There are about two dozen producers working in the damp chill when my friend Justin and I arrive at the farmer’s market this morning. The temperature is 37 degrees and it’s gusty. Right off Justin hands me a cloth bag, lest I embarrass him with plastic, and we take a hasty lap around the market. All evidence indicates that it’s the middle of the winter. The collard greens have a grizzled look, like lost hikers. The carrots are thinner and smaller, though there are huge piles of them, and bins of yellow and purple ones too. In fact there’s plenty from the root cellar: beets, onions, leeks, lots of winter squashes, gorgeous cabbages. I spot four varieties of kale, which account for at least one-third of the vegetable matter on display. There are baby greens, but no head lettuces, and apples are the only fruit today.

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We split up to do our purchasing, but then Justin steers me over to the Wooly Pigs stall, where a ham steak is frying up. Wooly made its debut last month at the University farmer’s market; the growers are young folks who left the professional world to raise Berkshire hogs. They’ll be introducing their Mangalitsa breed later this month, having already sold one to the French Laundry restaurant this past fall. Very impressive. Check out their interesting blog narrative about pig ranching. Anyway, the guy cuts me a generous square of ham steak, I take a bite, and he gets all over me about needing to eat the fat. “Don’t worry about that,” I say. The ham is deeply meaty, with big flavor, and the last bite melts away on my tongue, a delicious little cloud of fat and smoke. Justin buys a pound of shoulder bacon. I’ll be hounding him for the report.

My haul for the day includes leeks and Jerusalem artichokes, an armload of potatoes, a big bag of carrots, celeriac. The farmer at the Full Circle Farm stall chats me up as he weighs my stuff, his gloved fingers moving en bloc. He’s selling dried beans by the register, small clear boxes of green-orange legumes that he says taste like black-eyed peas. “Put some onions on top, stew it, and it warms you all the way through. I’d like a bowl myself right now.”

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