The Bailey family at Bailey’s Farmer’s Market has been selling fresh vegetables and fruit to Pensacolians for more than 40 years. I was there early one morning last week and came away feeling as restored as if I had been on a hike in the mountains. Bailey’s was busy, but serene. The shoppers were serious about the produce — looking, touching, and talking with each other about it. I spoke with an older woman at the display of greens.
“These are pretty greens,” I ventured.
“Oh, my yes. Aren’t they? And I have a big sink outside where I can wash them,” she replied, moving her strong, thin fingers over the huge, leather-like collard leaves.
Examing the turnip green bundles, tied with rough brown twine, I noticed there were two types: small white ones and large ones that were mainly white with purple tops. “Which ones are better, do you think?” I asked her.
“Well,” she gave me a quick, appraising glance, then flashed a smile, “I can never remember which one it is has a bite, and which one is sweeter, but I like the purple tops ’cause they’re prettier.”
Returning her smile, I said, “Yes! Me, too. I just like the way they look.”
Completing her selections, she hefted a bundle of purple top turnip roots and greens and a bundle of collard greens into her cart. “Nice talking with you. You have a blessed Easter.”
“Thank you, and you, too.”
I thought about all the work involved in cleaning and stripping the leaves, and all the women whose strong hands have done this work over the centuries. Getting my arms around a bundle of sand-paper feeling tunip greens, I put them in my cart, along with some collards.
The cashier saw me coming and laid out a big piece of brown butcher wrap. “Put your greens here,” she commanded, and expertly rolled them into a manageable bundle. She rang up my sweet potatoes, fresh young okra, tomatoes, pole beans, onions, an avocado, English peas in the shell, and the prettiest cranberry beans you would ever want to see. When I shelled them later, they looked like little speckled pink Easter eggs.