I don’t remember the name of the fruit man. I don’t believe I ever knew it. As a child I simply associated a man with his occupation. I figured that if you could be a businessman or a fireman, then why not a fruit man?
On Saturday morning, this man parked a truck full of produce on a sandy lot on the south end of downtown Mount Olive. He sat diagonally across from Waller Hardware, a busy Saturday morning stop for do-it-yourselfers. He set up a few tables and placed wooden crates full of produce on them. You could pick out what you wanted and he’d weigh it in a hanging produce scale. The red needle bobbed under the weight until it settled on a number. He multiplied that number by the price per pound, gave you your total, and then wrapped your purchase in a brown paper bag.
After I digested my Saturday morning cartoons, I asked my dad to take me to visit the fruit man. From our house on the north end of Center Street we drove south along the railroad tracks until the fruit man came within sight.
I had one motivation for going. I didn’t want local vegetables or an apple from the mountains. I wanted red seedless grapes; perhaps the least “local” thing the fruit man offered. I found the biggest bag I could and eagerly popped them in my mouth, one after another, on the ride home.
Growing up, the fruit man was the closest thing I ever knew of a farmers market. He was a presence in town for more than 40 years. I don’t remember when or why the fruit man stopped selling, but he did. Then Mount Olive tried to start an actual farmer’s market on a lot directly across the street from where the fruit man sat. For whatever reason, it failed. The hardware store closed, too.
I miss the fruit man. As an adult, I now realize how much I appreciate some things staying the same. In a time of almost constant change, permanence can be exhilarating. More than anything else, I miss the fruit man because I’d like to ask him his name. I felt such simple joy in seeing him weigh the grapes and then hand them over to me. I’d like to thank him for that.
In North Carolina we’re fortunate to have so many produce vendors like the fruit man I remember. Around the state, farmers markets large and small are a great place to shop for fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables. Take your family shopping and then try this month’s featured recipes. The memories you’ll make will be worth the trip. Visit ncfarmfresh.com/farmmarkets.asp to find a farmer’s market near you.