Saturday Morning Market
Not too long ago (okay, you know it was a long time ago because it has been more than a MONTH since I blogged here), I wrote about the Haile Village Center rather scathingly. It is true that there are things I dislike about it, but it is also true that there are many things I do like about it, and that they have gotten right. One amazing thing that they have managed to do in this part of Haile is to get people to actually walk around in Florida, without anyone thinking it’s odd. For those of you who live in cooler areas, or less industrialized areas, that may seem like a small thing, but here in Florida, it’s rather huge. Nobody walks in Florida, unless they absolutely have to.
Saturday morning in the Village Center is the a wonderful buzz of activity, with the main street closed to traffic but open to a green market. Those of my faithful readers who have been with me for a while will know that this is not the only farmers market in town, there is also the Alachua County Farmers Market on Saturdays at the corner of 441 and 121, and the Wednesday Downtown Farmers Market that I have blogged about, as well as several that I have not ever been to. The Haile market has its own feel to it; more like a neighborhood gathering than just a place to sell.
There are dogs who frequent this market, many of them. Every once in a while as I am sitting in my office, I will hear some unfriendly dog noises, but for the most part, the dogs seem very well behaved, strolling casually about with their owners and greeting each other as friends.
At this time of year, the bounty is amazing. In other cities, harvest takes place much earlier, but Florida has nearly-year round harvests, with the down time being in the middle of summer, when even tomatoes and peppers can’t take the heat.
The root vegetables arrive in jewel-tone colors, advertising their deliciousness with their own beauty. There are no needs for words, or dyes, or even a wash of wax to make these mouthwateringly wonderful.
Squashes are ripening now, in startling variety. Butternuts, many kinds of pumpkins, and more are all available.
Ahhh, the pride of Florida and the reason for its being. Pure, juicy citrus has made its appearance. Glowing oranges, ripe and sweet, lead the early citrus crops. Soon baskets will overflow with tangerines, tangelos, and grapefruits as well. For those of you who are stuck with the meager selection found in grocery stores, I’m sorry. Come down and visit us in Central Florida sometime between now and February, take the time to find a farmers market (not a roadside tourist stand), and eat your fill of these glories. Then you can go visit the beach and do all those tourist things.
More sweet golden goodness is available in the form of honey. Cross Creek Honey, the best honey on earth, sets up shop in Haile as well as at the 441 Farmers Market, with all their beautiful honeys ranging from pale gold Orange Blossom to the dark Everglades. Nancy Gentry, the leader of the endeavor is a Master Bee Keeper, and takes great care of her hives and honey. If you cannot make it to a farmers market around here, you can order the honey online. If you have a local farmers market, go there and find the honey. It’s well worth it to buy local honey, since honey is the most commonly adulterated food there is. Grocery store honey has often been found to contain sugar and corn syrup, rather than pure honey.
One of the things that tends to sell out quickly are farm fresh eggs. While I can appreciate their beauty, these just aren’t for me. Unless they are cooked in a baked good, eggs kind of horrify me. But if you are an egg lover, the fresher, farm raised eggs are bolder and brighter than anything you will find in a grocery store. The fresher they are, the fluffier they are, so fresh eggs are wonderful for making meringues and souffles.
Many people probably do not realize that Florida is also a major nut grower. While most operations around here are larger and sell their nuts directly to Blue Diamond or other nut distributors, there are small growers who show up at farmers markets sometimes. Nuts will keep for a long time, and taste good even when they get older, but fresh ones are remarkable. There is a plump sweetness that shines through even in baked goods and candies.
More than just a farmers market, I came across booths with Italian rum cakes, breads, cheeses, handmade pens, and knit goods. Right in front of the office, a masseuse offers chair massages, just a few booths down from a booth with fresh roasted coffee. Who knew Gainesville had a coffee roaster right here in town?