A new generation of farmers is perfecting the art of working the land, and bringing the fruits of their labor to hungry, heirloom-seeking shoppers at the Headhouse Farmer’s Market in Philadelphia. These young farmers come bearing rarely-seen varietals out of obscurity, and introducing them to a new audience. They also remind us how fruits and vegetables are supposed to taste.
One of the most beautiful tables at the Headhouse market belongs to Tom Culton of Culton Organics. The rustic display shows off the harvest’s spectrum of hues and textures, perfectly arranged, with dramatic lights and darks – it’s the type of display that could have inspired many Flemish still life paintings. Next to bushels overflowing with cucumbers of all shapes and sizes, and brightly-colored zucchinis and eggplants, there is a modernist grid of paper pints filled with fresh green chickpeas, blackberries, blueberries and seckel pears. And it’s not just about the looks—Culton’s flavors have captured the taste buds of superstar chefs like Tom Colicchio and Thomas Keller (who counts on Culton’s specialty produce for his restaurant, Per Se).
At the Happy Cat Farm table, a crate of freshly-plucked squash blossoms shares space with bags of the most flavorful salad greens known to man (in our humble opinion), pots of medicinal herbs and packets of heirloom seeds. Tastes are different from the country to the city, according to Happy Cat’s Dalanna Haas, as she points to a basket of monster-sized zucchini. In the countryside, she says, people prefer the larger vegetables—ones that can be stretched a long way, and be made into breads and soups and such. But shoppers in Philadelphia are looking for the smaller, more flavorful specimens.
As you stroll through the market, everywhere you look, you see produce in Technicolor. You can smell the four varieties of peaches from three tables away. There are Chinese long beans in green and purple. The apricots have a sight hint of rose, as though they’re blushing. You can feel the sense of pride that the farmers take in their produce, learn about the seeds that have been passed down through generations, and be directly connected to the source. There’s no doubt that an $8 pint of gooseberries is a luxury. But it’s important to support these passionate labors-of-love, who strive for perfection in their craft, and emphasize quality above all else. Without them, we fade into mediocrity.
Article written by Laila Ahmadi. Photos by Peter Surrena.
This post was created with the kind support of Canon Powershot: