Time: 20 minutes after Chow, Baby staggers out of Tom Thumb, reeling at the thought of paying $6.49 for a mini watermelon even if it is seedless.

Location: Farmers Market Fort Worth (5507 E. Belknap St.).

Chow, Baby: How much is this cute little seedless watermelon?


Nice Lady at Cash Register: $1.99, two for $3.

Chow, Baby (mouth open, but too astonished to speak): …

Nice Lady: Are you OK?

Chow, Baby: Wow. Do you know how much these things are at Tom Thumb?

Nice Lady (decisively): I don’t go to Tom Thumb.

End scene (after also buying some lovely asparagus and grape tomatoes). Replay with various farmers-market deuteragonists throughout the week.

Chow, Baby did everything right this year: selecting the best site for sun and drainage, prepping the soil, starting seeds indoors until robust, occasionally remembering to water. Now in July, the reward: ill dill, muy muerto cilantro, and the cutest, teeniest basil leaves you ever saw with a magnifying glass – oh, those are ants. The only surviving herb: pineapple mint, like that will ever prove kitchen-useful. And where the watermelon should be, nothing but brown buds. Mother Nature sucks. What’s July without a nice juicy watermelon in hand and all over shirt?

If gardening isn’t among Chow, Baby’s strengths, knowing where to find good food at reasonable prices is. Operated by real live Parker County growers, Ridgmar Farmers Market (900 Texas 183 N, across from Ridgmar Mall) is the Central Market of produce stands. You go in to pick up one thing (seedless watermelon, $4.50 for large) and wind up spending $100 on all sorts of delicious stuff you didn’t know you needed: not just pile after pile of regionally grown fruits and veggies, but also salsas, honey, real Dr Pepper, pickled everything, Cran-Slam Mix ($4.95/lb) and other healthful snackies, and a pound of Parker County peach slices ($4) because you have a sudden desire to make cobbler. The house restaurant, Cowtown Bar-B-Que, does both eat-in (scrumptious meat-and-three lunch plate, $5.95), and take-out; Chow, Baby added to its basket a serving of cobbler ($1.50) for a role model and a rack of meaty St. Louis pork ribs ($10) because they smelled really, really good.

Onward to Green’s Produce (3001 W. Arkansas Ln. Arlington), known to regulars as farm-fresh heaven. Green’s is a lovely place to slow-shop; it’s a large, open, ceiling-fanned space, with wide aisles showcasing the standard farmers-market stuff: beautiful and reasonably priced produce, nuts and dried fruits, preserves and pickled items, and specialty breads and cheeses. Outdoors are tons of plants, both flowering and herb, and garden gee-gaws that make great mother-in-law gifts. Chow, Baby bought a few flourishing basil plants ($3.99) for its pet ants and bing cherries ($1.99/lb) mainly because they were less than half the grocery-store price. Dreaming of a refreshing, varicolored balls-o-melon salad, Chow, Baby chose a few red, yellow, and orange watermelons plus honeydew, canteloupe, and a pale-fleshed muskmelon, most for 79 cents a pound and all with the little spots that showed they were ripened on the vine. And you know what tosses great with melon balls? Pineapple mint, fresh and free from Chow, Baby’s own garden. Mother Nature is so cool.

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