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Cornucopia of Choices at Farmers Market

Long-running Naperville market offers a sensory and savory experience for shoppers.

Cantaloupes the size of your head. Deep, dark, purple eggplants. Peppers in red, yellow and green. Tomatoes big, small and in between. Flowers so bright and cheery, they can't be passed over.

And then there are the peaches. Oh, the peaches.

Peaches were on my mind when I headed to the Naperville Farmers Market, staged in the Fifth Avenue Station parking lot.

The long-running market quickly drew me in. Right away I spotted what I was seeking. Problem was, there were so many peaches I didn't know where to begin. Then I saw the fresh blueberries, peppers, tomatoes and the pretty flowers. I was blissfully lost.

I've lived in Naperville for almost four years, and I must admit this was my first time at the farmers market. Saturday mornings are usually packed with things to do, and I'd just never made the time to get there. Also, I was worried I would be disappointed. Would the market be too small? Would the choices be slim?

Silly me. The market did not disappoint.

When I arrived, I was surprised at the number of people on hand. I was excited to see so many people shopping for fresh fruits and vegetables. While the grocery store is convenient, it's not the most exciting experience. When I go to the store, I don't want to linger. I want to find what I need and get the heck out of there.

Shopping at a farmers market makes me want to linger. It is different not only because of the sights, sounds and smells, but because it offers so many choices. At the grocery store, shoppers are able to buy only what the store has in stock. If shoppers don't like the peaches at the store, they have three options: go to another store, settle for what's on display or go home without an item on the shopping list.

At the farmers market, there might be three or four different farms selling just peaches. I'm not used to having so many choices. The beauty is that along with having choices, there's also the opportunity to ask questions from the people who, in most cases, harvest the produce. That's simply not possible in the grocery store. I'm sure if I asked the stock person when the peaches were picked, he or she probably would look at me sideways.

Melissa Morlock's family has been coming to the Naperville Farmers Market for about 20 years. Melissa is one of the operators of J.W. Morlock & Girls Fruit Farm from Watervilet, Mich. The Morlocks will be at the farmers market the entire season. They have about 40 different products for sale throughout the growing season.

Getting to Naperville from Michigan means an early start for farmers such as Melissa.

"The day is long and tiring," she said. "At the end of the day, it's nice to know you are educating someone about where their produce comes from."

Mingling at the market is a rewarding experience in itself. Neighbors meet neighbors, people who are strangers talk about the peaches, flowers and berries. It's a place to come together with a common goal: finding freshly grown food.

I was walking the farmers market when my neighbor Richard stopped me. He visits the market regularly and knows most of the farmers, he said. He too was shopping for peaches, and he clearly appreciated the advantages of the setting.

"You can ask the farmer when they harvested their peaches, but you can't do that in the store," he said

My neighbor and I both left the market with the precious peaches. I had gathered a few extras I hadn't anticipated: blueberries, nectarines, tomatoes, peppers and purple dahlias.

While I love peaches, I'm even fonder of nectarines. After only a day or two of waiting, the first of my nectarines was ripe for eating. I could hardly wait. When finally I took a bite, it was delicious.

The Naperville Farmers Market takes place every Saturday, 7 a.m.-noon, through the last Saturday in October. For more information, call 630-369-5638.

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Amber G September 08, 2010 at 03:27 PM
I bought some nice mushrooms at the farmer's market last week for a stir-fry. Naperville's market isn't as big as the Chicago ones, but it's a lot easier to get to :)
Mary Ann Lopez September 10, 2010 at 03:32 AM
Amber, I think I saw those mushrooms. I spent all my money or I would have bought some of those too! We have to enjoy the fresh produce while the market is still open! Thanks for commenting!

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