In New York City, the tulips have bloomed along Park Avenue, couples have enjoyed al fresco dinner dates, and the oceanside attractions at Coney Island have opened for the season. And personally, one of my favorite weekend pastimes has just become more enjoyable and fruitful (pun very much intended), too: Greenmarket shopping.
At any of the 54 Grow NYC Greenmarkets, I can find just-picked produce, off-the-hook seafood (another shameless pun), and artisanal edibles like honey, jam, and bread, not to mention grass-fed beef, fresh flowers, and handmade snacks like Martin’s Pretzels from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.
|—courtesy of Martin’s Pretzels|
Though the program began as a single market in Midtown East back in the 1970s with only a dozen farmers, the markets have expanded to become the largest and most comprehensive outdoor urban farmers networks in the country.
Over 230 local farmers and fishmongers partner with Grow NYC, and it doesn’t stop there. The nonprofit also offers green initiatives such as textile recycling during the summer months and composting, not to mention the Fresh Pantry Project, whose purpose is to donate fresh produce to City Harvest, local food pantries, soup kitchens and other organizations throughout the city.
These markets often offer fresher food than chain supermarkets, as well as tips on how to prepare and store your newfound bounty. Create a shopping list based on what fruits and vegetables are in season right now.
|–by Transparent Reality via Flickr|
|–by ad454 via Flickr|
|—by Marianne O’Leary via Flickr|
For some of the best greenmarkets to shop, below are my top five. Wear comfy kicks, bring cash, and have your reusable grocery bags handy.
City Hall Park
Broadway at Chambers Street, Manhattan
Small but substantial, this market still draws a crowd. I love the spinach and cheese calzones, cinnamon buns, and old-fashioned coffee cake at Baker’s Bounty. I also hit up Andrew’s Local Honey when I go, and then visit Three Brothers Farm for some of the best veggies in town.
Grand Army Plaza
Prospect Park West & Flatbush Avenue, Brooklyn
I must admit, I have never shopped here, but as one of the busiest and oldest markets around, its reputation alone qualifies it as one of NYC’s top markets. Founded in 1989, this market has a loyal repeat consumer base, no small feat when catering to flippant Park Slopers.
Tompkins Square Park
Avenue A and East 7th Street, Manhattan
With an eclectic backdrop like the East Village, you know you’ll find something yummy and unique. Quench your thirst with a fresh-pressed juice from Red Jacket Orchards or a yogurt drink from Ronnybrook Dairy. Then, snag some turkey sausages at DiPaolo Turkeys or pick out a wild-caught fillet at at Pura Vida Fisheries.
Union Square West, Manhattan
The mother of all markets, countless purveyors can be found at this flagship site. Stop by if you have time to browse and don’t mind bargaining or being jostled. Walk along 17th Street for succulents and fresh flowers; check out Samascott Orchards for peaches and berries, and visit Two Guys from Woodbridge for primo organic herbs.
Tucker Square Garden
Columbus Avenue at 66th Street, Manhattan
Twice a week, Upper West Siders get a slice of farm life with this cute, compact market that offers plenty variety and selection. Grab some aged, raw-milk cheese at Bobolink Dairy, peruse plants, flowers, herbs, and veggies at Stokes Farm, and sample some maple syrup from Wood Homestead.
]For more info on NYC Greenmarkets, visit the website.