Just back from Europe, I find myself wishing that US supermarket chains prioritized freshness, taste and quality over the financial margins. Compared to almost any local European market, American produce is pretty but bland. It’s sad that the chains have pushed the growers to evolve their crops to survive long transports and supply chains, rather than the consumer’s experience.
Take strawberries, for example. When they arrive on grocery shelves, American strawberries are hard, rather than bursting with juice; have almost no smell, and taste like cardboard. At the farmer’s market in Nice, the strawberries were tantalizingly ripe.
The only way to experience strawberries as they should be is to shop at a farmers’ market where growers sell berries picked that morning — old-fashioned strawberries ripened all the way through. That’s a luxury I’ll have to wait until late June to savor.
People living in the south of France have already begun to enjoy local lettuce and early asparagus — two months before local greens will reach farmers’ markets here in Seattle. The Niçoise salad ingredients were so fresh, so full of flavor, that I could have happily eaten nothing but salad while visiting friends who live in Nice.
This market is a twice weekly institution in Kempten, even during snowy winter months like early March. The ice and snow were melting on the sidewalk as we strolled to this market, only to be greeted with vibrant colors and pungent aromas.
The market specializes in local produce, cheeses and other dairy products, honey and beeswax candles, German noodles, and processed meats (sausages and so on).
Unlike what you’d find in the US at this time of year, everything was very fresh. Kempten is in the Allgäu region, near the Alps, an area that prides itself on the quality of its cheeses and other dairy products.
Before visiting Kempten, I used to think that German food was something for others to enjoy, but now I’m finding it has its own special charms — especially the cheese.
After enjoying what European farmers’ markets have to offer, it’s tough to settle for what QFC (my local Kroger chain) has on its shelves. And the local farmers’ market won’t open up here for another 3.5 months…