There is produce in this world -- in this very county -- that you have never tasted and may never have the chance to taste.
The thought of that sits bitterly on Indira Clark's palate.
"There's a wealth of opportunity here to buy directly from farmers and try new things," said Clark, whose family has been selling produce at Modesto's Saturday morning farmers market since it began 30 years ago. "There's no reason to eat bad food in Stanislaus County."
There's no reason to eat boring food, either.
There are a handful of farmers growing produce varieties that are so sweet and delicate, you'll never find them in a grocery store because they wouldn't survive the trip from field to market. These varieties were discarded long ago due to quick spoilage, low yields and general inefficiency.
"There's a reason why you don't find them in the grocery store. But we're going for flavor over durability," said Clark, of Tyson Hill Farm in Waterford.
Farmers and their loyal customers define good flavor, which determines what the farmers continue growing. You could fall in love with a Charentais melon and find there's only one farmer, even among the most adventurous, who thinks the flavor is worth growing the fragile, Old World fruit.
Stacey Foster of Cowgirl Country Produce in Oakdale is among the few who grow the Charentais -- a French canteloupe with gray-green skin, superbly sweet bright-orange flesh and heavy aroma.
"You can't ship them. They're so delicate. They ripen very quick," Foster said.
But it's worth the hassle when she gets to share her finds, she said.
Farmer Brian Kline of Waterford knows what it's like to develop a taste for produce that can be tough to get to market. A fuzzy, bright-yellow globe with blush mottling called Garden Peach tomato is his favorite. When slipping it into a bag, Kline cradles it in his palm rather than grabbing it between his fingers.
"You can't pick a tomato like that and handle it for very long. It ripens so fast during warm spells. But they're just supergood," said Kline, of Kline Organic Produce. "We don't eat those traditional varieties because of a shift in culture."
As agriculture became more industrialized and produce was shipped farther from the farm, the demand grew for durable, uniform produce and higher-yielding plants. Farmers opted for hardy tomatoes at the expense of taste. Eventually, people forgot that there's more than one kind of cantaloupe and that tomatoes come in a rainbow of colors.
It can be a trial for adventurous farmers to find their treasures. They seek out heirloom seeds and buds through exchange groups and by shopping at other farmers markets. Families like Clark's have held onto some varieties even after they had faded from popularity.
"Quite frankly, we really like food and eat the food we grow," Clark said. "We pick the varieties we really like."
Some varieties can be finicky and require extra attention, the sort of attention large-scale farmers can't provide. Others varieties are voracious and tasty, but ugly, and require shoppers to be just as adventurous as farmers.
"We had these Peruvian purple fingerlings, and people did not want them. They look like cat turds," Foster said.
Foster concedes that researching, buying and planting various kinds of one vegetable isn't always worth it. She learned that after planting garlic varieties from all over the world.
"In the end, they all looked the same and we couldn't tell them apart," she said. "I think when you experiment, you're more exposed to things going wrong."
But it's worth the risk to find that one tasty product that no one else has, farmers market producers say.
Then it's up to adventurous foodies to find farmers with the same taste.
Bee staff writer Eve Hightower can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2382.