Monday, June 22, 2009

On A Mission

I have to tell you about a wonderful little place that my sister and I went to on Saturday. I guess technically this roadside stand is called "The Vegetable Shop," but no one calls it that. Everyone calls it "Chino's."

It's a small, family-run stand that features fresh produce grown on approximately 50 acres.

It may be small, but it's no secret. I mean, Alice Waters talks about the place in her book, Chez Panisse Vegetables. I'm pretty sure that might have let the cat out of the bag. And just in case you missed that, the name is on Chez Panisse's menu this week under Wednesday's offerings.

This is glorious, beautiful produce. The cauliflower is so tender raw that I have eaten it by itself as a snack. No dip; nuttin'. I have done the same thing with the purple carrots. I counted 8 different varieties of carrots in various shapes, colors and sizes on Saturday alone.

Chino's has herbs like rosemary and mint available for purchase, as well as various edible flowers. These are the only signs that you will see, and there are no posted prices.

I overheard a woman say to her husband as she held up a small bouquet of mint, "Honey, smell this. We're getting this."

In slight protest, he replied, "But we have mint in the yard at home."

"Not like this," she said. He shrugged, and she handed the bundle to one of the employees behind the simple wooden counter.
And she was probably right.

All the vegetables and fruits and herbs are picked when they are young enough to still be tender, but old enough to still be full of flavor. It is an art that the Chino family seems to have down pat, as they have been perfecting their artistry since 1946 when Hatsuyo Nolo and Junzo Chino came to this valley from a World War II Japanese internment camp.
My sister and I came for corn, but they were all sold out by 11:30 a.m. So we bought a watermelon and a small basket of strawberries instead.

When we brought the watermelon to the counter, the lovely girl behind the counter informed us that the watermelon was either a rainbow or a yellow watermelon, and both kinds were sweeter than the traditional red variety.

Sis and I looked at each other with wide eyes. Neither of us had had a rainbow or even a yellow watermelon before. We couldn't wait to get that sucker home to eat in slices or maybe make into a melon salad with mint and basil à la Chez Panisse, and we certainly didn't want it to get damaged on the ride home.
So we remembered to buckle up for safety! I wouldn't want anything to happen to you, dear watermelon.

1 comment:

  1. The watermelon went for a ride! Safety first.