This is Marie, talking this time about the Marietta Square Farmer’s Market, which we’ve been visiting most Saturday mornings for the last few years, even if parking there is often difficult. Since 2008, it has grown and there is usually a very nice crowd.
The organic eggs sold by vendors there taste so much better than standard commercial products that they are just about the first things I go for every visit. The first couple of years I went there were only a very few vendors who sold eggs, and they often sold out very early. This year it seems every third vendor is selling eggs, so I can actually go a little late, say 9:30 or so, and still be able to get my fix. The first year there was a lovely older gentleman who was a ball to talk to and who also sold turkey eggs as well as chicken eggs; sadly, he didn’t have a card, doesn’t seem to visit the Marietta market any more, and my memory is terribly faulty, so I can’t share his name with you.
My current loyalties are with a business called Little Red Hen Farms. While their eggs taste just as good as those from the other vendors, the deciding factor is a) I have a strange fondness for the green eggs from araucana chickens, and b) these folks sell the eggs in dozen-and-a-half lots, which seems to be just about the right amount. They also have a web site and Facebook page where I can see happy chickens walking around in grass. That means a lot to me. Another dealer I have had good experiences with is Bray Family Farms.
After getting my egg fix I wander around to the veggie dealers. The farmer’s market prices in Marietta don’t discount all that much from grocery store prices; the main benefit is in quality of product. There is a large stand at the entrance of the market that is a resale place, and they generally have all the seasonal stuff first because they get some of their things from Florida early in the season, and then they keep getting things later than the local folks because they ship from the Carolinas. The truly local folks have a more limited selection but generally their things are a little better, especially the ones who sell tomatoes. You can get a very wide variety of those, and although it is well worth paying a little extra for the heirloom types, even the standard commercial varieties taste better when they have been picked the day before. The hydroponic lettuce dealers are pretty good, too, and I can’t say that one is better than the other; that said, Lee and Gordon Greens has given very slightly faster customer service and good advice. The thing I like most about their products is that they sell the whole head of lettuce with roots, so if you wrap the roots in a wet paper towel you can keep your purchase crisp and wonderful in the fridge for a surprisingly long time. There are a few other folks who have the extremely seasonal goods – one vendor sells out of a basketful of lovely things called Dragon Tongue beans during their extremely brief season, for example. Look for whatever obscure heirloom variety makes you happy.
Another of my favorite vendors is Emily G’s Jam of Love. Yes, I know, you may balk at paying $8 for a container of jam. However, if you actually look at the ingredients list for just about any commercially available one you will see that sugar is the first ingredient, rather than the fruit. If you do see fruit as the first ingredient, check whether that’s because they use more than one kind of sweetener – usually that accounts for the placement. A really good, flavorful jam has to be mostly fruit by weight, and that’s what these folks do. They have some interesting varieties as well; their Bold Blue is a really good accompaniment to pork, for instance, and the seasonal Pear Honey is delectable. The nice thing about going to the farmer’s market is that you can actually taste the varieties before you buy, so you don’t wind up choosing at random. Though honestly, you’ll probably be happy with whatever you pick up.
A favorite of the children is the Hometown Honey stand. They sell flavored honey straws along with pollen, regular honey, and beeswax. I have to admit at having picked up a few honey straws for snacking myself. The kids also enjoy Zara May’s Handcrafted Fudge. I try to avoid getting even the samples there because my limited budget winds up being spent on things we can actually turn into dinners.
After the essentials are taken care of, I usually try and pick up some chocolate milk from Johnston Family Farm. I say “try” because it’s a stupendously good product in very limited supply, and you have to be quick or it’s going to be gone gone gone. My husband actually has to cut his portion of chocolate with skim milk because it’s that rich. After that, if there’s any money left, it’s open season on the treats and goodies.
The King of Pops vendor who recently started coming to the market has some appallingly tasty products. Grant was tempted to come join us shopping when we told him that King of Pops was selling Arnold Palmer flavored popsicles, but sadly that wasn’t among the ones they brought the following week. He bought an orange coconut for the boychild, and we shared a raspberry lime. Truly, you have never had a popsicle this good.
Paul’s Pot Pies have been welcome, albeit infrequent, additions to our menu. I recommend the creole shrimp flavor, which is not always carried – ask about it. After checking their web site as a refresher I realize that another flavor that hasn’t been in the free samples is chicken curry–I will need to check them out. Another recent addition to the “only for a splurge” is Atlanta Fresh Artisan Creamery. Their yogurt is great. I wish I could afford more of it.
The farmer’s market in Marietta may not be very large as these things go, but it is a pleasant experience every time. And if you enjoy free samples, you will definitely have a good time grazing the aisles.