More often than not on a road trip, the dreaded pit stop turns into a sign of redemption. I don’t actually dread pausing at a gas station or service area to fill up my tank or run to the loo, however, I do dread the rare instances I ride without enough food to tide me over until I reach my destination. Simply put, real food is scarce along the U.S. highway. As some of you may recall, Michael Pollan pointed out:
“American gas stations now make more money inside selling food (and cigarettes) than they do outside selling gasoline. But consider what kind of food this is: Except perhaps for the milk and water, it’s all highly processed, imperishable snack foods and extravagantly sweetened soft drinks in hefty twenty-ounce bottles. Gas stations have become “processed corn stations”: ethanol outside for your car and high-fructose corn syrup inside for you. Don’t eat here.”
With that being said, service areas are often accompanied with an outdoor farmers market, a gift to the traveler with a hankering for fresh fruit or anticipating an empty refrigerator at home. Don’t pass them by! The Starbucks and McDonald’s will always be there, the strawberries however, are almost gone.
Today, on my way back from Philadelphia to Ithaca, I met Don and his second daughter. Don is the fourth-generation family farmer of Haas Produce, and his daughter fully intends to take on the business. They report that this market is always buzzing with regulars from the area; I wonder if passersby stop too? I ask if the produce is organic or conventional (using chemical pesticides). Don’s wife says that this year it’s definitely conventional, since the mild winter has resulted in larger pest populations that are usually killed off by winter frosts. Still, the produce looks fresh and the friendly faces are encouraging. I pick up yellow beans, the first cherries and raspberries of the season, and one hoop house tomato and wait patiently to munch until I’ve given my fruits and vegetables a rinse at home.
At home I find the garden spilling with gifts! The arugula and mizuna (a spicy lettuce green) are bolting, and I harvest some baby kale leaves as well. A few radishes, one scape, and a handful of basil. It all goes into a lovely salad, with a bit of left over whole-wheat basil-tomato-garlic pasta from late last week.