Offered for sale wild berries in wooden quarts,
Or crook-necked golden squash with silver warts,
Here far from the city we make our roadside stand
And ask for some city money to feel in hand
~The Roadside Stand~ by Robert Frost
In the poem A Roadside Stand, Frost presents the lives of poor deprived people with pitiless clarity and with the deepest sympathy and humanity.
It is now fall in Prince Edward Island. The air is cooler and fresher and the morning grass more often than not is covered with a heavy dew and the beginnings of frost. The pumpkins are dotted in many a field and the grocery stores, farmers markets and roadside u-picks are full of the plump orange vegetables along with their smaller cousins the gourds. It is a time to take a deep breath and brace myself for the winter ahead. The leaves are turning yellow, orange and crimson. If you are lucky enough to fly over our Island at this time of year, the sight is breathtaking! Fields of freshly harvested potatoes leave a brownish okra square where once potato blossoms flourished. Grain has been cut and corn has reached maturity and what is left scattered in the fields provide valuable sustenance for the flocks of Canada Geese winging their way south. Our seasons are short and the more reason to enjoy them to the fullest.
Prince Edward Islanders are open, friendly, and trusting people. The ‘salt of the earth’ one might say. I love stopping at many a small unmanned kiosk at the side of the road in many communities. Residents and occasional travelers can purchase produce such as potatoes (which is the most popular with our Island being famous for these tubers), strawberries, garden vegetables, and in the fall, pumpkins, gourds and sunflowers. Purchases are based solely on the ‘honor system’; sometimes in the form of a plastic or metal tub attached to a pole, where you can deposit the exact change. There are many roadside stands of this sort and they are open seven days a week. Local residents, who are intent on supporting the 100 mile challenge or the ‘support local’ initiative find these mini marts serve the purpose nicely. Unsophisticated maybe, but they work!
The fall is an especially pretty time of year to cruise all the back roads (and main roads) to see what can be found. Pumpkin patches offer a wide variety of pumpkins, gourds and at some farm markets, a veritable playground while the elders shop for that special pumpkin arrangement for display or cooking.
Farmers’ markets in the larger cities, towns, and villages host local merchants and Artisans who have been peddling their food and wares for years. It can be a place to catch up on the local gossip, or have lunch of sauerkraut and sausage on a homemade bun, while you chat. There is no reason or rhyme to what you will find to buy, or sample, making it all the more intriguing to cruise the rural roads on a Saturday morning in P.E.I. Arrive early, though, because by mid-day, the farmer’s market in Charlottetown closes up shop!
The fruit stand has been a neighborhood hub for many generations. As a young girl I set up a small stand at the end of our lane and sold our fresh strawberries from my Mother’s patch for .25c a box. Handpicked by me and my sibling usually in the cooler early morning hours, it was a hot and long day’s work often seeing us pack it in before the heat of the afternoon sun which could transform the berries to mush in a manner of hours.
It’s not as common anymore to sell strawberries at a roadside stand.
The more common method now is the uPick fields that are around the countryside.
A simple stand located adjacent to an established road/transportation route is the most familiar model. Fruit and produce stands in PEI are seasonal, harvest-based operations.
Whatever your pleasure in fruits or vegetables, you will not leave disappointed. So gather your significant other and/or young’uns and head out for a road trip. Bring lots of change so you can pick what you like. Be thankful we live in such a beautiful province with farmers who work around the clock in all kinds of weather to bring such harvest to our tables!