14 August 2013

An Hour at Shemanski Park Market

By Peter D’Auria

Shemanski Park, filled with market-goers and shaded by graceful trees

Shemanski Park, filled with market-goers and shaded by graceful trees

Every Wednesday through October, from 10 am to 2 pm, the Shemanski Park Market occupies one slim city block between Salmon and Main, not a half-mile from its larger Saturday cousin at PSU. I went on a cloudy afternoon with ten dollars and a twofold mission: 1. Buy a bag of red potatoes and 2. Snack.

The market is about a third the size of the PSU one, but there’s still a good amount of the same kind of energy. Coming in from the southern entrance I saw a couple of kids playing a classical violin (maybe viola?) duet, and a man writing in a notebook next to a sign that read:

Donation Based
Hand-written in Ink
Choose Your Subject
College-Certified Poet

In the middle of one of the aisles a man holding a tray of peach slices (from Baird Family Orchards) encouraged shoppers to try his fruit. “I’ve just got Sierra Rich peaches on toothpicks,” he called to market-goers, “and you’re thinking, what do they taste like?” I stopped to taste one of his samples. They were soft and sweet, and every time I made a circle in the market I took another peach slice from his tray.

This is one of the best things about the farmers market: you can eat a lot of great food without paying for anything. There were platters of blueberries, plates of chocolate slices (dairy and gluten-free, from Missionary Chocolates), little disks of sausage. I tried spring nettle sauerkraut from the Olykraut booth. They also sell big bottles of greenish brine. “Is the brine for making your own?” I asked, and the man behind the counter told me that it was for drinking. “You can just take a shot of it,” he said, “or it makes a good Bloody Mary. It’s good for digestion.”

At the Nectar Creek Honeywine booth next door, I drank a paper cup of peach mead. Aside from the yeast, “It’s just water, honey, and peaches,” the seller explained.

On the other side of the market (after grabbing another slice of Sierra Rich peach) I wandered over to the sample-laden table of the Gee Creek Farm Community booth. I tasted gluten-free organic zchug (pronounced “skoog”), a spicy green Middle Eastern condiment, and then a sweet, wholesome brown rice pudding, made with coconut milk and xylitol instead of milk and sugar.

From the Gathering Together Farm’s booth, I took a too-big bite of purslane salad and I covered up the stems sticking out of my mouth and chewed while the woman explained what purslane is (“A succulent with a lemony flavor”). Down the row, next to the fragrant Lavender Haven booth, I went to Mickelberry Gardens stand to try some honey tonics. The thick, sweet-sour tonics tasted too good, in my opinion, to be used for medicinal purposes, but I was assured that bee pollen is a very healthy source of carbohydrates and protein and Vitamin B, “No pun intended.”

The snacking item on my list complete, I figured that I should move on to my other goal of buying red potatoes. The decision process was difficult, with several stalls displaying fine specimens of these maroon tubers, but in the end I settled on the earthy, fist-sized produce of Groundwork Organics. A job well done, I felt, and I deserved a reward. I had a few dollars left, so I bought a fig anise Panini from Pearl Bakery—filling and tasty—and an inspiring chocolate chip cookie with fleur de sel from Two Tarts Bakery.

The peach man was still there when I left. “Sierra Rich peaches!” he said as I passed. “They are rich and flavorful!” There should be someone, I thought, who wanders the streets around Shemanski Park, calling for everyone to sample this sweet little slice of market.