Saturday, August 1, 2009
Each week, we make the trek out to the Sydney Equestrian Centre at Dural for the firstborns riding lessons, and on the way we pass a myriad of roadside stalls offering fabulously fresh seasonal produce. How lucky are we? Living on the northern outskirts of Sydney, at my disposal, I have a huge Westfield, and a multitude of fruit/veg shops to choose from. However, I'm finding that it is much more fun, foraging amongst the roadside offerings for my favoured flavours. They are better value, better tasting and the fact that I am also supporting local business is a real bonus. Pre-kids, I used to love the shopping experience in all its forms. These days however, I try my best to just get it over with the least amount of pain and suffering! What a sad situation to find myself in. Perhaps I'm just getting old? Bustling shopping centres, cranky fellow shoppers, fighting for parking spots...not a happy experience. So, each weekend, I now find myself eagerly anticipating the trip through the Galston Gorge as once on the other side, the fun begins. Along Galston road (Galston), the first stall I come across sells NEW POTATOs. I love to also support my local producers, so am happy to buy bulk of their hard earned product. On this stall I buy a 5 kg bag of lovely dirt covered potatoes for $7.00. Part of the adventure is then thinking through what I will be cooking with the produce, obviously tonight it will be smashed potatoes! I have a great recipe for them from the SMH and was pleased to be reminded of them by NQN recently. They are a family favourite and with 5 kgs of taties at my disposal..well...BRING IT ON! I pull up to the un-manned stall, to find a fellow shopper counting change. We have a chat, realise he is short 20c, I am happy to make up the shortfall, and we chat about the hastily texta'd sign at the stall asking us if we think it is easy growing and producing potatoes? And why we would consider taking a bag without leaving cash? It went on to describe the car that apparently does this regularly each friday evening on the way home from work....not good. I felt guilty by default and felt like waving my money about above my head so the unseen farmer inside could see I was putting my cash in the box! I think this is sad that the long held tradition of un-manned stalls, using the honour system for payment is no longer a viable option. No-one can afford to spend all day on a stall when they have produce to be attended to. I'd like to think that people would be honest, so I find it offensive on the part of the grower that he has to write such a missive. Not deterred, I move across the road to the POULTRY EGGS sign. Next door there is FRESH FLOWERS in a bucket, but today I needed eggs so we travel along the dirt driveway to the owners place to pick up a dozen. These three stalls are just before the roundabout at the Galston Village shops (where Goodies Bakery is so if you need a pie...drop in! ). As we pass through the shops, there is stalls on the left with great assortnment of fruit and veg. Part of the enjoyment of this experience is the scenery, the long fence-lined roads with horses, goats and the odd cow peeking over it. The budding fruit trees, lined up neatly in the orchards, the blue tintend mountain ridges in the distance, as well as the big, BIG houses to gawk at. In the country, I always expect the unexpected. Usually the first unusual sight is the group of brightly feathered wild chickens who gather at the very bottom of the Gorge. They happily wander across the road and will come running if you stop your car. Another day we were buying our fruit and there was a little white rabbit just hopping about the stall. Apparently it was the pet of the owners kids and he just fre-formed around the farm. How cute. We even came across some red speckled toadstools that were truly magical. A group of them had popped up on the footpath after a few days of rain and made us stop and investigate. Some as big as my hand, we imagined fairies living under them at night. I'm sure they were highly poisonous...but a sight to behold! One of my favourites has STRAWBERRIES, FIGS in season, really yummy JAMS made from both, EGGS, CAPSICUMS, EGGPLANT, TOMATOES and FRESH CUT FLOWERS. Today we got some big fat juicy strawberries, some as big as a child's hand and the flavour is stunningly sweet. We eat them in the car and a double punnet hardly ever makes it home! This is a manned stall, and the sign very clearly asks you to not park in front of the stall, and to move just behind to a large round dirt driveway. It always amuses me to see at least two cars parked next to that sign. Are they blind? Or did they swerve off the road at the last minute enticed by the glossy veg on show? The lovely lady on this stall is always pleasant and helpful. She is well-equipped with a little tv in the shed and is kept busy for hours with a steady stream of shoppers pulling over (next to the sign!). Next we go past the co-op bank which also has a fruit and veg stall near the Galston Aquatic complex. I haven't stopped here but I'm sure it is worth supporting as well (I do have my regular favourites though and don't tend to waiver from them these days). Zooming past Swanes Nursery, we pass a childs A-frame black board with "lemons $1 a bag" scrawled on it, and a dozen plastic bags lying around the base of it. Here they still rely on your honesty to put $1.00 in the little bucket. Further along we turn left onto Old Northern Road (Dural) and another two stalls on the left offer a great variety of goods. Vivid orange PUMPKIN, beautiful untainted green BROCCOLI (I hope our recently planted seedlings turn out like this), ORANGES, LEMONS, CAPSICUMS and CORN, to name a few. As I needed to make a speedy purchase (needed to get to horseriding on time) I was keen to find the owner to pay for my purchases, but the shed backed on to a fence with a big "beware of the dog" sign, so I wasn't keen to run in to knock on the door. It did give me a moment of panic as I wanted my vegies, and expected the owner to see me pull up and come out. They didn't so I had to take the chance and carefully tucked my $5 into the little pencil basket that was at the back of the stall. I hope they found it when packing up! It can take a while to get used to the prices and variety. Each stall has something a little different from the other, so it comes down to trying each and seeing what they have. It also comes down to parking, convenience and if you have the right change which can be an issue if it is an unmanned stall. Usually they have a locked box, so once the $$ go in, there is not change to be got so my advice is to have lots of change, know what you are after, and perhaps just stop at the manned stalls in the first instance if a bit timid. Its well worth the effort and is much more enjoyable than the other option. Of course I still have to go to the supermarket for other houseohold items, but having this little weekly sojourn, a nice chat to the stall holders, and nice produce to work with..is an infinitely better option in my book! I am looking forward to the seasonal changes in what is offered at my beloved road stalls next. Happi eating.