespoons of vinegar (I like tarragon vinegar for the added flavor), a tablespoon of finely minced jalapeno and a teaspoon of Worcestershire, along with salt and pepper to your taste. I make mine without the salt. Mix it thoroughly and refrigerate for at least an hour. You can serve cold, but I like mine at room temperature. When I serve it, I decorate with a couple of tablespoons of sour cream or some shredded cucumber. Try this recipe. It is a whole salad in a soup bowl. It is healthy, and once all the things are available at the market, it is very inexpensive.

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