Confessions of a Comox Valley Farmers’ Market junkie
There’s always a day in mid-March when I peruse the veggie aisle at the grocery store feeling dejected. Despite regular spritzing, careful displays and shiny lights, all the produce looks thoroughly trucked. That’s when I’ll wistfully remember the last carrot-tasting carrot I ate, the last dynamic piece of lettuce. Then, as I start dropping brown mushrooms into a paper bag, I daydream about the Comox Valley Farmers’ Market. About those early April days, which can’t come fast enough, and the bunches of arugula the farmers will pick that morning, their mixed salad greens, and those bright, eager radishes.
This will be my seventeenth year as a customer of the Comox Valley Farmers’ Market. Back before I moved to the Valley, my market experience was limited to a venue that hosted four or five farmers and twice as many craftspeople. So that’s what I was expecting in the Spring of 2000, when I first went down to the fairgrounds. Instead there were fifty or more vendors on that beautiful field. A market jackpot!
Years ago, one of the vendors called me a market junkie. And it’s pretty much true. Saturday after Saturday, nearly all year round, I circulate the tables, whether indoors at the Native Sons’ Hall or outside at Headquarters Road, seeking out favourite foods like Chorizo sausage and Amsterdammer cheese, and also eyeing up what’s new and fresh.
Every seasonal turn makes me ooh and aah. When garlic scapes first appear, I visualize roasting and draping them over pizza. Bunches of parsley and I’m thinking chimichurri. I swoon for strawberries, blueberries and sweet Gravensteins. I no longer eat tomatoes until end of July when I can slice and salt them and hold summer in my mouth. And those first carrots? I braise them in butter, tasting, once again, that earthy, true carrot flavour.
And I’m so grateful to our Comox Valley farmers, who dedicate their time and energy to growing such beautiful, well-cared for food. I love that their faces are familiar to me, that some know my name. I love that I’ve held conversations with them about how they’re dealing with weather challenges—too much rain or not enough—or how a fox got into the chicken coop or how they’re starting up a CSA box and processing peppers into sauce.
It’s this human exchange that the Comox Valley Farmers’ Market puts back into the growing and buying of food. Which is why I leave the market, week after week, with my basket—and heart—brimming.