Cape May, NJ -
Those of us lucky enough to spend summers in the Cape May area can enjoy the best of the freshest when it comes to produce.
All offer a tremendous variety, including of course, fresh sweet corn and glorious Jersey tomatoes.
They also boast the unusual, the obscure and special items which threaten to become quite trendy - like the now common vidalia onion, yellow tomatoes, purple carrots or blue potatoes.
Les Rea has one of the last actual farms on the island, on Stevens St. and Bayshore Rd. in West Cape May.
Les gives a friendly nod as he hands a familiar customer a bag of "just out" pole limas. FYI - West Cape May was once dubbed the "lima bean capital of the world." You'll also see the Rea's at the weekly farmer's market.
Diane Rea's fresh pies are a specialty as are her glistening jars of jams and jellies, pickles and peppers. They have squash of all kinds, various melons and plums and cherries.
Go down Bayshore Road a bit and you'll see Ann Smith's farm market on the left. The tiny stand is actually run by her daughter, Helen Howell.
Norman, Helen's husband sits just outside the little stand and informs me that his wife " hasn't had a chance to sit all day." Helen counts and measures, sorts and bags and packs, all while chatting with her customers, many of whom have been neighbors for years.
"We sell just what we grow ourselves " says Norman. That includes a number of kinds of potatoes, Papaya squash, Black Cherry tomatoes and rounded Rosa Bianca eggplant - which Helen tells me are just wonderful roasted on the grill.
Many in the area many consider the opening of the No Frills farm near the Seashore Rd. bridge a true harbinger of spring They're known for their well tended field of zinnias and their herb plants.
You can tell the season by what Duckies Farm Stand on Broadway is selling. They open in late spring when the local asparagus is being picked. Late May brings the first strawberries, in June come the blueberries, then the summer sweet corn and melons take over. A sign tacked up near the cash register reads "Never criticize a farmer with your mouth full."
Some other local farmers set up their stands every Tuesday at the West Cape May Farmers Market, behind West Cape May Borough Hall on Broadway.
Winslow Township's Spinella Farm owner Ed Cuneo hands me an odd looking tomato across the counter at the market. These heirloom "Purple Cherokees" earned him the title of Runner Up / Best in Show at the Cumberland County 4- H Fair this year.
A few booths down, the proprietor of The Nummytown Farm and Nursery, Mike Mattera, grins as he relates the story of being awarded "a blue ribbon that was colored orange" for being Best in Show for Display at the Cape May County 4-H held this past July. Mattera lays out his produce beautifully on old flour and feed sacks.
Bill and Kathy Haynicz's Orchard View Farm grows fruits on 250 acres of farmland in Monroeville, NJ. They produce early season peaches right on through the second week in September.
Lots of sun and plenty of rain this past May assured all of us peach lovers that this will be one of the finest peach crops ever.
With all the bounty it's no wonder that locally grown tomatoes and peaches and corn and berries are the new, must-have vacation souvenirs for those poor, underfed city folk heading back to their 9 to 5 lives.
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