Movable Feast: Farmer's Market

Wednesdays at Penn have tasted a whole lot better since John King started setting up his market stall outside the Bookstore. For more than a year now the Amish farmer has driven in once a week from Paradise, PA, to sell his farm-fresh wares to the campus community. And what started out as a few veggies and pickle jars has expanded into a full-fledged mini market of produce, preserves, dairy and baked goods.

We like King’s market for two reasons. There’s always something to supplement our pedestrian brown bag lunches, and we get a chance to stock up on produce without having to stop in at the supermarket on the way home.

On the lunch front we find it hard to resist a pint of ripe, sun-warm strawberries, and it’s rare that we leave without picking up a Pequea Valley yogurt or two. Made from the milk of grass-fed cows, this Lancaster County yogurt is the creamiest and most delicious we’ve ever tasted. Plain or vanilla ($4.50 for a large tub, $1.30 for an individual carton) are wonderful with fresh berries, while the fruit flavors each have their own loyal fan base.

When life demands a quick carb infusion we’ve been known to furtively hand over a dollar for a whoopee pie (slightly sweeter cousin of the moon pie) and slink off to a private place where we can sink our teeth into the creamy white frosting sandwiched between spongy chocolate disks.

When we need to pick up produce for dinner, we’re spoiled for choice. On a recent visit, the tables were stacked high with zucchini, beefsteak tomatoes, green beans, potatoes, peppers, snap peas, asparagus, radishes, cauliflower, lettuce, collards and kale, plus portobello mushrooms and fat, shiny eggplant at three for a dollar.

If you’re angling for “world’s nicest mom” award, King’s stand gives you an unfair advantage with treats like shoo-fly pie, apple dumplings and sticky buns. Cookies come in several stripes including snickerdoodle (flavored with cinnamon and vanilla) and butterscotch, while responsible parents can feel sensible but still indulgent by stocking up on zucchini, pumpkin or banana bread.

King’s sliced white bread, meanwhile, offers a delightful reprieve from all things whole grain and fiber-packed. Its yeasty fragrance alone ensures the package will be opened several times before it ever reaches the home pantry.

We love this bread toasted and spread with apple butter, raw honey or cherry jam, all available at the market. And while we’re shopping for preserves, we always check out the lineup of pickles, which recently included green tomatoes and jalapeno rings. King promises plenty more canned goods in the fall.

For right now, enjoy the fresh fruits of the season, every Wednesday from 11 till 3. And since it’s really not possible to have too much of a good thing, make sure to check out the new produce stand set up next door by Beechwood Orchards. It’s giving King some healthy competition with a luscious array of ripe berries, peaches, apricots and other mid-summer bounty.

Originally published on July 6, 2006