P is for Produce ....
We are in the midst of the season of glorious, riotous abundance here in California, as evidenced by this pile of massive tomatoes at the Oroville Farmers' Market Saturday morning. The California of my childhood was the breadbasket of the nation, and even though we now import much of our food, I can still drive past fields of rice, sunflowers, beets, tomatoes, strawberries, orchards of almond, peach, plum, nectarine, pluot and more trees, all favored by the hot summers of our Mediterranean-style climate.
The Sacramento of my college days was in the process of renaming itself "River City" , trying to get away from the "Sacratomato" moniker that resulted from the strong smell of cooking tomatoes that lingered over the city throughout August and September each year as the canneries put up the harvest... I still get nostalgic smelling blanching tomatoes or cooked pasta sauce.
Farmers markets and small market gardens and family farms cannot compete with the large-scale industrialization of agriculture, but have definitely gone through a resurgence in the past decade, with every medium-sized town having at least one designated morning or evening a week when fresh produce markets are set up. Chico, Nevada City and Grass Valley have expanded this concept to host an evening of entertainment each week in conjunction with the farmers market, bringing people and culture back together on the streets.
A vendor arranging flower bouquets, for sale next to a large pile of pattypan squash.
The small growers are working to preserve and bring to people unusual and heirloom varieties of tomatoes, and speciality items not found regularly at the mainstream grocery chains. I saw lemon cucumbers, yellow watermelon, japanese eggplant, and six different heirloom tomatoes, along with a variety of herbs, at the various farm stands, and chatted with a young man who is growing 20 different kinds of vegetables on his one-acre plot, which is about what one person can manage to tend to alone!
Summer is also about babies, as evidenced by these two swallows, about to fledge from their nest above the door to my friend Cheri's antique shop in downtown Downieville. I know it has nothing to do with the letter "P", but couldn't resist sharing the shot.