Wednesday, June 8, 2011
"Ain't Never Seen Nuthin' Like THAT Be-fur"
The clientele of the Market has changed dramatically in the past 14 years. The complete change in demographics was not overnight, but it has been astounding.
When we first began selling at the Market, a lot of the customers were older folks. They were the type of folks who had gardens, remembered life on the farm, and who weren’t about to spend a lot of money on their food. A constant refrain was “oh, I can get that much cheaper at (insert grocery store name)”.
Red tomatoes, white potatoes and yellow corn were the best sales items; baked goods did extremely well back then, too. Forget selling meat….a lot of folks still had access to home-grown.
At the time, we were also selling vegetables to restaurants. It was a strange world where small was big and unusual was ordinary. The restaurants wanted tiny, tiny, tiny veggies…and would pay top dollar for them. They wanted cinnamon basil and purple potatoes, among other things. It was most amusing when we took some of the excess produce to the Market. Someone actually said, “humph, what’s THAT? Aint’ never seen nuthin’ like THAT be-fur!” We still chuckle over that one.
Today’s Market customers are younger and “hipper”, looking for the trendy and unusual items that make up our global cuisine. The shoppers are far more health conscious. Folks are looking for food with taste and color. It is not unusual to have a customer ask specifically for something with an odd name that just a few years ago would have just been a mention in a seed catalog.
Garlic scapes are a case in point.
When the hardneck garlic plants are maturing, they sent up a seed stalk. It comes straight out of the center of the plant and then begins to curl back on itself like some odd snake-like creature. This must be clipped from the plant in order to assure nice, big garlic bulbs. Years ago, we read that these could be used for eating. They were, and are, delicious. According to our source, chefs would love them. Wrong, the chefs we were dealing with had never even HEARD of them. So, we continued to enjoy them ourselves.
Now, we take them to the Market and customers LOVE them. We have some customers who remember from year to year and ask specifically when the scapes will arrive at the Market. There are recipes on-line for all sorts of things using scapes. Try scape PESTO!
Arugula is one of the “hot” items at the Market.
Personally, I don’t care for the hot, zesty taste of arugula. It’s okay in very small doses, but some customers simply love it. We can’t seem to grow enough of it. I do my best to have it every week, year ‘round. The flea beetles love it almost as much as the customers, so sometimes it is a real challenge.
Golden beets, bi-colored tomatoes, purple asparagus and teeny-tiny squash have all gotten recognition of late. I enjoy reading the seed catalogs and guessing what the new trends will be. It is also rewarding to have folks tell us of their culinary successes on a regular basis.
Even if you’ve never seen some vegetable at the Market before, try some.
Be daring, adventurous. You may just find a new favorite!