There are foods you (probably) know to choose by smell. A good cantaloupe, when perfectly ripe, releases a melony fragrance, especially from the navel where the stem used to connect. Ripe strawberries call out, “You wrote me into your food budget this week, remember? Really, you did! You just spelled me e-g-g-s.” And you’ve probably bought your share of prepared food because the smell from a street stand, restaurant or bakery was overpowering.
Why not vegetables?
For the last two weeks, I’ve been buying carrots from Whistling Train Farm, which is run by Mike Verdi, son of the late Queen of Pike Place Market, Pasqualina Verdi. Mrs. Verdi was famous in her day for, among other things, handing carrots to small children who came by her stand at Pike Place. I was one of those children, and my mother insists the carrot incident was a defining moment in my life, the reason I eat the way I do today. I’m happy to give Mrs. Verdi credit.
Fast forward to the carrots I’ve been buying from her son. They’re outstanding. Sweet, flavorful, crisp, fresh.
How did I know they’d be so good? Not just because this farm produces such high quality produce, or because this carrot’s great-great-great…n(great) grandparent changed my life. I smelled them. Perfect carrots smell amazing. Like perfume rabbits would spray on themselves to attract mates if they weren’t already so good at, well, mating. Perfect carrots smell like spring, like sweetness in the back of your throat, like everything a carrot seed dreams of growing up to be.
Smell your carrots, folks. If they smell good, they’ll taste good.
A friend was cooking with me the other day, and I handed her a piece of a carrot. “Wow,” she said. “That’s sweet. Like candy.” It was unlike carrots she’d tasted before, and she was delighted. Somewhere, Pasqualina Verdi was pleased.