Weekend food shoppers, rejoice! Now you can jumpstart your work week with plenty of fresh produce, because four Easy-Way stores are open on Sundays from noon to 5 p.m.
As Easy-Way regulars know, the markets have never been opened for business on Sundays. In fact, the chain's website cites "no Sunday hours" as a bonus for employees.
"I guess we'll have to update our site," says Steven Carter, laughing. Carter manages the Easy-Way in East Memphis and is a great-grandson of Easy-Way founder Pate Carter. He explains the family's philosophy toward Sundays this way: "All along, our family thought they should be able to operate a successful business without being open on Sundays — and they did. But times change. Many people work six days a week, and Sunday is their one day to shop."
Already, the expanded hours are pulling in new customers, says Carter, especially since he started advertising the change on a large easel in the store's parking lot. "I see lots of new faces on Sundays, and they aren't the same customers who shop here during the week," Carter says.
In addition to the East Memphis store (814 Mt. Moriah), other Easy-Ways now open on Sundays include Midtown (596 S. Cooper), Bartlett (5905 Stage), and Frayser (2653 James)."We hope to have all the stores with Sunday hours by the end of year," Carter says. "The exact dates depend on staffing."
Easy-Way Produce Stores, nine locations (easywayproduce.com)
It's too late to pick your own peaches at Jones Orchard in Millington, but there are still turnip greens, Arkansas Black apples, and a field of ripe pumpkins ready for Halloween.
Turnip greens will be plentiful until the first frost, and at $3 for a brown-paper grocery sack, the vegetables are healthy, fresh, and affordable. (Reminder: The frost date in Memphis is November 13th.) Pumpkins are ready to pick, too, offering an added attraction to the orchard's hayrides and corn maze throughout the month of October.
Last year's pumpkin crop was disappointing because of the drought and unusually hot summer, says Henry Jones, who coordinates special events at the orchard. "The bees didn't pollinate the pumpkins, and they never did ripen," Jones says. "But this year, the weather has cooperated, and the pumpkins are looking beautiful."
The corn maze and hayrides are open seven days a week from 5 to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday and from noon to 10 p.m. on the weekends. Pumpkins, at 30 cents a pound, can be picked anytime.
"Just stop by," Jones says, "and we'll point you in the right direction."
Jones Orchard, 6880 Singleton Parkway, Millington (jonesorchard.com; 872-0703)
Summertime is the most affordable season for canning fruits and vegetables, but fall is perfect for learning food preservation techniques. So says University of Tennessee extension agent Donna Downen, and she should know. Downen's been teaching people how to can and freeze food for more than two decades.
"Now is the time to learn techniques, and if that means practicing with strawberries from California, who cares?" Downen says. "We want to be off and running when the local strawberries are ready in April."
Downen's enthusiasm for preserving food at home is contagious ("We can learn to can or freeze anything!"), and she's pleased by a resurgence in interest spurred by home gardens, the sluggish economy, and the burgeoning D.I.Y. and local food movements. Enthusiasm extends nationwide, with sales of Ball canning supplies up 30 percent this year.
To encourage local interest even more, Downen is organizing a series of five classes this fall at the Agricenter on Walnut Grove Road. Classes will cover overall food preservation, freezing foods, canning low-acid foods (meats and vegetables) canning high-acid foods (jellies, jams, and fruits), and canning pickles.
Classes will require a small fee, plus $5 for the instruction book. "Unfortunately, canning supplies are expensive," Downen says. "But it is important to learn the right way."
Each two-hour class will include demonstrations and hands-on learning. Interested participants should contact Downen by phone or email. She will respond with a short questionnaire to help her schedule class times to best accommodate prospective participants.
Donna Downen, Shelby County extension agent (email@example.com, 752-1207)