Strawberries in July

I went to the farmers' market to get strawberries. I thought I might have missed their short season, but they were in fact there. And then, as if I were somewhere I might never visit again, I suddenly needed everything else there, too.

I hadn’t thought of tea radishes or pink or icicle radishes either — or purple, yellow or white spring onions, carrots, herbs, peonies, tiny, odd lettuces — or shell peas. I didn’t need snap peas, but there they were, tight in their skins, like a bin full of miniature blimps. I wanted to see them again, so I took a picture. The farmer said I could even taste one. Almost involuntarily, I found myself unfurling a bag from the roll and stuffing some in.

The less common the vegetables were, the more I suddenly needed them. And now that I already had to carry a bag, there wasn’t much reason not to quench my drought of fresh chamomile flowers, or to fill the now obvious garlic-scape chasm in my life. I pressured a nearby stranger who claimed not to know what to do with radishes to drag them through butter and dab them in salt, and later saw her headed to the register with three bunches.

This is one of the reasons to go to the market. It's like going to see live music that's never going to happen exactly that way again. Especially when I am getting the last something of the season. It makes me feel alive precisely because of how fleeting and mortal it all is. But back to strawberries.

Starting about a month ago, it became possible to get really good strawberries, at least in New York. The ones we normally get are gigantic and from far away and are often foamy and tart and sometimes not even flavorful, though I buy and sort of enjoy them anyway.

But the ones right now are coming from nearby so they are sweet and small and they smell really good. And they have not traveled far enough to lose their little hairs.

Crushed and stewed with sugar, vanilla and cardamom, they would be good on a biscuit. But mine went to refrigerator jam, a thank you gift for a friend.

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