Think vegetables. Have you a hankering for the home-grown varieties? The freshest vegetables from Finksburg to Lineboro are now sold every Saturday at the North Carroll Farmers Market.
The former Hampstead Farmers Market has a nifty new location in Greenmount; it sets up at the north entrance to the North Carroll Shopping Center along Route 30.
"Intuitively, it should be better," said Paul Shipley of Sunswept Meadow Dried Herbals in Millers. "Right out on the main drag, [we] should be noticed."
He and his wife, Linda, grow and sell bright bouquets of cut flowers. They're known for dried bunches and arrangements of statice, lamb's-ears and herbs.
This market isn't for those who sleep in. Umbrellas open over the stands between 7:30 a.m. and 8 a.m., and close up at noon.
The word here is fresh. "This corn came out of the field hours ago," said Dick Weaver, standing behind a table laden with beans, tomatoes and plenty of corn grown by the family at Hickory Hollow Farms. "No holdovers. Everything's fresh . . . [unlike] wholesalers [who] keep food for days."
Everything sold at the market is grown nearby. The early summer favorites are here: summer squash, pickling cucumbers, cabbages and chard, green beans and potatoes, fresh herbs and blueberries.
Because of new state health regulations regarding temperature control, "any meat, fish or baked goods is out of the thought pattern. It's just too cost prohibitive," Mr. Weaver said.
Chris Cavey grows greens. He says, "People ask, 'You Italian? Why you grow all these greens for?' "
"The whole ordeal started as a hobby, and it went crazy," he said, pushing the root ends of Swiss chard, Italian dandelions and chicory into crushed ice on a table. "Now my son Jason [who is 9] can help. We have five acres. It's a lot for a hobby. We got a little beat-up old 1947 Farmall [tractor], a one-row cultivator. We look straight out of the post-Depression era."
A customer comes over, discusses greens, the dry weather and takes away six leafy bunches of Swiss chard.
Mr. Cavey's full-time employment is at an insurance agency in Hampstead. Now he's also the planning director for the North Carroll Farmers Market.
Within weeks, a promotional billboard will go up on Route 30 near Black & Decker. It's a proud moment when Mr. Cavey displays the billboard design, reminiscent of mid-century cannery labels. A large fabric sign with the market's new logo covers the side of his truck on market days.
Acquiring a new site was aided by Glen Weinberg of HMO Associates Ltd. in Baltimore, who operates the North Carroll Shopping Center, said Mr. Cavey. "It is extremely appreciated that we can do this gratis. They've been very good to us," he said.
More aid came from the office of Pat McMillen at the Maryland Department of Agriculture. Mr. Weaver recalls, "The department said, 'Hey, you guys want a market? We'll help.' "
"A big driving force behind this was a grant . . . for $2,000," said Mr. Cavey. "The grant paid for the billboard, the sign. That was a very big help." Mr. Cavey greets every customer by name. Jason is learning this, too. That's part of the charm of an outdoor market. It's friendly.
Also to enjoy is the inherent surprise. You don't know what the selection will be. "Next week we'll be able to bring beets out again," said Mr. Cavey. "Produce occurs in cycles. It's not like at the grocery store. That's one of toughest things for regular people to understand. At these markets, we sell only what we produce."
For Marylanders like my husband, whose middle name is Tomato, it is tough to understand where, exactly, the tomatoes are this year. I found the answer from Ronald Martin.
Behind his table laden with freshly dug potatoes and cabbages, he explained, "We had cold nights, one or two nights, every week into June. Nothing was setting fruit."
Pollination, like baseball, isn't over until it's over. The journey the pollen must take to reach (or set) the embryonic fruit can take about two days of warm and pleasant weather.
"The tomatoes, cantaloupes -- nothing was setting fruit until it got warmer at night," he said. Mr. Martin and his wife grow about six acres of vegetables and have an orchard near Lineboro.
"We'll have apples all summer long now," he said, gesturing to the baskets of an early green-skinned variety. "Blueberries are about halfway."
Behind a table of herbs are Sis and George Ganjon, who farm on 109 acres in Millers. Their sprawling Jackson Farm display includes packs of flowering annuals, perennials and vegetables.
"I have 23 different herbs this year," said Mrs. Ganjon. There's parsley, caraway, variegated sage, lavender. "Lavender is really, really popular around here," she says, stroking a gray leaf. "And it smells so heavenly. There must be several different varieties, but I've found even without a bloom on it, this one is most fragrant. It's English."
Outdoor markets are a chance to meet people who enjoy gardening. And they're a chance to bring home the prize: flavor found only in the home grown.