Warmer temperatures mean warm-weather crops -- and major produce scores at local farm markets.
Making a debut appearance at Arlington Courthouse market this Saturday (8 a.m. - noon) were members of the squash family -- yellow, zucchini and the adorable pattypan -- and dare I say it, an inaugural bunch of peaches. The cast included cucumbers, onions of all colors, sweet (and sour) cherries, herbs galore and early-bird garlic bulbs.
But the main attraction, at least based on the long, movie theater-esque lines, were the berries! The stand at Westmoreland Berry Farm, of Oak Grove, Va., was bursting with color, showcasing six, yes six, different kinds of berries. There they were -- blueberries, blackberries, red and black raspberries, strawberries and tayberries (a cross between a blackberry and a raspberry) in all their glory, and it looked like everyone in Arlington was queueing up for a taste of the action.
At first glance, I thought, "Nah, I'll wait. The line will thin out. " Not a chance; these berry beauties were capturing everyone's attention. Ultimately, I joined the masses, 25 eager mouths in front of me, and more following our lead. Although perplexed by the notion of waiting in line (in the hot sun) for at least 10 minutes even before reaching the fruit, I smiled too, as a witness to the enormous enthusiasm for local and seasonal fruit. A much more pleasant line than at the gasoline pump, don't you think?
Two pints (mix and match) for $9 was the going rate, and I chose raspberries and blackberries. As much as I love these sweet-tarts, I tend to be disappointed, as quality can be inconsistent and often too sour for my palate. Having dutifully prepared myself for a gustatory letdown, I decided to pull out the berries from the fridge last night. Into a bowl they went -- no sugar, no garnish, no ice cream - just me and them berries.
One bite in, I realized I had probably just eaten the best blackberry of my life. Sweet, brambly, even jammy. As I continued working my way through the bowl, I remembered the words of a curious onlooker of the long line at the berry stand. "Is the fruit that good?" he asked, rhetorically.
Oh yeah. The fruit's that good. And I'll gladly stand in line again.
Westmoreland Berry Farm also sells its fruit at the Mt. Vernon market in Fairfax (Tuesdays, 8-noon ) and in McLean (Fridays, 8:30-12:30). Go here for market details
For a complete list of area farm markets, consult the Food Section's annual guide.
P.S. Nutritional notes: Berries are known as great sources of Vitamin C and fiber, but the raspberry in particular, is a whopper in the cancer-fighting department. Raspberries are rich in a compound called ellagic acid, which has shown to be powerful armor against cancer cells as well as preventing carcinogens from binding to DNA.
This tidbit comes from a new book on my shelf -- "The Organic Cook's Bible" by Jeff Cox.
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