Ode to the WW Farmers’ Market

by Ann Waldron

This summer, the high point of each week for me has been Saturday morning. I read the newspapers and drink my tea but I don’t even start on the fearsome Saturday crossword puzzle. I get out of bed, dress, and hurry off to the West Windsor Farmers’ Market, held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday at the Vaughn Drive parking lot of the Princeton Junction train station, just off Alexander Road.

Ah, the glories, the sensual pleasures, and riotous displays of this market. Everything to delight a gourmet, gourmand, or plain old hog is for sale. Wander from booth to both and you will see more and more treasures from New Jersey’s incomparable farm land. (I’ll never forget the man who mourned that ""New Jersey has five inches of top soil, and we’re paving over all of it."")

Tomatoes beyond belief: heirloom, beefsteak, yellow, small red globes, Italian style – any kind of tomato you can imagine. Cucumbers, both the huge ones and the small, crisp Kirby – the latter four for a dollar. Fresh, sweet corn. Eggplants so firm and glowing that they seem like a different vegetables from those found in grocery stores. Fresh lima beans.

Yellow peaches, white peaches. Fresh apples, fingerling potatoes dug that morning, bunches of fresh rich maroon beets. (Do not fear beets. Cut off the tops, wrap each beet in foil, and bake for an hour and a half, and enjoy the best beet you ever ate without the scarlet mess of boiling them.)

All the vendors are cheerful and friendly and helpful. This outdoor market was started by West Windsor residents Beth Feehan and Mireille Delman, who began planning it last summer. West Windsor Township is not an official sponsor but has been a firm supporter.

Vendors come from miles around, and wonder of wonders, at the booth of DeWolf’s New Egypt farm I find field peas. Field peas! Field peas with purple hulls. I haven’t seen these since I moved here from the South almost 30 years ago. And I’ve missed them, tried to find them. I buy a package of them – we used to call a bunch of them ""a mess."" At home, I shell them. This takes forever because my fingers are arthritic but I persevere. Oh, they’re good. I eat them all, over a period of three days, not sharing with anyone.

The next Saturday, I go back for more, and the young woman asks me, ""How do you cook them?"" ""I boil them with bacon,"" I say. She looks puzzled. ""We always cooked vegetables with salt pork in the South,"" I explain, ""and bacon is the closest I can come to salt pork. How do you cook them?"" ""We never cook them,"" she said. Yankees are weird, I think, but at least these New Egypt Yankees grow field peas.

The West Windsor Farmers’ Market offers more than vegetables. At many booths, the bunches of flowers dazzle. I love the farm grown-looking bouquets of zinnias and sunflowers, brilliant summations of summer bounty.

Griggstown Farm brings a trailer and offers exotic fare like frozen quail and pheasant, butterflied chicken breasts, and the most incredible frozen chicken pot pies you ever saw in your whole life. They also have homemade fruit pies and sausage.

Badger Breads, Seward Johnson’s enterprise in Hopewell, is there with an incredible array of breads ranging from olive to garlic to peasant to brioches and pastries.

Civic workers set up tables to drum up interest in organizations like the new West Windsor Arts Council and the Princeton Junction Volunteer Fire Company.

In all, nine farms and the bakery sell their wares.

And sometimes there are craftsmen and artists. One Saturday I admired the work of a white-haired woman who displayed quite lovely watercolors, but I didn’t have enough cash to buy one. The next week I stopped at the ATM so I’d be able to acquire one of her pictures, but she wasn’t there and has not been back since. But maybe one Saturday….

Meanwhile, I intend to go every Saturday as long as the purveyors come. What a summer.

Ann Waldron, a West Windsor resident, is a longtime journalist and novelist.

West Windsor Farmers Market, Vaughn Drive Parking Lot, Princeton Junction Train Station, Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., through October. For information call 609-799-2400.