Green Party

In West Palm's posh Flamingo Park neighborhood, a young couple plants their backyard with rows of basil, rosemary, thyme, and Italian parsley. In Lake Worth, a Finnish grandfather bakes bread from old Scandinavian recipes -- he's been doing it every day in the same location for 50 years. Down the road in Lantana, a Frenchman smears homemade raspberry jam on warm, paper-thin crepes, rolling them up like cigars. A few miles west, in Loxahatchee, a farmer bottle-feeds his hundred-plus baby goats for cheese. Further north, in Indian River County, two brothers raise 500,000 fresh Florida littleneck clams from tiny clam "seeds" on their watery, two-acre farm.

These very different food producers have one thing in common: You can find them all at the West Palm Beach Greenmarket on Saturday mornings.

South Florida gastronomes and gluttons have reason to rejoice this month. The West Palm Beach Greenmarket is finally open again. On weekend mornings through April, the best goody purveyors within driving distance are crammed together in a few walkable blocks. The 10-year-old market has grown from 17 to 60 vendors this season. This year, there will be a series of short lectures. The first, at 10 a.m. on November 29, covers herb lore, history, preparation, how to plant, and holiday recipes.

Hurricane or no, this year's crop of vendors is pretty impressive. Farmhouse Tomatoes from west Lake Worth is selling three kinds of hydroponically grown heirloom tomatoes at $4 a pound: the Cherokee purple -- a luscious fruit the color of a beating heart -- the fire-engine red Brandywine, and the flame-orange Gold Medal. For a taste of the real tomato, they're worth every penny.

Sinfully sweet oranges and grapefruit come from Pulitzer Groves in Okeechobee; at the Greenmarket, its folks also sell venison steaks ($15) and sausages ($10).

Former marketing exec Beth Johnston runs Teas, Etc; when she's not handing out steaming samples of angel peach white tea at the Greenmarket, she's scouring the world in search of the most fragrant and exotic green, white, black, and herbal teas ($5.95 to $29.95 for three ounces).

Among other highlights: French pastries, fresh pasta, kettle popcorn, artisanal cheeses, cut flowers, bamboo plants, barrel-aged balsamic vinegar and truffle oils, homemade dog cookies, and chicken sausages. But no organic produce yet. "We're still looking," Greenmarket director Peter Robinson concedes. "You can't do much organic in Florida because the climate's not conducive. But the great thing about the Greenmarket is, you can ask any vendor what kinds of pesticides or fertilizers they use. You can't do that at Publix."

 
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