Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The dirty secret.

That's right, in a previous post I referred to my $1.00 Haymarket cauliflower. You're probably thinking one of two things:

1. Oooh, Haymarket, I don't know. What about eating fresh and local?
2. HOLY CRAP, $1.00 cauliflower?!

Why I don't feel guilty about buying produce at Haymarket:

The major reasons are availability and price. At this time of year farmers' markets in Boston aren't open yet and my CSA doesn't start until the first week of June. Most supermarket chains do not stock a terrible amount of local produce at this time of year.

The produce at Haymarket comes from the wholesale distributors across the hahbah in Chelsea. The vendors at Haymarket buy cases of produce rejected or passed up by restaurants and grocery stores at ridiculously reduced prices. Why does it get rejected? A whole case is often rejected because of a cosmetic blemish on one or two items. Or the contents are too near to ripeness to satisfy a supermarket's model of leaving produce out for 2 weeks or more. Maybe it "fell off a truck". The melons might be too small or oddly shaped to be sold in a conventional store. Or maybe a chef changed their mind about a produce order when it arrived at the restaurant late.

What you find at Haymarket is a mixed bag, but if you know how to select produce, you're going to go home with a ton of food for very little cash (only, sweetie). Some vendors won't let you touch the merchandise and some will. I tend to avoid those that don't let me pick (though when five pounds of sweet potatoes or six cucumbers are a dollar, I don't mind getting a few bad ones). Organic food can be found, and fresh herbs that you're not growing at home are a steal. I wash everything as soon as I get home and refrigerate what is appropriate to refrigerate and most of it lasts me at least 5 days.

If it doesn't go to Haymarket, it's probably going to get thrown out by the distributor. So I like to think of it as reducing food waste, even if that's not entirely accurate. Maybe it gets canned; I like to think it does.

Besides, given the option, I think it's definitely better for me to be eating fruits and vegetables than something that comes from a box on a supermarket shelf.

Last Friday's take:
1 cucumber
1 head cauliflower
1 bunch mint (which I used for tabbouleh along with some parsley I had happily surviving in a glass of water from the previous week, then I made some iced tea with mint to accompany my pseudo-Moroccan food)
2 pounds of bananas (I don't live in Hawaii and don't see myself getting these locally)
5 bulbs of garlic (not from China)
5 limes
1 eggplant
2 navel oranges
2 cantaloupes; 1 small, 1 oddly shaped, still not ripe even now.

All for $7.00, probably less if I had gone on Saturday instead.

Even if you're totally against the idea of this market, it's a great place to go for people watching, just don't get in the way! The variety of languages I hear makes me miss New York.

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