It was a struggle this morning to make it to the market. Every week, I have worked to rise earlier, having watched the last cabbage or asparagus bunch slip from beyond my grasp onto the table of another.
Still, by 7:38 I was in the car, sleepy-eyed and ready to do the week's shop. A quick jaunt into the South Wellfleet General Store for an icy jolt of locally roasted Beanstock coffee revived me further, and within the quarter hour I hit the hidden Old Colony green in Orleans.
The first new find was broccoli rabe; a thin cluster of deep green leaves and petite florets sold for $3 a bundle from Tim Friary at Cape Cod Organics.
The second was a strawberry chocolate chip muffin from the Optimal Kitchen, a booth run by Orleans nutritionist Heather Bailey and specializing in healthy, wholesome baked goods. I assumed the strawberries were local, but when asked, Bailey hesitated. "Strawberries are in the top ten for pesticide levels," she explained. "For this fruit, I only buy organic." It wasn't til the day after she made her muffins that Friary brought the first organic berries to the market. Next week, says the baker, she'll switch.
Ben Chung (dentist by day, farmer by night) had his first batch of quail eggs for sale, now enthusiastically endorsed by the board of health and his kids. At $3 for ten eggs, the speckled rounds would make an exquisite accompaniment to any breakfast gathering.
Leafy greens and lettuces were everywhere; ranging from $7-$9 a pound and in every shape from kale to bok choy to cabbage to spicy anise. Spring onions and wild garlic also saw a growth spurt this week, with the size of each doubling or tripling as they sprouted skyward each day.
The lobster lady, Laurie, stood with her cooler at the eastern corner of the crowd, selling yesterday's catch at $8.99 per pound for today's dinner. While diesel prices are driving up her bottom line, she says she thinks she'll make it through the summer at under $10 per pound.
Julie Winslow was back with her shiitake mushroom logs, tempting me to buy another to accompany the one already stashed away in my shed. Perhaps in the fall; for now I'm content to wait for her next harvest, which should arrive in a week.
On my way home, arms loaded down with broccoli, bok choy, and berries, I ducked quickly into Stop n' Shop to pick up a wheel of cheese. The contrast in noises, air, and smells was startling—the chirp of the birds replaced by the squawk of a mechanical labeler, the sweet, heavy scent of berries whisked away by the stale cool of the air conditioner, and the cheerful clatter of voices silenced against the walls and aisles and the sterile sheen of the linoleum floor.
I picked up a slice of Great Hill Blue and a Maine-churned stack of Kate's Homemade butter, and ran for the door. Back in the car, I rolled down the windows and took in a breath of berry laden air. Now, on to the market of Provincetown.