Shoppers stuff farmers' market

Sunday before Thanksgiving is a busy time

Baltimore & Region


Thanksgiving's cornucopia spilled out under the Jones Falls Expressway yesterday.

Display tables sagged beneath piles of pears, broccoli, onions, sweet potatoes and red, green and yellow apples that seemed to glow in the morning sunshine.

Shoppers, dressed in everything from sweat suits to their Sunday best, wound toward the exits of the Baltimore Farmers' Market with wagons, sacks and plastic bags brimming with fresh salad greens, carrots, hams and turkeys.

Even the temperatures were refrigerator-perfect yesterday for what is typically the busiest day of the year for the market, which is open Sundays through Dec. 18 at Holliday and Saratoga streets.

"We sell a lot of potatoes, Yukon golds," said Scott Williams, 52, of Gardener's Gourmet in Uniontown. "A lot of sage and rosemary - things people make stuffing with; a lot of winter squash for pumpkin pies. And so many people are feeding a lot of people, they get large quantities."

For many vendors, it was also a chance to do some educating. Pam Pahl, 48, of Pahl's Farm in Granite, recalled a mother and daughter who stopped in front of her root crops.

"They're looking at the beets, and she's telling her daughter, `I've seen 'em picking these off the tree,'" Pahl said with a grin.

Nearby, Ruth Woerner, of Woerner's Orchards in Orrtanna, Pa., patiently answered the same question over and over.

"They want to know what's the best apple for apple pies," she said. "I usually use Golden Delicious myself. You don't add sugar to it. It's sweet. It makes a good apple pie."

But "I usually tell them maybe a tart apple," she said. "They usually go with a Granny Smith."

Arlene Rock, a 53-year-old transplant from Boston who is making apple and sweet-potato pies this week, split the difference. "The Granny Smith is a little tart," she said. "These [Cortlands] are sweet. I'll mix the two together."

Rock said she's been won over by Baltimore's humble market beneath the highway. "It's better than [Boston's] Faneuil Hall because it's more diverse. It's more than produce."

There's also art and jewelry, and omelets and coffee for those who left home without breakfast. Or try the fresh baguettes, raisin-pecan and ciabatta bread, cranberry muffins, hummingbird cakes, smoked almonds, Old Bay peanuts and glazed cashews.

And there's the unexpected, like the Mushroom Stand, where Ferial Welsh, 49, was dishing out oyster-mushroom fritters, deep-fried in beer batter and doused with hot sauce and feta cheese.

Her customers ("Everyone is a sweetheart," Welsh said) lined up patiently for fat slabs of portobello, marinated and flavored with apple and pecan wood smoke, served with mesclun greens, feta, sea salt and hot sauce, all in pockets of organic, toasted pita bread.

"Mushrooms are very healthy," Welsh said. "They're loaded with folic acid and antioxidants. Good for the immune system."

Good nutrition and freshness seemed to be big draws for many at the market yesterday. Some also had good eating in mind.

"We bought an organic turkey for Thanksgiving. This is the first time I've done it," said Lisa Ruff, 42, a California native who lives on a 37-foot sailboat in Canton with Kirk Nelson, 45, also from California.

"We're not vegetarians, and we're going to continue to eat meat," Ruff said. So they look for producers "who give the animals the best life they can."

Their Thanksgiving turkey came from the Hen's Nest of New Windsor. "Their chickens have been great," she said, so she decided to try the turkey. "I like to give my money to the local producers."

For others, it's the bottom line that draws them to the market. "It's cheaper than the grocery store," said Gertrude Kenton, 68, as she maneuvered bags filled with cheese, salad greens, peppers and a half-bushel of potatoes. "Five dollars [for the spuds]; so you can't go wrong with that."

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