Island Abundance at the St. Croix Farmers Market



Stroll through a market–or wedge your way through the crowd–and meet the buyers, sellers, producers and processors. Smell the guavas or the aged cheese or the shellfish, hear the crack of a machete against green coconut, the cackle of doomed chickens or the sizzle of thinly sliced tubers plunging into boiling oil, and you begin to taste a place. Anywhere–Java, France, Martinique or Santa Monica, it’s a colorful window into what matters locally.

St. Croix has a small and lively market in mid-island every Saturday. There are no large-scale producers–most of the vendors (mostly women) easily fit their wares onto the designated space, a table with short walls about the size of a large coffee table. A few bunches of collards or mixed herbs, a small pile of tomatoes, and a dozen avocados–that sort of thing. There are a few green thumbs in business, selling vigorous little plants in 6-inch pots: oregano, mint, orchids and ornamentals. Some women sell home-made seasoning and fruit preserves. And there are a few monoculturalists: one man has nothing but enormous stalks of green bananas and another, a pick-up truck bed of green coconuts.

Adjacent is the fish market–a picture of bureaucratic irony. There’s a series of concrete stalls with concrete tables shaded from the sun, expressly for selling fish, but for some reason that’s not allowed, so all the fish vendors sell out of coolers under improvised shade. Gutting and scaling take place on decaying wooden tables, decorated lavishly with glittering scales. A couple of 5-gallon buckets of bloody water serve for rinsing knives, hands and fish. There’s even a fish-cleaning set-up in the back of a van. I suspect it diminishes the re-sale value of the vehicle considerably….

Scream Sorbet: Fruity Frozen Farmers Market Delight

IMG_1012Scream Sorbet is sharing the love at 17 farmers markets in the Bay Area: The love of true, pure, frozen flavors. Their mission is to make the best sorbet in the world, and I think they may be doing it! Imagine local, seasonal, mostly-organic fruit transformed, at the peak of perfection, into a dense, smooth, creamy scoop of frozen delight. Just fruit, sugar, water and–occasionally–pectin.

They are just beginning to usher out the vibrant winter citrus flavors (goodbye, Meyer lemon, Oro Blanco grapefruit, and lime-mint) and welcome the luscious flavors of summer (hello apricot, cherry-rhubarb, and strawberry). Some flavors know no season: chocolate (made with top-of-the-line Blanxart organic chocolate), cashew-caramel, pistachio. These nut flavors are astonishing: so creamy and thick, you’d swear a cow was involved.

Six flavors are featured at each farmers market, a teasingly small fraction of the 35 listed on the website. Many flavors are inventive, even visionary: I tried the coconut-lime-Thai basil and was dazzled by the interplay of tangy lime and herbaceous basil embraced by round buttery coconut milk. On my wish list: saffron-almond, coconut-lemongrass, beet-lemon, and pomegranate-blueberry. And the other thirty flavors.

They work the magic in an Emeryville catering kitchen and roam the Bay Area, from San Rafael to Monterey, where I was lured in by their very generous sampling policy, characterized by the following phrases: “anything else?” “try another” “here, try this.”