Regular readers will know what a fan I am of farmers markets and Union Square market was a real treat. It therefore warranted its own post separate from my NYC round-up. There was an astonishing array of specialty foods and produce available. We were there fairly early on a scorching August saturday and it was fun to see restaurant chefs in their whites and pulling wagons examining the produce. It was also fun to see people loading up the trunks of waiting taxi cabs with their bounty. Here is a taste of some of the more unusual items on offer and new season items.
The Union Square Greenmarket is part of a network of NYC farmers (green) markets that have their origins in the 1970s. Union Square Greenmarket is a grande-dame of markets and is now open several days of the week with over 100 stalls. Always bustling, on a Saturday morning it is particularly packed with people. We were shopping for a picnic and bought bread, cheese, some salad and fruit. We found some beautiful cheeses at Cato Corner Farm and chose the Vivace which (although unique) is like a cross between gruyere and provolone.
My favorite purchase was some Mexican sour gherkins. Tiny little cucumbers the size of a kumquat with an inside that was reminiscent of a kiwano (horned melon). They were not as sour as one might expect from the name but tasted like a combination of cucumber and melon close to the rind and they were both adorable and delicious.
The same stall had a lot of edible flowers and a huge array of different sprouts including some that I had not seen before. The corn shoots (sprouted from popcorn) tasted as sweet as corn on the cob. Here are some of the more unusual items I spotted.
Another great find were Smokra pickles (okra with smoked paprika) from Rick’s picks. All of his pickles were delicious but I think those were my favorite. I might have to do a mail order.
There is a definite feeling of abundance when you see stalls piled high with summer fruits. We chose some of the petite yellow Shiro plums and they were perfectly ripe and juicy.
Despite the throngs of people you still caught wafts of wonderful aromas from the fresh herbs, particularly the stall with 14 varieties of Basil.
It wasn’t all fruits and vegetables, there were meats and fish, cheeses, preserves, baked goods, honey and flowers (divine smelling tuberoses) and luckily plenty of vendors selling ice tea, to quench your thirst in the already sweltering morning.
The vendors mostly seemed to come from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New York, with some from Massachusetts and Vermont. The average distance is 150 miles. I loved the chance to shop and ‘window-shop’ at the Greenmarket, but it also made me look forward to coming home and my next trip to the North Market. The choice and bustle in Union Square is almost overwhelming, especially when all the vendors are new and unknown. There is something enjoyable in familiar faces and building a rapport with the farmers and vendors. Although our market is much smaller there is always much more that I would like to buy than I need or can carry.
September 28, 2009
I’ve been doing my weekly food shopping at USGM for as long as I can remember and blogging about it for the past year and a half.
There are other Greenmarkets in the city, the Rockefeller Center and Grand Army Plaza markets being two of them, but USGM is the crown jewel and rightfully so.