Searching At The Farmers Market - The Nibble Webzine Of Food Adventures Searching At The Farmers Market
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TIP OF THE DAY: Searching At The Farmers Market

When was the last time you ate something new?

Most of us pursue a familiar grocery list, week in and week out.

But a trip to the farmers market always yields new discoveries. It may be an apple; but it’s an apple you’ve never seen before, like the Pink Pearl apples in the photo.

So go browsing this weekend. Ask the booth clerk about heirloom varieties, or simply try a fruit or vegetable you rarely eat. Loganberries? Turnips?

Here’s what’s in season in summer, although you’ll find other fruits and vegetables not on this list.

While you’re at the market, pick up an artisan bread for sandwiches.

Apples, which may seem to some to be an all-American fruit, originated in Central Asia: in southern Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Xinjiang, China.

Its wild ancestor, Malus sieversii, can still be found growing wild today—although the fruit of the tree won’t appeal to humans.

Apples have been grown for thousands of years in Asia, and were brought to other regions by botanists, colonists and traders.

As a result, apple trees (Malus domestica) are cultivated worldwide. Sweet fruit varieties are grown for eating, sour varieties are grown for cider or other alcoholic beverages.

The center of diversity (breeding) of the genus Malus is in eastern present-day Turkey. The apple tree may have been the earliest tree that humans cultivated [source].

There are more than 7,500 known cultivars of apples, bred for specific characteristics. Even among sweet apples, different cultivars are bred for hand fruit and cooked fruit (applesauce, pies), with many varieties in each.

Apples were introduced to North America by colonists in the 17th century. The first apple orchard on the continent was planted in Boston in 1625 by Reverend William Blaxton in 1625. (The only apples native to North America are crab apples.)

So: Would you rather have a Delicious, a Fuji, a Gala, a Granny Smith, a Honeycrisp or the scores of other varieties within your reach?

Perhaps your farmers market scouting will yield some heirloom varieties, such as Black Oxford, Cameo, Gravenstein, and Newtown Pippin, a yellow apple with olive green and red spots that was grown by Thomas Jefferson at Monticello for cooking.

Every region grows different varieties, so whenever you’re visiting a different area, ask for the nearest farmers market.

It’s a fun—and potentially delicious—voyage of discovery.


Pink Pearl Apples
[1] Pink Pearl apples. Like many heirloom varieties, they have a short season. That’s one reason some varieties of fruits and vegetables aren’t grown commercially; some others are disease-resistance, drought resistance, and hardiness once harvested (photo © Good Eggs).

[2] Surprise! The inside of rose apples is all rosy pink (photo © Melissa’s Produce).

Heirloom Cucumbers
[3] Would you have thought these items were heirloom cucumbers? We’ve included a large size of the photo below so you can see more detail. (photos #3 and #4 © Baldor Food).

Heirloom Cucumber Varieties
[4] An expanded view of photo #3. If you saw these uncut, would you have guessed they were cucumbers?


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