As far as Greenmarkets go, the Columbia one is modest, yet sufficient. You can get your groceries here if you aren’t picky. Milk, bread, cheese, produce, turkey and duck, it does the job. I walked slowly, considering. I just wanted to return my milk bottle, but it seemed wrong to leave without getting more. I bought some apples. I pulled out a sheef of paper from a display with a recipe for red pepper fritatta. All it required was eggs, cheeses, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper, and red bell peppers. I dug through a bin of green-mottled peppers, tried a small wooden spoon of goats milk chevre, and bought a half dozen eggs from a young girl with a thick gray skull cap against the cool afternoon air.
Next door was the grape stand. Big, bruise-purple bunches of grapes beckoned, foggy patinas on their skin. I remembered reading about the deliciousness of these on my weekend magazine-reading binge. When I approached the farmer was giving his bets over his cellphone. “I want so-and-so, and…give me who-what’s it.”
“Races today?” I asked when he flipped his phone closed.
I blushed, looked down, considered the bounty before me. “I’ll take a bunch please. I read about how good the grapes are.”
“These are the last bunch,” he said. “Usually we go until the end of October.”
“Not enough rain. Then it got down to 32 last night, had a frost. Yeah I think this is all we’re going to get this year.”
“That’s nuts. I wonder if we’ll have a crazy winter again this year.”
“I think so.”
I felt grateful to be able to share this sliver of the fall harvest before it vanished. People go gaga over the seasons first tomatoes – I’ve never felt that way. But it was nice to know I had gotten the season’s last grapes on a whim.
When I got them back to the apartment, I pulled them out of the plastic bag. Their sweet scent enveloped me, like Welchs grape juice. You don’t usually expect this exuberance from something that hasn’t been pumped full of sugar. The translucent green innards of a few had popped out of the skin. It was like when you cook little white onions and they slide right out of their envelopes. I picked a grape and squeezed the inside into my mouth, rolling it around on my tongue to separate out the little seeds. It was so sweet it made my teeth hurt. They must make reislings out of this, I thought. I popped the skin into my mouth to chew it.
But really, it must have been the hot summer. Warm weather equals more sugar. The grapes were so ripe, one more day and they would be no good. But for now they gave me a little smile.