Summer is officially in full swing, according to my proprietary indicator — namely, the availability of tomatoes at the late hour at which I roll in. For weeks, the legendary alleged early-morning lines have cued up at Bitterroot Organics for Mike Duda’s greenhouse tomatoes (planted last December). These no-nonsense produce enthusiasts apparently want to get their tomatoes and get out before the market is clogged with ass-dragging hipsters like myself. I was buying some lovely pale green baby zucchini, three for a buck, when I noticed Duda’s reject pile in a box behind him. These beauties weren’t even for sale, because they weren’t up to his standard. They were cracked, with soft spots, and in one case pecked by a magpie as he was loading the truck.
I also know it’s summer because my kids are approximately 50 percent baby carrot by weight. And hey, if they’re gonna keep eating that sweet earth candy and not turn orange, I’m happy to secure three to four baskets a week for that purpose.
In front of the Hmong stand where I get my carrots, at the east end of the market, the kids activity area has become a permanent fixture in the middle of the roundabout at the end of Pattee Street. While I walked around hemorrhaging cash, my kids made bouquets of dried wheat, flowers and fresh lavender.
My score du jour was some beautiful savoy cabbage from County Rail Farm in Huson. Also scored: Lifeline cheese curds, radicchio from I’m not telling where, overpriced lavender that I nonetheless felt like a dick for grumbling about, and cucumbers and honey from some Belarusians who spoke barely enough English to tell me it was from Frenchtown.
Final score was the last pound of freshly roasted beans from local coffee prodigy Conner McCamant. It was Guatemalan, lightly roasted, as he does so well, in his parents’ guest bedroom. Next week, he’ll be delivering the first taste of a new shipment of unwashed (minimally processed) Ethiopian beans. Look for the big “Coffee” sign near the market’s east end.
Elsewhere in the market, the gray morels have arrived. I ogled but didn’t buy, as they’re just too much fun to hunt. Unlike the first wave of black morels (which are brown in color), gray morels (which are usually black or blond) are denser, more durable and have a more satisfying texture. If you’re morel-curious, these are the ones to buy. And with this week’s heat, Saturday may be your last chance.
Not so for the cherries and huckleberries, which are just now coming into season. The cherries were gone by hipster-thirty, but next week I fully expect to score. And a final tip for my fellow market junkies: The Missoula Farmers Market Tuesday market has finally begun. It runs from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the north end of Higgins.
The Market Report is a periodic account of the previous week’s farmers markets in Missoula. Send tips and story ideas to email@example.com.