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Posts Tagged ‘produce’

strawberry-science-plaza

The hardest part of quarantine, for me, has been the constant isolation. I live alone, have been working remotely since mid-March (until I was furloughed last month), and have been seeing very few people in person. (I do still get to hug my guy, and walk with a girlfriend or two once in a while. Thank goodness.)

I miss my friends the most, but I’ve also been feeling the loss of what sociologists call “weak ties”: those casual, in-person relationships with people like your barista or librarian or yoga instructor. And I’ve been missing the “third places” where those relationships often take place: communal spaces outside of home and work where people interact and enjoy each other’s company.

All that to say: the Harvard farmers’ market is back, and I am loving it.

radishes-strawberries

The past few Tuesdays, my guy and I have biked across the river to Cambridge, to visit the half-dozen vendors set up on the Harvard Science Plaza. It’s a smaller group than usual, but they are cheery behind their masks, and the offerings are limited but delicious. We sanitize and keep our distance and browse the stalls with our eyes, and choose a few treats to eat on the spot or take home.

I showed up at this market all the time when I worked at Harvard, and that’s where I met Amanda, who makes fantastic tamales, salsas and chili beans. (She’s from Corpus Christi and she knows how tough it can be to find decent Mexican food in New England – plus she’s warm and friendly.) I am downright thrilled to be eating her products again, and I’ve loved seeing her in person, too.

It’s strawberry season in New England, and G and I have bought pints of them recently, plus crisp Boston lettuce and peppery Easter egg radishes. (Aren’t those colors gorgeous?) The latter, it turns out, are delicious with hummus, and I even made pesto with the greens last week. Weather permitting, we’ve sat on the benches or lawn nearby, eating strawberries till our fingers are stained red with the juice. I toss the tamales back in the freezer when I get home, but they never last long – and the strawberries and salsa both tend to disappear within 24 hours.

So many things are still strange and hard, but I am looking for joy where I can find it, these days. And fresh fruit + sunshine + time with my favorite person in a place I love = serious joy, pandemic or no pandemic.

Are you shopping farmers’ markets this summer?

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When I worked in central Boston, you could find me at the Copley Square farmers’ market during my lunch break on any given Tuesday during the summer, and many Fridays. I’d browse the stalls, fill a tote bag with produce, then buy a tomato-mozzarella sandwich and perch on a bench with my book to eat it and people-watch.

book sandwich raspberries farmers market

I miss those sandwiches now that I work in Harvard Square. But the Harvard farmers’ market, under a big white tent at the Science Plaza (just north of Harvard Yard), has its own delights.

berries red farmers market

There are stands overflowing with fresh produce, which at the moment includes all my favorites – berries, peaches, peppers and tomatoes:

tomatoes corn farmer's market

Some stands also sell chocolate, pastries, pretzels and fresh fish (though I’ve never bought the latter, as I’d have to lug it home on the subway).

I’m still exploring all the options (and figuring out how much produce I can reasonably carry home). But I’m so glad to have this bounty of fresh, colorful, local offerings so close to my office.

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Confession: I harbor a deep ambivalence about farmer’s markets.

In theory, I’m all for them – a chance for farmers to sell their lovely, fresh produce at a fair price; a chance for customers to rub shoulders with the folks who grow their fruit, vegetables and other products; a fun place to browse on your lunch break or on a summer afternoon. And I firmly believe fresh tomatoes (and other produce) that haven’t traveled hundreds of miles do taste better.

Farmers' tents in Copley Square

But when it comes down to spending my money there, I’m often overwhelmed by the choices – should I buy from this farmer’s stand or that one? Buy heirloom tomatoes or regular ones? Splurge on local honey or spend my money on fruits and veggies, where it will go farther? How much of this produce is organic? Does it matter, as long as it’s all local? Will I end up buying more than I can use? The questions buzz around like the bees flitting around the bunches of sunflowers, and the crowds jostle me, till I’m worn out and frazzled and feeling vaguely guilty. (Not least because the answer to the last question is usually “Yes.”)

However, when I can put all that aside for a few minutes, and just pick up a bit of fruit, a couple pounds of tomatoes and maybe fresh flowers, I do enjoy shopping at the farmer’s market in Copley Square (on Tuesdays and Fridays, and easy to get to on my lunch break). There’s always people-watching to be done (even if the kids do love to scream and chase the pigeons), and some of the stands offer sandwiches in case I didn’t bring my lunch. And the stately buildings nearby – the Boston Public Library, Trinity Church, the Old South Church – provide a lovely backdrop for the crisp white tents and colorful produce.

Do you shop at farmer’s markets? What’s your take on the whole “eat local” thing?

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