I love meandering through the fruit and vegetable market near my home on Sunday afternoons. (Yes, I do the whole hand cart thing.) It is a good chance to get out of the house- meaning away from the computer and television- my slave masters, If it isn't too crowded, and the other shoppers are not too pushy and thoughtless, I can easily spend an hour there. I don't do jostling well.
During the week, the three-story building resembles an abandoned parking garage. On Sundays, however, it can be quite hectic and noisy. Frustrated drivers go nowhere outside as they play a battle of wills- not wits- with equally determined drivers trying to push them in the opposite direction. All very silly even to use a car at all on a beautiful winter's day like today. Why not walk it?
Usually I spot some unusual item in the market. A strange type of pepper, an obscure species of melon or some kind of unidentifiable vegetable that screams for my appreciation and purchase. Last week, I found what I took to be a sweet potato- that's what the blank-faced child behind the table told me it was- but it was so huge and covered in dried mud that it looked nothing at all like the ones I knew from the Midwest.
My mother used to plug toothpicks in the sides of yams and place them in the window. Within weeks, you would have a lush vine that, on less sober occasions, would remind one of something out of "Body Snatchers." Alas, I suspect what I stumbled upon was nothing more than a seductive sugar beet.
Apart from the blindingly white button mushroom, there is a type of mushroom there at the market that has taken over the place. (Quite literally, popping up like mushrooms.) An orange underside and greenish brown on the cap variety. (Chanterelle, perhaps?) I am, by no means, an adventurer when it comes to fungi and besides, what with all the dirty Hobbity bits, it looks impossible to clean. Someday, I may work up the courage to try those, but only when I have some guests. (I normally eat slowly so I will be able to spot early symptoms of poisoning.)
Today I saw purple carrots. To call them purple is inaccurate. Black as petroleum is a bit better. As a rule, I tend to back away from black -or blue- foods. Surprisingly, in Roman times, all carrots were either purple or white and purple carrots were grown in the Far East, namely Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran. In fact, purple carrots were used as a clothing dye for Afghan royalty. Although not quite as indelible as beet juice, purple carrots can certainly dye your lips, fingers and sink. (Goths, take note.)
The health benefits of orange carrots are, of course, well-known. Purple carrots, however, possess an entirely different class of pigments—anthocyanins—which act as powerful antioxidants. Antioxidants help protect the body from damage. Scientists have also recently found that a substance found in purple carrots, polyacetylenes, has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. So there.
When I photographed the ones you see here, my friend said, "Ugh, like something out of Aliens." I added the spicy, slightly exotic ginger as a complement to the alien motif. Ginger, I thought, always looked like something that had to be removed. Something your crazy uncle keeps in a jam jar to show and disturb guests. "Doctor says he never saw one quite that big."
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