My favorite neighborhood in Little Rock is the South Main neighborhood, and a big part of that love stems from the Bernice Garden at the corner of Main and Daisy Bates. In addition to being a lovely garden full of plants and sculptures right in the middle of the city, the Bernice Garden is also home to many fun events that celebrate art, culture, and — most importantly to me — food. Every Sunday throughout the spring, summer, and fall, the Bernice Garden holds a Farmers Market, and it’s one of my favorite places to go for fresh vegetables and locally prepared goods. If you’ve never made it down to the Bernice Garden, you’re missing out — come on a weekday to enjoy the sculptures and grab some lunch at the Root Cafe or Boulevard Bread Company, or come down to grab an ice cream or a phosphate at the Green Corner Store Soda Fountain. Come on Sunday and you can have your pick of some of the freshest fruits, vegetables, and flowers around.
At the market this week, we made a beeline to The Food Truck, where our good friend Jeffrey Palsa was serving up a magnificent four-cheese, potato, and broccoli frittata along with some fresh (and refreshing) gazpacho. Fortified by our tasty victuals, we headed on over to the Laughing Stock Farms booth in hopes that Josh Hardin would still have some of the purple hull peas he’d mentioned to us over on Facebook. Not only did Josh have the peas, but I realized that his wife Anna was actually an old college friend of mine who I hadn’t seen in years — just going to prove that this state is really like a small town. Josh and Anna have really developed their farm into something impressive, and their booth was chock-full of plump tomatoes, juicy grapes, bright yellow squash, and my favorite find of the day: fresh figs. I only bought a pint of the figs, and since they didn’t even survive an hour after I made it home, I really wish I had taken Anna’s advice and gotten a quart of the succulent fruits. The Hardins also had a rather impressive pile of sweet corn on display, and while I didn’t buy any, I have it from no less an authority than Max Brantley of the Arkansas Times that it’s good stuff:
Important topic: Eaten any of the Hardin Farms' sweet corn this year? Do yourself a favor. Buy a bushel. I got mine at Hestand's.—
Arkansas Blog (@ArkansasBlog) July 16, 2012
Max has always been pretty dead-on with his recommendations about tomatoes and other produce, so I don’t see why any of us should doubt him about the quality of the corn. I can certainly vouch for how good the purple hull peas were — we cooked them up with some peppers and proceeded to polish them off along with a pint of sun gold tomatoes and an entire pan of cornbread. A little dash of Monk Sauce made them just right.
After a great day that saw peppers being roasted, music played, and featured samples of a very tasty selection of cheeses from Kent Walker, we retired to the nearby Green Corner Store for a scoop of Loblolly ice cream. Being on a fig kick, I was excited to see that they were featuring a fresh fig flavor, and it did not disappoint. Expecting just vanilla ice cream with chunks of fig in it, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the ice cream itself tasted of figs — and it was loaded with huge pieces of the fresh fruit. It was one of the most perfect ice creams I’ve ever had the pleasure to eat (and Loblolly has made me say that more than once). Jess opted for a minty melon sorbet, and she described it as “summertime in a cup.” Refreshed with ice cream (and some cold brew iced coffee from the market), we were ready for just about anything — and it’s all thanks to the folks of SoMa, our favorite spot in the Rock.
Bernice Garden Farmers Market runs from 10-2 every Sunday.