Posts tagged ‘farmers markets’

In the Absence of Heirloom Tomatoes, an Unusual Seasonal Show Stopper

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© Photos by Margarida Correia.  See captions at bottom of post. 

Though bad weather destroyed most of their heirloom tomatoes, Eckerton Hill Farm still drew significant crowds to its stand at the Union Square Greenmarket on Saturday.  The Pennsylvania-based farm had plenty of hot peppers — its second most popular crop — to compensate for the missing tomatoes, and an unusual seasonal show stopper:  the jelly melon cucumber.

The oval-shaped cucumbers with protruding horn-like spines caught everyone’s attention.

“What,” most people asked, “IS that?” (more…)


September 12, 2011 at 3:09 pm Leave a comment

LOCAL FOOD News Roundup

Farmers Markets Grow Despite Bad Economy

If only the economy would grow as rapidly as the nation’s farmers markets.   The number of farmers markets operating throughout the country grew 17%, from 6,132 in 2010 to 7,175 this year.  The results were released in the USDA’s 2011 National Farmers Market Directory.

New York reported 520 markets, ranking second among the nation’s top 10 states with the most farmers markets.  California, with 729 markets, ranked first.

The market listings were submitted to the USDA by market managers on a voluntary, self-reported basis between April 18 and June 24, 2011, as part of the USDA’s annual outreach effort.

Alaska experienced the most growth.  It reported 35 farmers markets, up 46%.  Texas, Colorado, and New Mexico, with 166, 130, and 80 markets, respectively, jumped 38%.

Mayor Bloomberg Signs Local Food Legislation

For the past two years the New York City Council has pushed to make more local food available to New Yorkers.  On Wednesday its efforts paid off:  Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed comprehensive legislation aimed at increasing the production and procurement of local and regional food. (more…)

August 19, 2011 at 2:54 pm Leave a comment

Farmers Markets Launched Statewide as Part of New Farm Initiative

Life is starting to look a little brighter for New York State’s family farmers. Gov.  Andrew Cuomo last week announced a program to launch new farmers markets and expand others across the state.  The new Fresh Connect Farmers’ Markets is part of Gov. Cuomo’s “Farm New York” initiative to invest in the state’s agriculture industry. (more…)

August 16, 2011 at 4:01 pm Leave a comment

Freaky Fruit

Stroll through farmers markets on a regular basis, and you’re bound to come across some unusual bounty.  Here’s a fruit I otherwise would never have known had it not been for my trips to New York City farmers markets.

Osage Oranges — Natural Raid for Roaches

A woman described them best to her no more than seven-year-old son:  “They look like brains,” she said of the Osage oranges sitting lonesomely on the fringes of a farm stand — outcasts of sorts.   

Osage oranges at Union Square Farmers Market.

Osage oranges at Union Square Farmers Market.

The unusual fruit is not something you’d naturally reach out for. First, their deeply wrinkled surface is indeed reminiscent of a brain, conjuring images of slimy creatures in horror flicks.  Not only are they unpleasant to look at.  They’re unpleasant to touch.  Dare to touch the untouchable fruit and your hands immediately feel sticky.




There’s a reason the fruit is both visually and tactilely repugnant.  Osage oranges shouldn’t be eaten as the inedible fruit makes people vomit. 

Is this freaky fruit good for anything? Yes.  Osage oranges have a mild citrus odor, which repels cockroaches and other bugs.  For New York City apartment dwellers, they might be better than keeping a can of Raid.

·         Price:  $2 each

·         Nutritional tidbits: No nutrition here as this fruit is inedible.  Squirrels, though, like them and eat their seeds.

·         Shape/color/texture:  bright fluorescent green and round like an orange with a hard and deeply wrinkled surface. 

Click here for other Freaky Fruit.

November 13, 2008 at 2:50 am 4 comments

Freaky Fruit

Stroll through farmers markets on a regular basis, and you’re bound to come across some unusual bounty.  Here are a few crops I otherwise would never have known had it not been for my trips to New York City farmers markets. 

Say ‘I Love You’ with a Quince

Quince — a cross between a pear and an apple — is a fruit that the Romans and Mediterranean people gave to their fiancées – “their intendeds” – as a symbol of their love.  As one farm stand put it last year, it’s “what Adam gave Eve.” 

Quince, a fruit lovers exchanged in ancient times.

Quince, a fruit lovers exchanged in ancient times.

The fruit is an odd choice for a token of love.  It’s tart, very tart, and best used in making jelly and jam.  Quince also makes great stuffing for pork and chicken, and because it’s fragrant also makes a good air freshener.   One farmer said he throws them into his car and keeps them near radiators in his home. 


  • Price: $3/pound
  • Nutritional tidbits: good source of vitamin C
  • Shape/color/texture:  lima-bean green, anomalously round and coated with light fuzz, just like peaches

Crunchy Crosnes

These off-white root vegetables look like Wentletrap seashells.  The crunchy little twisted “tubers” have a water chestnut flavor and go great in salads.  They can also be roasted, pickled or sautéed in light butter.  If you buy them, though, don’t wait too long to eat them, a farm vendor advised me.  They lose their crunchiness quickly.  Crosnes originated in the French village of can you guess?  Crosnes. 

  • Price:  $16/pound
  • Nutritional tidbits:  three ounces contain about 2.5 grams of protein and 17 grams of carbohydrates.
  • Shape/color/texture:  off-white, smooth textured, and shaped like small Wentletrap seashells

Celeriac: Pug of the Vegetable World

Celeriac is typically used in casseroles and baked dishes.


Celeriac – also known as celery root or knob celery – is probably one of the ugliest root vegetables around.  It’s knobby and deeply furrowed – the pug of the vegetable world.  Celeriac, which tastes like celery, is used in casseroles and baked dishes and as a flavoring for soups and stews.  It can also be eaten on its own, usually mashed.  Celeriac varies in size. They can be as small as an Idaho potato and as large as a melon. 


  • Price:  anywhere from $2 to $5 each; also priced by pound
  • Nutritional tidbits: very good source of Vitamin C and phosphorous
  • Shape/color/texture:  dirt-colored; knobby, knotted ball with a tangle of roots on the surface

There’s more “Freaky Fruit” to come, so stay tuned.

November 3, 2008 at 6:53 pm 6 comments

In Search of Perfect Peaches

One of the joys of summer is biting into and savoring the perfect peach.  But finding one requires eating some awful ones.  

I tried many different peaches at the farmers market and my local health food store before finding the ones that lived up to what peaches should be – juicy, sweet, and smoothly textured.  I found them at the supermarket, of all places, for an incredible 99 cents a pound.  The large yellow peaches, in season now for at least four weeks, were always one or two days from just-right ripe.  Unlike most of the fruit at the supermarket, the peaches came from a local grower – Fralinger Orchards in Bridgeton, New Jersey – only 130 miles from New York City. 

I couldn’t believe how great-tasting they were and how cheap.  At one point the price fell to 69 cents a pound.  I piled up on them that week, but not as much as I would have liked as I had already dutifully bought peaches at the farmers market.

The ones at the farmers market weren’t nearly as good.  I tried several different kinds from different vendors, and none were satisfactory.  They all had a coarse, uneven texture or a tough skin or both.  Only one vendor offered a decent peach, which went for $4 a pound.  I balked at the price tag — $7.50 – for my half-dozen peaches.  The peaches at the market all went for $3.50 to $4.00 a pound.   

The peaches at the health food store were slightly cheaper at $2.69 a pound, but were the worst-tasting peaches I’ve ever had.  In fact, I could barely eat them.  They were certified organic, unlike all the other peaches I tried, and came from California. 

The lesson from all this? You have to shop around.  Farmers markets are good places to start, but don’t throw in the towel on supermarkets. Sometimes they might surprise you. 

September 3, 2008 at 12:34 am 3 comments

Reflections on Lazy Locavores

It’s not easy being a locavore, but people nevertheless are trying.  They’re hitting farmers markets whenever they can, checking Web sites for local food sources, and even growing food in their own backyards.  Some, though, are taking the easy way out, hiring people to plant gardens or ordering local food from online vendors.  They’re what Kim Severson in a New York Times article calls the “lazy locavores.” 

I read the article with mixed emotions and found myself both liking and disliking this emerging class of local food eaters.  First what I liked.  I liked the fact that lazy locavores are inspiring new businesses.  A business planting gardens might be a great entry point for people who want to farm and others who like to be outdoors and work with their hands.  Landscapers and gardeners looking for additional revenue streams also benefit from the emerging generation of food-conscious consumers.  Then there are the new online vendors, which source from only local places, like the “FruitGuys” mentioned in the NYT article.  These online vendors are sure to make Fresh Direct more competitive and perhaps more local-oriented.  I like new businesses, particularly when they revolve around life’s essentials, none more so than good nutritious food.

What’s there to dislike about lazy locavores?  For me, it has a little to do with ordering local food online.  Doesn’t that mute one of the key objectives of eating locally, which is to reduce carbon emissions by having food travel shorter distances? By ordering rather than picking up local food, locavores are needlessly expanding their carbon and environmental footprint.  True, food is not traveling as far as it otherwise would.  Instead, it’s traveling shorter distances to hundreds of local destinations.  And think of all the packaging!

What bothered me more was the hint of elitism.  Not everyone can afford to be lazy about their local food habit.  In these hard economic times, who can afford to hire a gardener to grow their food? Or keep a personal chef? Or pay a premium to have their local food delivered to their door?   

That got me thinking about the hard-driving, non-lazy locavores, and what they could do to enjoy local food without having to lay out too much extra cash.  Here are some things I thought of:

·         Join a CSA. A CSA share costs about the same as what shoppers would pay for conventional food in the supermarket, so it’s a good deal.  A CSA arrangement works especially well for people who live within walking distance of the CSA food drop-off location. 

·         Shop at farmers markets. There are multiple farmers markets throughout the city.  If locavores work in neighborhoods that have farmers markets, they should consider shopping after work hours on their way home.  It might be a time saver.  People, though, are out of luck if there aren’t any farmers markets near their homes or workplaces.

·         Buddy up with a neighbor and split the errand of shopping for local food.  Granted, shoppers would need a very good relationship with their neighbor, but if that relationship exists it could save time and probably even money. 

None of these ideas are as convenient as having someone shop for you or grow your food for you at home, or having local produce delivered to your door.   But for locavores who don’t mind a little inconvenience – and aren’t lazy – the ideas might help.

August 1, 2008 at 11:34 pm 2 comments

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