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Favorite Shopping Market

 

My favorite grocery store opened in May. Selling fresh vegetables and fruit. Beef butchered here in Tennessee. Bakery items: fried pies, sour dough bread, poppy seed muffins. Homemade candles. Honey. Cut flowers. All local. Available at the Community Farmers Market, 201 Mahler Avenue.

I hate grocery shopping. I psych myself up to push a cart down store aisles. What a freedom to get to choose, I tell myself. How fortunate to buy what’s on my list. While I force myself to do week-in, week-out grocery buying, shopping at Farmers Market soothes my country girl appetite and soul.

Saturdays are the days everyone shows up. All the vendors. All the shoppers. It’s like Saturdays when as a kid I walked with Granny to town in Byrdstown. She stopped on the sidewalk to talk with friends, and I spent my dime for an Archie comic book at the drugstore. For a down home gathering and the widest selection, go to Farmers Market on Saturday

Because the pavilion is available for vendors Monday- Saturday, anytime I drive near Mahler Avenue, I swing by. Monday morning, 9:00, I didn’t really expect to see sellers, but I hoped for one tomato for a BLT. Parked was a green pick-up truck piled with corn. I’m hooked by one vendor selling one item and I was the only customer.

“Good morning,” a strong looking young man greeted me as he shucked heavy thick leaves off an ear of corn.

“Good morning. Looks like you’ve been busy. Picked this morning?” I asked.

“Yes, mam. Peaches and cream. It’s pretty good.” He nodded toward the one ear he’d completely shucked. Yellow and white kernels glistened. Golden silks. Not a single worm.

“How much?” I asked.

“$5.00 a dozen.” Didn’t I pay $4 a dozen last year? And not long ago, $3? Hadn’t I bought corn from him before? I asked his name.

“Lance,” he said and nodded. Thick corn leaves fell and Lance stacked light green leaf-covered ears of corn. “I’ve sold a lot corn for several years. Right from this truck.” I pulled a five-dollar bill out of my pocket. Lance counted a baker’s dozen and put thirteen ears of corn in a plastic bag.

As I drove home, I thought of a sign my mother kept on the wall of her business, Ruth’s Flower Shop, in the 1960s. Something like, ‘If folks only knew the time and money spent to grow flowers, they’d gladly play the price.’ I can only guess the time and money spent to break the ground, plow, plant, fertilize, weed, remove suckers, gather, sell. For about forty cents an ear, I can bite into tender fresh-picked corn.

Most Saturday mornings I stroll through Farmers Market. I take home bags of vegetables and fruit. Last week I made a plan with a vendor to buy twenty pounds of cucumbers to make pickles.

Farmers Market is open through October. I just wish the vendors sold everything on my shopping list.

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Fresh Corn from Farmer’s Market

Screen Shot 2016-07-14 at 7.04.07 AMHusband and I bit into ears of fresh corn. Peaches and cream. White and yellow kernels. Our first corn this summer and bought at Cookeville’s Farmer’s Market.

“It’s kinda’ crunchy. Maybe next time I’ll cook it a little longer,” I said.

Husband wiped his chin with a napkin. “This is about perfect.”

Yes, about perfect. There’s nothing like fresh from-the-field veggies and once again, I’m so thankful to those who grow crops and bring them to town to sell.

What’s the better way to eat corn on the cob? By the row or around the cob? Chomping from end to end by rows, I eat every single kernel. But some prefer to rotate the cob and start eating at the thicker end saving the most tender and smallest kernels for last.

Anyone use corn picks? Plastic, yellow, and shaped like an ear of corn, the corn picks I used as a kid are hidden away in the back of a kitchen drawer. And now bright colored holders with threaded prongs to screw into the cob or stainless steel corn holders are available to buy. Most times I forgo the picks. I really don’t mind a little corn juice running down my arm.

Butter? Salt? Butter for me, please, and roll the ear on the butter. The hot corn glides and the butter melts between kernels. Afterward, I’m left with a strange looking stick of butter, but it still spreads on hot cornbread. Salt? It depends on the sweetest of the corn. Really sweet corn just needs butter.

I grew up eating sweet yellow corn. Husband likes white Silver Queen. But neither of us are corn snobs – we like it all. The fresher, the better.   The moment an ear is pulled from the plant, its sugars begin to change into starches. If you like that starchy flavor, cook corn several days after it’s been picked.

Did anyone else’s mother boil corn for twenty minutes? It was well done. A bit chewy and starchy. To cook a few ears, I cut off the silks with scissors and stick the shucks and all in the microwave. Two minutes per ear for tender, crunchy kernels. Or try grilling corn in the shuck with the grill cover closed for about 15 minutes, turning the ears about every five minutes. Roasted brown kernels and delicious.

It’s easy to take off the silks and shuck warm microwaved corn. I saw an online video showing how to cut off the stem end and push the cooked ear of corn out of the shuck. It takes practice and patience and I haven’t mastered that trick. I slice off the thicker end and easily remove shuck and silks together.

As I’ve been writing this column, I’ve wonder why we say ‘ear of corn?’ Nothing about corn looks like an ear.  According to Wonderopolis, a national nonprofit organization to help adults and children learn together, ear comes from the ancient word “ahs” which meant husk of corn. So did the word ear mean corn before it referred to an organ for hearing?

I buy the freshest, sweetest corn offered at Farmer’s Market, even though the price, $5.00 per dozen, has increased this year. That’s only forty-two cents per ear, a serving, and I’m quite happy to pay. I’m really glad the farmers plow the ground, plant seeds, hoe plants, gather corn, haul it to town, and spend days selling it out of the back of their pick-up trucks.

Summertime is even better when eating a fresh ear of buttered corn.