Growers’ markets have an oasis-like feeling to them. They’re sanctuaries of foliage, magnets for cool people and hives of activity. That effect is heightened in Socorro, where the surrounding landscape is sculpted by hot wind and sunshine. In the town’s charming plaza, cool green grass is shaded by immense cottonwood trees. On Saturdays, when the market is in full swing, it feels like a festival—or a barter fair.The growers are in the center of the plaza. On the periphery is an assortment of flea market-style vendors, with an additional concentric ring set up on the sidewalks in front of stores across the street from the plaza. You could call these outer rings a junk show, but there’s also a lot of good stuff, if you’re discerning. You might want to avoid the guy reselling store-bought bottles of Yellowtail wine. A few booths down, however, a woman with great deals on cool women’s clothing ended up with all of my photographer’s lunch money.This deep into summer, the produce selection is complete, and then some. I poked around, examining the many varieties of tomatoes, potatoes, green chile, beans and grapes, as well as the biggest okra I’ve ever seen (and wasn’t sure I wanted to eat). Highlights included salad onions that were sweet as candy and “bull’s blood” beets, which are different shades of red from root to stem to leaf.As is usually the case at these markets, if you start digging beneath the surface there’s lots more to discover, like bulk deals on basil or unwashed potatoes.I bought a large amount of Italian purple prune plums with high expectations, because of a certain a prune plum torte recipe: See “Marian Burros’ Purple Prune Plum Torte Recipe.” This addictive treat is doubly impressive in that after a year in the freezer wrapped in foil, the quality only deteriorates infinitesimally. The catch is, it has to be those purple Italian prune plums. Otherwise it won’t work.Alas, these specimens were on the dry side. They were edible and tasty, but when I make my stash of tortes for the winter, I’ll be looking elsewhere for my Italian prune plums.A food truck menu made lots of promises of organic, fair trade and local, including the eggs in the breakfast burritos. There was a covered seating area set up on the grass, and I wanted to stay and eat. But there was a line of hungry people waiting, and they had to wait again after placing their order for it to cook. This is a fine way to dine, literally in the middle of the growers’ market. But the clock had struck 10 a.m., and this critic had important business elsewhere in the universe—the Mountainair market, to be specific—so we didn’t have time to indulge in a leisurely marketside brunch. Nor did we have time to stop at the truck stop at the Lemitar exit, just north of Socorro, which is reported to serve very good green chile.Alas, when we got to Mountainair at 11 a.m., they were packing up. Like at most small markets I’ve been to in New Mexico, you have to get there early for the good stuff.So with empty bellies, but with a fresh supply of goat soap, green chile, slightly dry prune plums, lots of breezy summer memories and a brand-new used winter coat, we headed for home.
Mary Ann Goins
Socorro Growers’ MarketSaturdays 8 a.m. to noon; Tuesdays 5 to 7 p.m.Runs through OctoberSocorro Plaza / Kittrell Park, Socorro