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VOL. 43 | NO. 35 | Friday, August 30, 2019

Market brings sweet and sour to neighborhood

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We’d already bought some two-toned hybrid squash, green beans and tomatoes, and just needed some corn to fill out the evening meal.

“Sweet corn?” asked Paul Lassiter, of Lost Weekend Farms.

I’d heard the term before, but it always puzzles me. I don’t speak Farm, or Country. Sweet corn, I wondered, as opposed to what? Sour corn? Popcorn? Candy corn?

Having learned over the years to conceal my ignorance when possible, I just said, “Yes,” and was directed by Lassiter to a nearby stall with corn in abundance. We grabbed some ears, and headed home.

Thus went our first visit to the East Nashville Farmers Market. We’ve since become regulars, more or less, determined to do our part to support local farmers and eat food grown in, or on, Tennessee dirt.

I include “on,” because not all the market offerings started life as plants. Some of them started as pigs, or chickens, or lambs, or cows. Or ducks.

And I mention ducks because one of the items that had caught my attention that first visit was duck eggs. They’ve never been part of my diet, but sounded intriguing. Might they be to chicken eggs as crawfish tails are to shrimp: the whole-wheat version?

I delayed a purchase pending guidance from friends. One strongly counseled in the negative.

“Take this advice from your dumb Virginia buddy and stay away from the duck eggs,” he said, calling them “nasty.”

On our most recent visit to the market I reported this view to Karen Overton of Wedge Oak Farm, another vendor and a fourth-generation farmer.

The farm, in Lebanon, produces pasture-raised, chemical and antibiotic free, USDA-inspected chicken, Cornish hens, turkey, pork and beef. And notably, for purposes of this account, duck eggs.

“They do have a richer flavor than a chicken egg,” Overton said. “I have people who are hard-core converts to duck eggs.”

Checking out produce at East Nashville Farmers Market

They also allow people who are allergic to chicken eggs to eat something still in the fowl-embryo family, she said. Her twin sister, Virginia, visiting from Brooklyn, offered her own testimonial:

“There’s nothing like a deviled duck egg,” she added.

I appreciated the women’s enthusiastic duck egg support. But they did not win me over.

No matter. There are plenty of other items for sale at the market, which springs forth Tuesday afternoons in the parking lot of the First Church of the Nazarene at Fifth Street and Woodland. Included are pretty much everything you’d expect to see at an agricultural commerce site: green stuff, yellow stuff, red stuff, purple stuff.

And whatever color the processed meats from Caney Fork Farms are. (Big thumbs up for the smoked brats and Italian sausage.)

As the growing season rolls on – the market runs into October – the offerings will evolve to include cooler-weather vegetables like cabbages, radishes, turnips and beets, said Jessica Park, working the stall for Flying S Farms, in Woodbury.

“That stuff just gets too hot in the middle of the summer,” she continued, voicing the one bit of crop husbandry that seems lodged in my memory.

One item I did not expect, but probably should have given that this is Nashville, was a musical performer. On our most recent visit this took the form of Jeff Parsons of nearby Inglewood, serving up oldies of my vintage.

Parsons said he’d been surprised to learn of the possibility for such a gig.

“I came down here to shop and discovered they had live music,” he said. He spoke to the manager, got booked for a couple of dates, and hopes for more.

It’s a nice touch, music, and adds to a general air of friendliness I’ve felt in farmers markets even in – yes – New York.

As Paul and Elizabeth Lassiter put it on their website for Lost Weekend Farms:

“We believe a farm and by extension a farmer’s market can be a host for community, bringing together people of any creed or cultural background.”

Me too.

Joe Rogers is a former writer for The Tennessean and editor for The New York Times. He is retired and living in Nashville. jrogink@gmail.com

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