Fiscal and strange

illustration by mark stivers

I keep a pretty strict budget for myself foodwise, which is easy to do when you shop at the farmers’ markets here in Sacramento: Just shop around, and buy what’s in season. Of course, sometimes, you may not know what exactly you’re looking at that’s in season.

Fear not, hungry shopper! There’s an easy solution. Ask the farmer.

Every single time I go, I end up asking, “What’s that and how do I cook it?” at least once. I’ve learned that a large bag of moneywort, a creeping evergreen plant that tastes like a spicy cross between celery and parsley, costs only 50 cents and makes for a delicious salad and pleases any palate when stir-fried with garlic and chicken.

Bitter melon tastes as it sounds, but, stuffed with ground pork and herbs and boiled for 20 minutes, it’s delicious. Loquats are in season right now, and their peachy-apricot taste makes them perfect for desserts and jamming.

Be willing to pick up some new thing. Not only is it cheaper, but you’ll become a better eater and a better cook along the way.