Farmers markets remain one of the most exciting outings ever. Browsing among the sights and smells of fresh produce and products grown and prepared within close proximity to where they are sold is such joy.
Whenever possible, I participate in as many of the local markets as I can. Even if I am not a vendor, I enjoy being able to browse through the stalls to see and sometimes sample what is being offered.
So recently when the opportunity came up to visit a farmers market in Aarhus, Denmark (just before I set up my own display of products at a Caribbean festival), I jumped at the opportunity to stroll the street.
Even though the sun was as bright as it could be, the weather was decidedly not feeling like the summer I had been promised. But the vibrant colors of the flowers and vegetables quickly dispelled any thoughts of cold and warmed the cockles of my heart.
Farmers gather every Wednesday and Saturday in Aarhus with their produce and products, and the variety was breathtaking.
First, the colors of the flowers seemed even more vibrant in the barely warm sunshine. There were also cheese vendors who create artisanal cheeses in a wider variety than available here in our supermarkets and a booth where farmers sold flour made from grains that they grew on their farm. Some of the varieties of grains were heirlooms originating hundreds of years ago.
As we strolled among the booths and stalls, we spotted a selection of mangoes. The one that looked like a large grafted mango from the V.I. turned out to cost about $5 (US).
Then we spotted one vendor who proudly declared that his variety, which looked like a yellow kidney mango, was the sweetest of all mangoes. I passed on his offer. We also spotted some passion fruit (although they looked grey/green and not very appealing).
The variety of fruits and vegetables that were available included luscious-looking beefsteak tomatoes, cherries, pears, large long sweet peppers that locals eat like fruit, apples, cucumbers, lettuces, basils, fennel, peaches, beans, cabbages, radishes and both green and white asparagus.
There were also at least two vendors who sold potatoes. One vendor, however, had a huge tub filled with water and potatoes that had been scrubbed clean and peeled. I learned that before these potatoes were sold, they had to be inspected by a government agency, which then issued their verdict on the quality of the potatoes by issuing a “smiley face.” Even if a vendor got a negative “smiley,” it was mandatory to display the result of the inspection.
Many of the vendors who sold vegetables also sold seedlings, mostly of tomatoes, but we also saw a number of basil seedlings, both green and purple, as well as chives and lettuces, which are simply called, “salad.”
There were also craft vendors selling classic Danish clogs, homemade jewelry and farmers with value-added products like honey, which was being sold with and without the honey comb.
The various honey products were labeled with the flower or herb fragrance with which the bees flavored them. The flower vendors inspired me to once again grow zinnias and other cut flowers on my own farm here at home.
In St. Thomas we have a regular farmers market at Yacht Haven Grande twice monthly on the first and third Sunday, and the farmers in the Bordeaux area hold a market on the last Sunday of every month. Beginning on Sunday, June 12, there will be a brand new monthly farmers market in Cruz Bay, St. John at the lumberyard parking garage every secondSunday between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
The value of farmers markets is the ability to interact with the vendors who are for the most part the growers or makers of the produce and products. The result is fresher and tastier fare for us all.
See you on St. John!