The Chinese market | Under the freeway

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Early Saturday morning, before we worried about putting on eyeliner or scrambling eggs for breakfast, my mom and I drove down El Dorado to the Chinese Farmer’s Market under the crosstown freeway. She’d ran into friends of a friend at Trader Joe’s the day before, and they told her of the farmers under the freeway who sell Moringa, the miracle plant she’s been buying at health food stores because it’s supposed to be a super food and is on its way to cure world hunger, she will tell you. If nothing else, it’s doing miracles on her fingernails.

In the deep shade of the rumbling freeway overhead, she asked every vendor, “Do you have Moringa?” With their heads still wrapped in scarves and hoods from the cool morning, they responded with a simple, “Not yet. Next time.”

Defeat? Not at all. She would be back. She would process her own Moringa. Next time.

We continued our walk up and down the dark aisles. I was surprised I’d never seen so many of the wild root vegetables that are grown in the valley I thought I knew so much about. One girl told us how to lightly peel and cook a wild potato. Another told us how to make her favorite Chinese soup. I filled a plastic grocery bag with $2 a pound of sweet peas — a steal, I thought, until a group of regulars came up and scoffed and marched away at the thought of $2 for a pound of those amazing little snacks I tend to eat until my stomach aches. I tasted slices of oranges, and took four home. My mom loaded up her bag with a little of this and a little of that. “I’ll give it a try,” she announced to her audience at every station. I admired her willingness. Last stop was the chard, because, well, she’s on her kick again of smoking it on the fire pit before sautéing it with onions and other deliciousness and serving it on rustic, hearty toast.

At the end, I got lost somewhere between the raw milk and the plastic bins of fish. I think my mom was being overcharged for tiny red, green and yellow peppers. That’s where I found her with her bulging plastic bags of leafy greens, still smiling with excitement at the opportunity of trying new vegetables and finding her Moringa “next time.”

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