Oh, yes, it must be spring

It must really be spring, because the farmers’ market is open. To those of us dependent on the mercies of downtown grocery stores, this is a great moment. We can finally get food with flavor and integrity from people who care about what we eat. After months of sawdust tomatoes and potatoes from hell, this is an occasion to celebrate without the guilt of overeating just a bit.

The vegetables are very tender at this stage of the growing year, and many vendors had “baby” varieties of romaine and field greens, but some had coaxed up tomatoes already, and tall kale. The fingerling potatoes looked almost too young to go out on their own, and the asparagus was slender and succulent.

The breads were in a class of their own, with stout hearty loaves lined up in the early morning sun. For those of us who are able to indulge in pastries, the pies looked like islands of delight set out on the cloth-covered tables. This year there are even more vendors than before, and their wares include cheeses and sauces made locally from local ingredients. It was a pleasure to indulge in sampling and comparing, and maybe even a little buying.

Just talking with the vendors is a big part of the joy of the market. They keep the place clean and human, rain or shine, whether or not they also have to deal with the culinarily curious like myself or others without a clue as to how to prepare watercress for the table. They quietly present the best this agriculturally-gifted region has to offer, and they patiently help you when you just can’t come up with a recipe.

Plus, the market has the best dog-watching in town. These are not the fou-fou dogs of the suburbs, insanely cozened and intellectually useless. These are the sturdy mixed-breed dogs of the city, either wise and warm or heartfully goofy. Already I’ve made the acquaintance of a few, including one who seems to have taken on the mission in life of locating beets for his human companion, whom he outweighs by about 30 percent. Another is learning how to carry his own pack, which he seems to understand is something he should rub off against a tree. I’m looking forward to a great season of spontaneous dog massage.

So, what are you waiting for, an engraved invitation? This is it. The market’s open next to Smith Center on Saturdays from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., and will be open on Wednesdays starting May 23 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on Southwest Park and Salmon behind the Schnitzer. It’s also going to be open Thursdays starting July 5 from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Southwest Park and Glisan in the Pearl. Come see, taste and enjoy this most pleasant of urban experiences, and pet a dog or two while you’re at it.