On Sunday, I visited the Bates Mill Farmers Market in Lewiston in the pouring rain. The day was cold and wet and miserable but the market stood out like a multi-colored jewel emerging from the gloom. There were piles of verdant green chard leaves with rainbow colored stems, ruby red beets just waiting to be roasted, pumpkins glowing like orange orbs of fall cheer, long elegant leeks that faded from green to white, piles of red and white and purple potatoes, silver carafes of piping hot apple cider, red coolers full of local meats, dainty wheels of creamy white handmade cheeses topped with sprigs of rosemary and crushed black pepper, green striped watermelons that sound like drums when thumped by practiced fingers checking for ripeness. There were white eggplant, spring green eggplant, and eggplant in 4 shades of purple; onions ranging in color from paper white to dirty yellow to rich tan to royal purple were displayed in overflowing baskets; and carrots in four different hues waited for customers to take them home.
But what really caught my eye in the midst of all the color shrouded in rain was a pile of rather visually uninspiring, lumpy brownish vegetables shaped like footballs....they were the biggest sweet potatoes I have ever seen in my entire life. I am now the proud new owner of a 2-pound sweet potato grown by Khadija Hilowle, a Fresh Start Farms farmer who braved the rains yesterday to sell her produce. My hat is off to you Khadija and to all of the other Fresh Start Farms farmers who successfully grew a vegetable this year that no one in Maine knew was even possible to grow until a few short years ago.