It's funny what goes through your mind as you wander round a beautiful market and today was no exception.
Last night I was reading round the world in blogs and I arrived in Adelaide, South Australia at the Central Market. Kate's Friday visit to the market has become a regular piece on the Hills and Plains Seedsavers Blog and I enjoy to read it each week. This week , there was a paragraph about the preparations for her 50th birthday party amongst the wonderful words describing life in Central Market.
No doubt, partly as a result of reading that last night and partly from seeing a huge birthday cake in a patisserie, I suddenly found myself thinking that at the same time I was wandering around my Market, over on the other side of the world, Kate and her family and friends were having a party to celebrate her birthday. So Kate, by the time you read this, your party will be over,. I hope you had great fun....and thanks for a great blog.
July and August are the busiest months in the markets in this part of France as the incoming tourists swell the numbers of shoppers dramatically. The queues in the fruit and vegetable stalls which I frequent grow as fast as the local produce on the stalls increases.
This week, I saw local producers selling strawberries, apples, melons, tomatoes, plums, prunes, walnuts, homemade jams and walnut oil. This farmer only sells melons, and this week, only one variety of melon.... Charentais a popular French variety which does well in this area. We were discussing a dish where you cut the melon in half and scoop out all the seeds. Then you fill the recess with our local sweet dessert wine. I've never known what this dish was called so I refer to it as gwm (great winey melon). It's wonderful.
In my own garden, I've had quite a lot of produce lately.
We had some friends for dinner the other evening and served tomatoes, salad leaves, a few beans and potatoes all from the garden...I accompanied these with some poultry and home made bread to make a delicious meal.
The poultry guy at Villereal is there every Saturday, whatever the weather, all year round. I don't think I've ever known him have a holiday. He always has far more customers waiting than he has chickens ready....and just look at those quail on the bottom spit.... Talking about gwm in that last paragraph, makes me think this guy should be called pwm - poultry with meaning!!!
Today was the same, except that this week, the queue was particularly long. In the photo above,the queue for chickens starts with the girl in the foreground, goes almost to the opticians and then comes back to the guy in the white tee shirt. As soon as I took the photo another couple joined the queue...
We've had a few strawberries from the garden, but they haven't made it to the kitchen, usually getting eaten before they leave the garden. Again, this is a picture of the produce of the strawberry lady. This week she had only one variety of strawberry on offer (Marais des bois) but they looked, and I'm sure tasted, delicious.
I almost missed the prune man who was tucked away this week in a corner. By the time I got to him he had almost sold out. Prunes, which are actually dried plums, are another speciality from this part of France... Pruneax d'Agen are sought out all over Europe, Agen being a town just a few miles south of here. This farmer just sells plums and prunes with a few odds and ends from his vegetable garden. His prunes always look delicious.
There was one lady I had not seen before selling tomatoes. She had two varieties, the huge Coeur de Boeuf and a black tomato whose name I'm afraid I don't know. She sells all her produce at one price. What I particularly liked was that the tomatoes had been grown for taste. They weren't pretty, but she had almost sold out when I finally came across her, and I suspect they tasted wonderful.
Another new lady was just selling some home made produce. She had a selection of jams and jellies, a few walnuts and some gorgeous looking walnut oil. I bought a jar of the jam and will be trying it out soon, probably for breakfast tomorrow.
There were many other stalls at the market this week, wine producers, fishmongers, fruit orchards, flower sellers, nurserymen, book sellers, clothing retailers, jewellery makers, artists, foie gras producers, bakers, butchers and candlestick makers etc and there was a buzz of activity that really only happens in July and August...
Do I prefer the market at this time of year? There are certainly far more stalls with many, many more customers about, on the other hand, it's hard to park, hard to get a seat for coffee, hard to get served and none of the sellers have quite as much time for a chat, which for me, is a big part of the experience. I know that tourism is a huge part of the economy in this part of the world and provides a great deal of what I enjoy whilst living here.... but for me, the markets in May, June, September and October still have plenty of things to make them interesting but don't have the crush of people making them hard to enjoy.
I took this picture of some urns just because I thought the colours made an interesting subject and to remind myself of the diversity of products available.
Villereal market is not a farmers market.... It is a general village market, similar to those that happen up and down the length and breadth of France. It happens to be in an area where some really good farmers and producers bring their produce to sell.
So, next time you're in south west France come to Villereal and just bwm (browse with me)