04 May 2011


Can you tell what time it is? Photo by Allison Jones

Your Farmers Market is a kind of clock.  It marks big cycles like the turns of seasons, as well as passages within each season. Here come the ramps, there they go.  Asparagus-time comes.  Cherry-time. Peach-time. Tomato-time.  Pumpkin-time.  They all come.  They all stay a while.  They all go.  They carry us like Cinderella’s pumpkin-coach in a grand round from one season’s gala to the next.  The flow is fairly predictable, but not entirely so.  Blueberries are done?  Corn already? We just have to go with the flow of market-time and leave precision to mechanical clocks.

The first mechanical clocks appeared in India and China as early as 4,000 BC and measured time with slow drips of water.  Over time, the technology became better/smarter/smaller, like it always does. Fast forward from falling water to falling weights to spring-driven gearing to digital clocks to the atomic clock. Time became a thing anybody could put into their pockets or strap to their wrists to nag them with precision all day long. With mechanized measurement, time could be counted and accounted for, invested and squandered, divided and subdivided into smaller and smaller units.   Unfortunately, it is not known precisely when all the tick-tock-ticking choked the flow of cyclical time and killed off the present moment. All we can say for sure is that by helping us stay on schedule our timekeeping devices tend to take us out of the now.  Farmers Markets offer a way back in.

The next time you visit Portland Farmers Market, imagine it as a watch store and the farmers’ wares as timepieces on display.  If you like, select a piece of fruit to carry with you, say a peach if it’s peach-time. Let it be both snack and clock. Its sweet and juicy prime is brief. Better eat it today.  The nearby orchard where your peach grew bears fruit for only a few weeks of the year.  Feast with abandon while ye may.  Better yet, buy enough to freeze, can or turn into jam, connecting the juiciness of now to a future you take on faith.  I’m not suggesting you duct-tape your peach to your wrist indefinitely.  By all means, devour it – make it part of your body  — and enjoy the fact that you are eating time alive instead of the other way around.

by Miriam Garcia

Miriam Garcia is a folklorist-foodie, freelance writer and guardian of a super-secret chicken soup recipe.  You can contact her at Miriam_G@me.com