Farmer's Marketing: April 19, 2008

The ever-present potential for surprise and delight has to be at the top of the list of reasons the farmer's market is the best place to be on a Saturday morning. Last Saturday was a case in point. Have you ever seen an emu egg? 

Joan Ernst, of Ernst Farm, had emu eggs for sale. They are improbably large, heavy, and greenly speckled. Holding one feels about like cradling a newborn's head, which seems apt. Mrs. Ernst says an emu egg is about the edible equivalent of 5 chicken eggs. And that though they taste about the same, the yolks are much paler in color. All I could think about was the incredible meringues you could make with that much egg white for our favorite pavlovas. And what a mighty fried egg I could serve my unsuspecting husband.      

Mrs. Ernst says they will hatch about 15 or 20 emus from their eggs, which are produced only for about 3 months out of the year.  She also has lovely chicken eggs for sale and is currently taking orders for fresh chickens that will be delivered sometime next month. 

In addition to finding something I didn't expect to see, another reason for surprise and delight is running into people I haven't seen since last week at the market. Like Alex and Elliott, on their way to Pilar's for their weekly tamales. And Gavin and Stacy, shopping for the evening's Seder meal. 

Patrick had a funny story about getting his family's weekly dozen eggs at the market from his favorite egg lady, Doris. When his wife asked him if they were really worth the extra 25 cents and did they really taste that much different, Patrick's response was "They may not be worth another 25 cents, but Doris is!"    

Last Saturday was starting to look like the real farmer's market in Ann Arbor, even though the variety of foods hasn't changed much - greens, eggs, meat, apples, bread. What's new is that there are multiple people selling each of these now and the artisan and plant vendors have greatly multiplied.  Lots of bedding plants, flowers, and flowering trees in full bloom. I had never seen a weeping redbud before, but it's gorgeous - a waterfall erupting into purple flowers, branches twisty and bare like an antique Chinese painting.  

When I'm there again I'm planning to check out more closely the display of handwoven rugs. I can't remember the names now - I think it's Roy and Virginia who are the rug makers - but their son was selling their thick, colorful rugs at the market along with some Peruvian handlooms he had made. He says the rugs are all made of recycled materials. I could see the blue jeans in some of them.  The fluffy white ones are made from recycled tube socks sewn together to make long strips.  

I'm also going to look at the little tomato starts next time. I'm reminded that there are some great plant sales coming up - my friend Jill is going to be having a plant sale with about 20 kinds of heirloom tomatoes that she researched as winners of taste contests across the country.  "Paul Robeson" was the number one winner.  And of course, there's the Project Grow plant sale on May 3 and 4, together with the Matthaei Botanical Garden plant sale.  Spring be sprung.  

Time to go crazy in the garden.  And hope for rhubarb the next time at the market. Asparagus can't be far behind. Or the first distribution from the Tantré farm share.

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