Strolling through the market

Published 10:26 am Wednesday, June 14, 2017

By Joel McNeece

I walked on to the square looking for some okra, knowing it’s still a bit early, but it was the first week of the farmers’ market in Bruce, so why not take a chance.

Most other visitors I spoke with seemed to be checking on tomatoes. Everybody is always wanting tomatoes. But it was a little early for those as well.

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What I did find was a wonderful conversation at Leonard Brown’s herb tent. Mr. Brown lives on a family farm between Water Valley and Coffeeville and is a regular at the farmers’ markets in Bruce and Oxford with an amazing assortment of herbs and mushrooms.

He had many herbs I’d never tried and a good story to go with each. We spoke for a while on lemon grass, which he loves to make a tea with. He said he chops it up, freezes it, then uses it to make tea with a little ginger root.

“I’ll drink the first cup hot, right after I make it,” he said. “I love it like that.”

The rest goes in the fridge and he enjoys for the week ahead.

We talked a lot about cooking because he uses all his herbs in most everything he cooks. He said the lemongrass is great with chicken.

We grow some mint at our house, but Mr. Brown had all the varieties we don’t — chocolate, apple, grape, pineapple, orange and more.

He said the chocolate mint also makes a good tea and is very nice to add to vanilla ice cream.

He showed me some lemon balm and said it’s good if you have trouble sleeping. “A cup of lemon balm tea right before bed relaxes you,” he said.

Rosemary is one of the things we grow very well at our house and use often in cooking. Mr. Brown said it’s good for your skin and digestion. I just like the taste.

He showed me some garlic chives and said it adds great flavor to whatever you’re cooking. I’d put garlic in everything in our kitchen, but my wife Lisa forbids it, saying the smell hangs around for days.

I worked my way around to Joe and Millie Goforth who were there with some early vegetables from their garden and lots of Millie’s wonderful jellies and sauces.

We didn’t have any local honey at this market, which I’m always needing, but I’m sure it will be there soon.

I’m not too interested in beekeeping at my house, but would love to have my own garden. That’s a struggle, however, when the entirety of our property is draped in deep shade from 100-year-old oak trees. We do some container gardening in the pockets of the yard that get some sun, but struggle to beat our dog to the harvest.

Our fig tree looks extra fruitful this year and at greater heights than normal to hopefully stay out of reach of our young mischievous Lab Charlie. I’ll just have to beat the birds to it this year.

I bet Mr. Brown will have a good herb suggestion to use with the figs and without question a good story.

Joel McNeece is the publisher of The Calhoun County Journal in Bruce. You may email him at