Sri's Fruits and Vegetables -- and a Chili Cookoff! -- Sunday at Ahwatukee Farmers' Market

Wife-and-husband Chandler farmers Sri and Richard know how to make their fresh produce a hot commodity: Control access. You can't find Sri's Fruits and Vegetables anywhere, any time, except at the Ahwatukee Farmers' Market each Sunday morning. (Okay, it's a small family business, and it's not as though they're sitting on their hands and whistling while you wish they could vend more places, but the exclusivity is kind of cool anyway.)

Look for the huge stall near the southeast entrance to the market, and wander the mini-aisles in wonder. You'll see the usual seasonal culprits along with daikon radish, flowering baby bok choy, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, and other esoteric (for most of us suburban Americans) veggies.

"We've got a lot of Asian products," Richard says. "[Sri] spends half her day explaining to people." Which appears to be true -- Sri is a blur of motion, smiling, hugging, and chitchatting while spreading the how-tos and what-fors. "We started out just because we've always had gardens," he says. "We got tons of chickens and ducks and geese," and the free-range chickens' eggs are for sale at the market as well.

"Anything green is coming up right now," Richard adds. "All the green leafy vegetables. About April, first part of May, the apples will be coming in. Following them, then, the peaches and plums, more like end of May, first part of June." Mmmm, summer fruit. Stay tuned.

The Ahwatukee Farmers' Market is held in the Ahwatukee Community Swim and Tennis Center parking lot at 4700 East Warner Road (just west of the Blockbuster) every Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. (Summer hours, from July through September, are 7:30 a.m. to noon.)

This particular Sunday, March 15, along with Sri and Richard and many of the market's other regular vendors, the site also hosts the International Chili Society's Valley of the Sun regional cookoff. (The Copper State regional cookoff is at the same venue on Saturday the 14th.) Way hardcore, folks -- the winners go to the world championship cookoff.

And next time you're at the Ahwatukee market, you have to check out the crêpe/French pastry booth (because, hello, they have crêpes and French pastry) and Moraine Benny's Luminous art glass -- the mysterious, captivating shapes are available in manageable sizes, like pendants and paperweights, and staring into their swirly depths is a mini-vacation.

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