Meet The Market: Moser’s Garden Produce
Note: This is the first in a weekly series spotlighting the vendors in the Locust Lane farmers’ markets held every Tuesday and Friday.
With an abundance of fresh and high quality options available at the downtown farmers’ markets, it can be hard to decide what you should buy. But never fear, fresh-food lovers — we have your guide right here.
Anna Foley gave us a quick trip around the farmers’ market two years ago, but we want to get up close and personal with the vendors in the coming weeks so that you know exactly what is in season and who you are buying from.
For those who are not familiar with the local farmers’ markets, Tuesdays are set aside for “producers only.” What that means, according to the website, is anything sold at the market is “locally grown, raised, baked, or produced by the vendors that sell them, not by third parties.” Therefore, you are sure to get some awesomely fresh food and plants, among other goodies, when you shop here.
This week, we talked to Barrie Moser from Moser’s Garden Produce. Known for his many produce varieties, Moser has been a part of the local farmers’ market scene since 1992. Moser retired seven years ago from the university after working in the Dairy and Animal Science department. Moser also sets up on Locust Lane for the weekly Friday farmers’ market.
Right when you enter the farmers’ market, Moser’s giant tables filled with leafy plants are pretty hard to miss. He’s got all sorts of vegetable plants at his booth, including cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage. In particular, Moser has quite a large collection of tomato plants. He has over 250 varieties, so chances are he will have exactly what you are looking for. Selling this many types of tomato plants doesn’t mean he has them all memorized, though. Moser keeps a cheat sheet to help him out every now and then, but most are “easy to remember” or are more well-known tomatoes.
Moser’s remarkable tomato knowledge really shines when he talks to his customers. He describes each one in great detail, noting their individual size, color, and taste. According to Moser, some tomato plants even have interesting backstories. Take the Mortgage Lifter heirloom tomato, for example. Apparently in the 1930s, Marshall Cletis Byles became known as “Radiator Charlie” by paying off his $6,000 mortgage by selling that type of tomato.
Unfortunately, most apartment and dorm dwellers in State College don’t have gardens to grow one of Moser’s impressive plants. That’s where Moser’s inventory of produce comes in. Cherry tomatoes will be available next Tuesday at Moser’s spot, with cucumbers coming in two weeks, and peas in about three weeks. Moser is always adding to his produce selection. He’s currently trying to grow Shiitake mushrooms for the first time, hoping to have them ready for the fall.
Moser and his wife, Mandy, pick the produce fresh each the morning of a market. That way, the produce is at its freshest when a customer purchases it. Those early morning harvests make quite a difference, according to Moser.
“People are okay with buying produce like asparagus at the grocery store,” he said, “but what they don’t realize is that even as soon as the asparagus is cut, it’s already lost some of its sugar content.”
For those of you who still don’t like eating your vegetables, don’t fret! Moser’s Garden Produce also sells fruit, including blueberries, strawberries, apples, and pears. Just like his vegetable selection, Moser is constantly growing new things. Right now, he’s hoping to start growing raspberries for next year’s market.
Moser doesn’t just stick to the run of the mill produce at his stand. While tomatoes and apples are classics, he also sells an alarming amount of hot peppers. Apparently, spicy peppers are a local hit. Moser now has sixty pepper plants at his farm to keep up with demand.
“Last year we shorted ourselves with the jalapeño plants, but this year, I made sure we planted more,” Moser said.
Jalapeños and habaneros are his best sellers, but he also grows ghost peppers. In case you didn’t know, ghost peppers are the world’s spiciest variety. Moser grows an additional 40 to 50 pepper varieties at his farm.
That’s a big endeavor, because growing peppers is not as simple as it seems. Peppers take longer to mature, anywhere from 110 to 120 days. That means they have to start growing when it’s still frigid outside. But Moser braves the cold to make sure his peppers survive.
“We have to heat the high tunnels with a wood burner at night to make sure they are warm enough,” he said. “Sure, I have to go out a few times a night to put more wood in them, but it’s a cheap and efficient way to get the job done.”
If you haven’t checked out the market or Moser’s collection of produce, stop by and say hi. He loves what he does, and loves to talk about it. Plus, you’ll get some delicious local produce out of it. Now that’s a win-win.
Be sure to check back next week for our next installment of Meet the Market to find out what vendor we will feature next. The Tuesday farmers’ market will continue each week through the summer and into the fall until the second week of November from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Photos: Steffen Blanco/Onward State