Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Webb City Sentinel column - 7-6-12

Summer always seems to race by, but never so much as this year. In the past we have celebrated tomatoes at the end of July when we are overflowing with them. This year, that would be this week, a full two weeks early. Even the heirlooms, always the last to harvest, are coming in by the basketful.

All of which means that Tomato Day is tomorrow. Entries should be turned in at the information table between 8:30 and 9 am tomorrow. Winners will be announced at 10:30 and displayed until 11:30. Bring 2 tomatoes each to enter the Best Red and Best Other Color categories, and bring four for the Best Small category. Only one tomato is required for each entry in the Largest/Heaviest and the Weirdest tomato categories. Props are allowed in the Weirdest category. Market tokens are awarded as prizes.

Tomatoes will also be the star at the cooking demonstration table. Susan Pittman, diabetes educator, will demonstrate Cucumber, Tomato and Red Onion Salad throughout the morning. Visitors can sample the salad and another dish, Fire & Ice Tomatoes, as well as a few of the tomatoes at the market.

As always, we have many varieties for sale at the market, the perfectly red and round hybrids, the colorful and many-sized heirlooms, and for the first time, a mix of the two. Tim Green of Green’s Greenhouse planted a brand new variety that is purported to have the look and taste of an heirloom Brandywine, but the reliability and productiveness of a hybrid Better Boy. Tim wasn’t too sure about it initially. He loves the perfection of the hybrid and was put off by the shape and look of this new tomato. It’s big and lumpy and a kind of pinkish color. But we did a taste test and it passed with flying colors. Look for it in the contests. I wouldn’t be surprised if it didn’t place well.

Another reason we moved up Tomato Day is that we don’t know what the future holds. My farmers tell me that the tomatoes are still setting fruit but if the heat continues we may see a substantial drop off in supply by the end of July. In the meantime, we have farmers selling canning tomatoes by the box, especially on Tuesdays when sales are a bit slow compared to Friday or Saturday. Just ask at your favorite stand if they’re selling in bulk. They may have it right then and there or they may take an order for pick-up at a later market.

If you’re looking to do major canning in the fall, see if your farmer won’t plant you a couple of rows of beets, green beans, zucchini, cucumbers or whatever you fancy for fall harvest.

Don’t know how to can? Next Saturday, Trish Reed will be demonstrating pickling at the cooking table. She’ll also have dill mix samples, coupons and recipes to get you started in food preservation.

Tuesday was a challenging but good day. As always, it was a banner day being the day before Independence Day. Lots of people were eating fresh for the Fourth. In fact, well over a thousand. But there were some down moments, like when an obstacle was thrown in front of me that a little cooperation would have eliminated, but that cooperation was not forthcoming. After some gnashing of teeth I called on a friend who is a real problem-solver. Problem solved. Then I noticed that the market’s hose and hose reel had been stolen. Really, we knew it was bound to happen someday and should perhaps be thankful that it stayed in place by the market’s hydrant for more than three years. Guess I’ll have to get a reel that can be rolled into the storage shed after the floor is power-washed.

But for every down moment there always seems to be a high one. Saturday we mistakenly charged someone 20 cents instead of $20 for tokens. I didn’t know the lady, but found her address and dropped her a note. The next market she came by and paid the difference though she was under no legal obligation to do so. She is so much more typical of our community than the person who stole the hose.

We had a young helper at one of our farm stands pass out in the heat a week ago. By the time I got back from the cook shack with ice, cold water and a towel, one of our customers who was clearly a nurse had taken over and stayed with the young woman until she recovered. The nurse left without my even getting a chance to say thank you, so if you’re reading this “Thank you SO much.”

Friday I had a mix-up with scheduling the streetcar for visiting school children. In a panic I called the streetcar volunteers and before the children had even finished their scavenger hunt in the market, Jim Dawson and Lee Englert had the car ready to go.

Tuesday De Hunt, our Friday volunteer cart driver, appeared. He realized that it would be a busy day and perhaps his services would be needed though we don’t usually run the cart on Tuesdays. Forty-two passengers and one dog later, De had also made four trips hauling just produce.

Tuesday, another unexpected volunteer, Janet Taylor, appeared. We are so lucky to have such a competent and cheerful volunteer. She will be running the tomato contests for us on tomorrow. Frankly, I think she could take on any project we throw at her.

And on Tuesday a young man came to the market hoping for some kind of work helping one of the vendors load their trucks. No such work is available, but I talked to a vendor who has quite a few people working for him. He agreed to talk to the young man who left with a smile after their visit. I don’t know whether he had a job or just good advice, but whatever he received, it was apparently what he needed.
I am so fortunate in the people I meet and work with at the market. It confirms my faith in the goodness of people.

Today we have the horticulturists with University of Missouri and Lincoln University at the market to give advice on garden and lawn problems. The Sours will play traditional music.

Granny Shaffers at the Market serves home-style chicken and noodles, mashed potatoes, bread, dessert & drink for $6. There is also chef salad and a drink for $6.

Tomorrow, the Green Earth Band plays. Be sure to ask them to play “The Market Song” written especially for our market. It is just one more example of an unexpected lovely gift.

Breakfast benefits the college scholarships that PEO awards.

Next Tuesday, we have our usual hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken salad sandwiches and chef salads. Rob Pommert plays.

We’ll see you at the market.