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Oak Park Farmer's Market 8/24/02

Vital Information | Aug 26, 200211:07 AM

Maybe it was because both the VI family and the hatted one arrived later in the market than the norm, but this week's market seemed especially packed. All the smaller vendors brimmed with vegetables, giant white heads of califlowers seemed everywhere. Plus, the carpenters with even larger selections of melons, contributed to the greater mass of things. Nichols actually was in a bit of transition mode. They were selling only about ten varieties of potatoes. Likewise, hierloom tomatoes were sharing bin space with a growing group of apple varieties. If you are a infrequent farmer's market visitor, now is the time to show up as it reallly is harvest time.

Besides the shear volume, two things stood out. First, Nichols went wild. Totally funky looking lobster mushroom that I would have sworn could kill you (or at least induce serve hallucinations) and also wild plums (the running joke was that they put their entire farm and orchard around the wild plum grove). I cannot comment on the mushrooms, but the wild plums possessed a musky, deep flavor the fruit detective would have appreciated.

The second cool thing, grapes. This week's market had a few things of Michigan grapes--seedless Niagra varieties, not concords. Long time readers of Vital Information will know that I am absolutely dedicated to the midwest grape. They jive with my idea of eating truly local food and also wild or foraged foods as grape vines grew all over the fence of a neighbors house growing up in the suburbs. I also love the flavor of midwest grapes, neither too sweet nor too tart but tasting incredibly of the fruit. Finally, I love the pure nostalgia factor of these things which are really disappearing from local tables, primarily because people hate the pits.

And if you think eating local grapes is a thing of nostalgia now, it will only get worse. This year's concord crop suffered from several late frosts. Moreover, as the Michigan State grape page reports (see link) demand for Concord grapes is in severe decline. It is not being recommended for future wine grape planting.

Much more about the great Michigan grape in today's link. The page within about varietals and wine is especially interesting for its brutal honesty. Here's what they say about wines made from the Niagra grape, "Strong flavors limits the market for white table wine."

See you next week, hopefully scouting out some grapes.



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