Tom Andersen couldn’t find the kale.
“It was here a couple of weeks ago,” he said, then made a sweeping gesture at the expanse of the Uptown Farmers Market. “I bought a bunch of it, and it was the best kale.”
Tom was there, on the North Phoenix Baptist Church grounds at Central Avenue and Bethany Home Road, for another bunch of the best kale. While he looked for it, he’d bought a single-origin cappuccino from Caffio Espresso Bar and a sunflower seed brownie from Whyld Ass and a dehydrated chicken breast for his cat at The Flying Bakery. He stood in front of a place that sold apothecary bone broth, eating the brownie and talking to passersby about finding kale.
A number of people with dogs on leashes passed Tom on their way to Trolley Llama and the Toy Story Bounce House and Shanny’s Frozen Bananas and Ice Cream. Uptown Farmers Market isn’t the biggest local outdoor bazaar, but it’s fast becoming the most popular place to buy quail eggs and kettle corn and bok choy on a Saturday or Wednesday morning. Home to the Iconic Cocktail Company and tahini brownies from Blissful Bakery, Uptown is barely four years old and yet had already made USA Today’s list of markets worth traveling to visit.
An old friend stopped to talk to Tom. The friend held up a brown paper bag. “I just went to Practical Art,” he said.
“Oh, God, did they have the creepy doll heads again?” Tom asked. Yes, the friend replied. “And I bought one!” He yanked a concrete baby head planter out of his bag. The head had glowing copper eyes and a succulent where its hair should be. “They’re made by Matt Pfeilstucker,” Tom’s friend told him, and Tom said, “I have really got to go find the guy who’s selling that kale.”
Sloane Burwell and Ben Hostetler wandered past, sharing a scallion pancake from Chef Mum. They stopped to talk to Wendy Valdivia, who last week had bought an apron from Aprons by Lee and was thinking about buying another one today, for her mother-in-law.
“Now I feel like getting a scallion pancake,” Wendy said to her companion after Ben and Sloane walked off. On her way to Chef Mum, Wendy and her pal stopped to try pickled okra at Lillie Mae’s Pickled Garden. The woman at Lillie Mae’s wouldn’t let Wendy use the same toothpick to taste the pickled blueberries. “It’s against health code,” she explained. Wendy’s friend bought a huge jar of bread-and-butter pickles, and Wendy chose a jug of cilantro pepper pickle chips.
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A man in a Cookie Monster onesie pointed to a jar of chow-chow. “Absolutely everybody shops at this farmers market,” the pickle lady told her customers, soto voce, after Cookie walked away. “You’d think it was just people who want good lettuce, but we see all kinds.”
“Is your dog friendly?” a woman wearing a beaded parka yelped, as a tall man’s standard poodle lunged at her Chihuahua. The man ignored the question. “Did you get that parka here?” he asked.
At BAMBOX Produce, Wendy wanted beets to make in her Instant Pot, but she skipped the radishes. “I bought some here last week and they were too spicy,” she confided. She and her friend agreed that the smartest vendor there was the woman who sold handmade market bags.
Tom Andersen had one of those bags, and as he left Uptown Farmers Market, it was filled with the best kale. “I found my kale,” he told a man he knew slightly, as the man climbed into his tiny car. “It will be gone by next Saturday, but I memorized the spot where I bought it. So I’ll come back here and get more.”