The Boston Vegetables Must Go On!

December 1st, 2007 by Harrumpher Leave a reply »

Sing, Goddess. Sing the ruggedness of Haymarket vendors!

The latening sunrise and grumbling winds kept me abed today. I did not get to the Haymarket until 7:30. As usual, I parked a quarter mile away, at meters that don’t get hungry until 9:30. Even in that short walk, I wondered what I was doing there. While the car thermometer read 0 C, which shouldn’t have felt cold, the combination of steady, hard wind and the harbor moisture laughed at the mere numbers. I’m surprised I still have attached ears.

Pic Click Trick: Click on the thumbnail image for a larger view.

I like the Haymaket early. Others come late. Then the produce is cheap and if you are serious about maximizing your buying power, you’d show up mid to late afternoon. Prices dip or vendors tuck in more for the same. They don’t want to take home what they might just have to store and then toss. The bargains are there late, particularly if you can use a 24-pint flat of cherry tomatoes or two dozen very ripe mangoes.

Worry was wasted. Blackstone (ask me about that apple-planting cleric and his white bull sometime) Street had its vendors corner to corner. The Haymarket vendors don’t seem to care how cold or strong the air is. Then again, that’s not quite true. Some Latinos have been known to long strongly for Caribbean places. Also, Jimmy, who has migrated from one corner to the Western one, hates cold. Give him the slightest opportunity and he’ll tell you about it. His exposed skin turns shares of red or purple. He hates cold.Haymarket fruits

Yet, Jimmy is there every week as he has been for decades. In all but the most atrocious weather or that rare Saturday that coincides with a major holiday, nearly all the vendors are. Each is a hardy.

This time of year, when arctic ridicules autumn its gentle pretense, the stalls change though. The four-foot to 20-foot wide rickety temporary stands put on their own seasonal finery. In this case, that means tattered and stained tarps on back and sides, leaving the front open for customers.

A few vendors go crazy for comfort, with small portable gas or kerosene heaters that seem capable of keeping their kneecaps warm, but more important, their veggies from freezing. (Never buy black-green romaine.)

Today, the row of stalls had an ice-fishing hut look. One had blue tarps and the next likely once was white.

A look inside proved why I came. Yes, it’s cheap and that’s essential. Moreover, I come early for the selection. They run out of some goodies, like asparagus or raspberries. Even early, I’m still getting ripe and ready foods for about one-third of supermarket price.

For me as the primary cook here, the real driver is never, ever having to put up with a supermarket’s permanent, never ripe or redolent tomato-like objects — hard, pink, Styrofoam feeling fruit that you get in a typical restaurant house salad. Ptui.

I filled my big messenger bag today with such as:

  • Plump and perfect red raspberries (buck a half-pint)
  • Navel oranges the size of a boxer’s fist (40¢ each)
  • Gorgeous, finger thick asparagus (75¢ a pound bunch)
  • Flawless cluster tomatoes ($1 a pound)
  • Deep red strawberries with no white ($1.50 a pound box)
  • Firm yellow onions ($3 for 10 pound; we use a lot of onions)

I planned menus as I made my picks. With my gathering done, the walk back to the car didn’t seem quite as cold.

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One Response

  1. Rhea says:

    I love Haymarket but don’t go anymore as I buy for just myself and it’s always too much food!

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