Thursday, June 16, 2011
The sweet perfume of strawberries and peonies
I had no idea what kind of a treat I was in for when I set off for the farmers market during lunch today.
First of all, the first stall I walked by had tomatoes! My eyes popped out of my head, and I almost bought them, but then I felt a little distrustful. Why are there already tomatoes? That doesn't seem right... So I picked one up and smelled it; nothing. No smell at all. I'll pass until there are piles of tomatoes whose smell makes me swoon, thank you very much.
And then... be still my heart... I saw the strawberries.
Row upon row up bright red, juicy berries with perfume so strong I just stood there for a minute, soaking it in. And then I bought 3 pints, drunk with fresh seasonal fruit happiness. They're all ripe, and I need to use them up, but I think I'm up for the challenge. I will probably eat one whole pint sitting at my desk this afternoon, although I'll have to be a little sneaky to pull that off. Another pint will be dedicated to a dessert for my in-laws tomorrow night (get ready for a feast, guys!), and the other will probably go on top of pancakes or in muffins on Saturday morning.
I feel like I've been waiting my whole life to eat these strawberries. Well, at least a month.
Do you understand the difference between sad, out-of-season supermarket strawberries, and fresh, local, peak-of-season strawberries? I mean really, do you? They are so different that I can hardly believe they go by the same name. I may write a sonnet about these Michigan strawberries. I really may.
What else is in season right now, you ask? WHAT ISN'T?! I had been so frustrated by the absence of peas, and here I find out I was just too early! Silly old freezing cold spring! English peas and sugar snaps are here! Sugar snaps that make you understand why they put the word "sugar" in the name. Baby lettuce, onions, garlic. Baby beets, lots of herbs. Rhubarb, still. I got two more bunches. I was worried that I wouldn't be able to make it all the way to next spring, and I think this is the last of it. I think I've got through 10 bunches of rhubarb. I'm a little proud of that fact. Asparagus, still. Summer squash and zucchini!
And peonies, which are my favorite flower. I love all the shades of pink, the romantic mille-feuille petals, and the fragrance is out of this world. I bought two bouquets for myself, and as I carried them around the market, I just kept sticking my nose deep within the blooms, and breathing, breathing, breathing... It felt decadent, euphoric, like floating.
On a side note, did you know that the City of Chicago has planted some edibles in the big downtown planters in the Loop? I saw it with my own eyes today! Rainbow chard and tomatoes, smack dab in the middle of the city, instead of miles and miles of impatiens! Wahoo! Go Chicago! Also, I am proud to say that I must be growing as a gardener, because I could identify the tomatoes without looking at the tag! Go me!
I so wish that I could go home right now and play with all this produce. But for now, I will be content to sit at my desk surrounded the sweet perfume of strawberries and peonies.