One of the best parts of moving back to Canberra was discovering that the Farmers' Market had been established (and thrived) in my absence. My first experience of the market was at 630am on a frosty Canberra winter morning when I was wearing less than adequate shoes. It was good enough that, despite the frostbite, I returned. This winter I was sure to wear beanies, gloves, thermals and a couple of pairs of socks. The fresh produce and the direct interaction with the growers/pickers/bottlers/butchers is well worth the early hour and the cold. Now it's summer, though, and the mornings are light, the air is warm and it's such a delight to go to the markets... even if it does mean giving up my Saturday sleep-in.
Going to the markets every Saturday with Mr J has begun to signal the beginning of the weekend and our little ritual has become so important that the Christmas/Summernats break had really thrown us off our routine. But now the markets are back open again and all is well (despite the absence of The Pig Man, The Bread Man, The Fish Man and The Chicken Man - come back from wherever you may be holidaying - we miss you!).
As you can see from the pictures, if you go early (around 7ish) the crowds aren't too bad, even in summer. Don't be put off by the fact that it's all supposed to kick off at 8am... the hard-core market groupies turn up around 6am and those committed folk like us around 7am. Any later and you risk missing out on stuff or having to line up like lemmings for bagels, bread, seafood and eggs.
We tend to start off with a coffee from our favourite stall where we also buy our beans (which they grind to our specification). This week we've been enjoying a Cuban variety which has "vanilla undertones", but we picked up a Brazilian bean today which allegedly tastes of chocolate... we shall see!
Then the next stop is usually Anne the Egg Lady. Anne is lovely, her eggs are the freshest around and Mr J refuses to poach me eggs from any other producer. She also sells delicious smoked trout, which Mr J will flake over the poached eggs, providing just the right amount of salty sharpness to cut through the creamy texture of the eggs. I like her mushrooms too, but most of all I like Anne. She's the most cheerful person I've ever met on a freezing winter morning at 630am!
We also love garlic. Most of our dinners start with butter, garlic and onion. Or just butter and garlic. Both Mr J and I have LOVED the fresh garlic season, which has sadly come to an end. There is nothing better than fresh garlic, pulled soft and sweet from early spring gardens ready to go straight into a pot. Yum! Now that most of the local garlic has started to dry, we've switched to buying plaited strands of garlic, ready for the rest of the year (Mum and Uncle Chip both got some for xmas/birthdays). One supplier we met today had also harvested the seed pods from the top of his garlic plants, which he let us taste. They have all the garlicky punch of the dried cloves, but with a hint of the sweetness of fresh spring garlic. What a find! He'd thrown some of the seeds into a wholemeal loaf of bread, which he had out for tasting and it was amazing.
One of the most interesting thing at the markets, other than the delicious produce, is the proliferation of granny trolleys. You know, the large bags on wheels you used to see only little old ladies trundling around on their way up to the shops. They are the trendiest must-have at the markets and come in an amazing array of colours. Ours - a bright red - often seems quite boring by comparison. Just watch your toes, as people meandering about, their eyes still gummed up with sleep, often run their trolleys over unsuspecting feet!
With Mr J's focus on breakfast, and tummies already grumbling from all the delicious food we've just smelled, stared longly at and (inevitably) bought, we usually rush home from the markets intent on breakfast. Sometimes it's the poached eggs and smoked trout from Anne the Egg Lady and sometimes its my homemade granola with yoghurt and chopped fresh fruit from the Stone Fruit Man. Today we kept it simple, brewed up some Cuban coffee in our plunger and toasted some blueberry bagels from the Bagel Man. Yum! And the best part is that it's only 830am, and we've still got the rest of the day to relax and ponder what to do with the blood plums and blueberries I just bought...