The Union Square Greenmarket
A Little History Barry Benepe, founder and recently retired director of Greenmarket, was an urban planner in the Hudson Valley in the 1970s when be first learned of the distressing situation of farmers there. Towns were mapping out their development and increasing their growth throughout the region, but no corresponding plans were being made for farmland. The small, family-owned farms that gave character and substance to upstate New York and that provided a livelihood for scores of hardworking farmers, and the fresh food the farms provided, were being threatened with extinction.
Barry's family, although they were not farmers by profession, had owned a working farm, and he remembered waiting in long lines at wholesale auction blocks, where farmers received low prices for their crops. His recollections of the perilousness of subsistence farmingalong with the fact that, in his West Greenwich Village neighborhood, he could not purchase a ripe, locally grown peach during the heart of the seasonhelped him form a plan that would become the salvation of local agriculture. Farmers in the New York-New Jersey area would be able to sell their fresh, seasonal produce directly to customers through a network of markets located throughout New York City. The Greenmarket concept was born, and today's flourishing network of urban farmers' markets owes its existence to the vision of Barry Benepe and Bob Lewis, his professional associate.
The first New York City Greenmarket opened in the summer of 1976 on East Fifty-ninth Streetand Second Avenue, and shortly afterward, it was followed by what has become the most famous and successful of the markets, the Union Square Greenmarket. Another market, in downtown Brooklyn, soon opened its gates, and today there are twenty-eight thriving Greenmarket locations in Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens, and Staten Island.
Since its inception, Greenmarket has been a program of the Council on the Environment of New York City. Without the guidance and wisdom of the Council's honorary chairman, Marian S. Heiskell, and executive director, Lys McLaughlin, the 16,000 acres of regional farmland either cultivated or protected by Greenmarket participants would have long ago become office parks, or worse; and Greenmarket as we know it (as well as many other wonderful programs of the CENYC) would not exist.
The Union Square area, once depressed, experienced an exciting rebirth as a result of the market's success, with fine restaurants springing up near their source of fresh food and thousands of customers bringing a surge of new life to the neighborhood.
During the past seventeen years, I have worn out many a pair of boots walking the aisles of New York City's Greenmarkets and the fields and orchards of farmers. The Union Square location has grown from a small, quaint gathering of a few farmers and shoppers into a world-class outdoor farmers' market in the heart of the city. Today, Greenmarket farmers raise more than 75 varieties of apples, over 300 types of hot and sweet peppers, 40 kinds of lettuce, and 120 types of tomatoes (some of which are rare heirloom varieties)among other produce. I have had the opportunity not only to watch the market grow but to see the children of the first generation of Greenmarket farmers come of age and take their places beside their parents at the stands and on the farms. I have shared meals with farmers and customers alike and have learned the importance of seasonal foods and loving preparation. I have seen professional chefs stop phoning in their orders to wholesalers and start to explore the bounty of fresh produce.
One of many chefs in the market neighborhood, Maury Rubin of The City Bakery, sums it up well: "The market determined where I would locate my business, and my business uses the resources that the market provides.... Greenmarket has come to represent community in the best way. I am connected to something that a great many people understand and love."
The Greenmarket Tour
The moment you step inside its borders, any good farmers' market grabs you and envelops you in a whirlwind of colors and aromasthe bright reds and yellows of ripe tomatoes, the purples, greens, and crimsons of grapes, the spicy bouquet of hot and sweet peppers. All around are tables covered with crisp greens, ripe melons, flowers and plants in every color of the rainbow, wildflower honey, maple syrup, cheese, ice cream, eggs, meats, poultry, bread, cider doughnuts, pot pies, winewhat's your pleasure? Here is a glorious Mardi Gras that will engage your senses and lift your spirits.
Our Union Square Greenmarket is a large urban enclave whose boundaries are set by the busy, noisy streets surrounding it. In contrast, your local market may be on a country road or in a quiet corner of any town or city. You may get there on foot or by car, rather than by subway or bus. But it will offer you the same sense of exhilaration that Greenmarket offers me, as you connectperhaps more directly than you ever have beforewith the earth, the people who till it, and its bounty.
A walk up and down the market aisles always jump-starts my day. Let me take you along, pointing out some of the farmers and their stands, highlighting the specialties, and sharing some tidbits of information I have gleaned in my years here.
Entering on a summer day, we are met by the cornucopia that is Alex and Linda Paffenroth's stand. Here are at least five or six varieties of radishes in red, pink, and pastel stripes; red, orange, and golden beets; red dandelions; many-colored eggplants; and bunching onions. If we were to visit in the early fall, there would be a dozen kinds of squash, as well. This is a great introduction to Greenmarket's way with vegetables, and many other stands echo the Paffenroths' bounty.
Depending on the season, ramps, fiddleheads, strawberries, and a dizzying variety of heirloom potatoes will tempt you at Rick and Nickie Bishop's Mountain Sweet Berry Farm (see Rick's story in Chapter 4). At S and SO Produce, owned by Stosh and Trudy Osczepinski, carrots, leeks, and celery are piled chest high (that's my chest, and I'm six-foot three). The towering displays are visible not only from the north entrance to the park but from the city streets beyond. Look for Cherry Lane Farms, where the Dare family brings us tender asparagus, early spring spinach, paper-skinned new potatoes great for roasting, and summer okra (see the Dares' story in Chapter 5). Migliorelli Farm, a premier grower of traditional and Italian greens, as well as melons, is another colorful stand with dazzling displays of produce (read about the Migliorellis in Chapter 2).
For more veggies, scout Doug and Sue McWhorter's Northern Borne Farms and their hydroponic (grown in water) bell peppers and seedless cucumbers. Don't miss Sycamore Farms, run by the Smith family, where the corn draws customers, six deep at times, eager to look, select, and ask questions. You'll be impressed by the Kirby pickling cucumbers, black and lavender eggplants, brightly colored bell peppers, and ripe field tomatoes (see the Smiths' story in Chapter 2). To complete your veggie immersion, be sure to stop by the Windy Maples Farm stand of Don and Ethel Keller (part of Greenmarket since 1976); and check out the delicate squash blossoms and baby lettuce at D'Attolico's Organic Farm stand.
If you are a fan of those crunchy little nutrient factories called sprouts, don't miss Hudson Valley Organic Gardens, where John Adams sells several varieties in the winter (he adds organically grown tomatoes, zucchini, and greens in the summer).
Leave some room in your basket for the mushrooms you will gatheroyster, shiitake, and cremini, among othersat the Bulich Mushroom Company. They are fresh and clean enough to make you forget Mom's advice to cut off the bottom of the stems.
Now work your way over to a stand that is among the most colorful In the market. Ted and Susan Blew, of Oak Grove Plantation, will show you a mind-boggling array of sweet and hot peppers, as well as heirloom tomatoes, grain, and meats (read more about the Blews and their crop in Chapter 2).
Scratch a Greenmarket customer and you'll find a tomato expert! This is where heirlooms are discovered and favorite varieties sought outwhere you come to make a killing in Cherokee Purples, Banana Legs, and Green Zebras.
Tim and Jill Stark's Eckerton Hill Farm comes to market with the famous heirloom tomatoes that have graced the cover of Gourmet magazine, as well as colorful hot and sweet peppers (see the Starks' story in Chapter 2).
You can't miss the bright reds and golds at Fox Hill Farms, where "Wild Bill" Leritz displays tomatoes grown from seed he saves each year. Early on, Bill decided that he wanted his customers to think about his tomatoes, not just walk up to his stand and say, "I'll have some Brandywines." To that end, he refused to disclose any tomato names and referred to each type only by a number (you could buy number 15, number 32, and so onbut you had to look at it closely, first). Molly O'Neill wrote in The New York Times about how she grew some heirloom tomatoes from seed and jokingly named one of her varieties "Old Crank," after Bill himself.
If you inhale deeply, then follow your nose, the celebration continues as you find yourself facing Anne Salomon's Twee Fontein Herb Gardens. Among the flowering herbs on display is one of my favorites, English lavender, and I buy as many bags of it as I can. I like to keep some in my pockets and sprinkle it on friends' hands; or I put a generous bunch on my table just to keep myself in a good mood.
Then stroll over to the Stokes Farm stand where the Binaghi family sells fantastic herbs, as well as vegetables. Stokes is the informal meeting place for chefs, farmers, and staff who gather to discuss life, market, and familyfueled by Chef Bill Telepan's large boxes of doughnuts.
For an earthy counterpoint to the delicate aromas of lavender, sage, and thyme, visit Keith's Farm, where garlic is king. Keith Stewart grows some of the best I've ever tasted, and he has taught people that they can eat not just the cloves but the garlic top too. He also sells a variety of herbs and lettuces and a lot of splendid greens.
Having planned your salad and veggie courses, it's time to supply yourself with juicy, ripe fruit for dessert and snacks. Along with the apples and apricots on your list, be sure to bring home some of the more unusual gems, such as white peaches and Seckel pears.
The Nicholson family's Red Jacket Orchards is a good place to start. Here, among the regular customers, we might find the editor in chief of Gourmet magazine, Ruth Reichl, selecting ripe apricots for a pie (see her recipe in Chapter 2). Ed and Carol Kesler of Tree-Licious Orchards bring their delicious and unusual peaches, heirloom apples, and apricots to market (see the recipe for Peach Coffee Cake on page 64), and the Lee family's Pittstown Fruit Farm introduces us to the Asian pear, shaped somewhat like an apple, with light yellow or golden brown skin. At last count, the Lees were growing a dozen varieties (along with peaches, apples, tomatoes, and bitter melons).
You have several more choices to help you fill your fruit bowl to overflowing: luscious fruit from Peter Hotaling's Clover Reach Orchards; Nemeth Orchard's plums and other fruits (as well as delectable applesauce); ripe fruit from Dick McGivney's Berry Knoll Farm stand (he sells potted begonias too); and Terhune Orchards' marvelous peaches and French Mirabelle plums.
Let's finish our orchard tour at the wise guy stand, the Kent family's Locust Grove Farms. Chip Kent is in charge, selling his "Locally Groan Fruit"apples, quinces, pears, and cherriesand labeling them with his famous descriptions, such as "Drippy, Spicy, and Aromatic" (read about Chip in Chapter 3). If you're lucky, you might get to buy one of the incredible apple pies baked by Helen Kent, Chip's motherif not, make your own from Helen's recipe on page 123). Over fifty varieties of apples are sold here and there are always good samples and good vibes.
When is a grouch not a grouch? Most of the time, if he's "the Grouchy Gourmet," Jim Grillo of Northshire Farms (the story in Chapter 4 explains how he got the name). In the heart of the summer, Jim sells cultivated and wild blueberries, wild mushrooms, succulent watermelons, and muskmelons; and in the colder months, his stand looks very much like a French marché butcher shop.
Grapes are what first brought me to Greenmarket, and they may very well lure you, as well. In the upstate Finger Lakes region, Ken and Eileen Farnan of Buzzard Crest Vineyards grow the most interesting varieties of seeded and seedless organic grapes that you can buy in New York City. And Stone Arch Vineyards, where Kenny Barber presides, has been offering excellent grapes and grape juice for as long as I can remember.
You will find award-winning wines at two stands: Art Hunt's Hunt Country Vineyards and John Martini's Anthony Road Vineyards. Their wines are served at Gramercy Tavern and Union Square Cafe, as well as at other fine restaurants. Stop by for a sample, if you're old enough.
In addition to satisfying us with food and drink, the market nourishes the eyesand soulwith dazzling flowers and plants. The ground seems carpeted with row upon row of multicolored herbs and bedding plants in trays and pots; tables and shelves are bursting with even more varieties; and the vibrant buckets of flowers at James Durr's Sykesville Flower Farm can be seen from blocks away. Look for Duva Farms' tuberoses, the quintessential Hawaiian blooms, with their intoxicating fragrance of honey and butter; Michael Barry's Seven Pines Farm's heirloom roses, whose vivid colors and scents will amaze you; and the Faoro family's exotic potted amaryllis and lilies.
Adding to the panorama are the Cheerful Cherry Farm stand's scented geraniums, as well as cherries, mulberries, grapes, and late-season peaches; and the plants and flowers at Carvalho Greenhouses and Hodgson Farms (which also offers tomatoes and raspberries). Dick Hodgson remembers his first day at the East Fifty-ninth Street market, when his tables were knocked over by eager customers surging through the gates. Back then, the Hodgsons were selling eggs and corn, but they have since turned all their chicken coops, with running water troughs, into greenhouses.
Sparkling, golden honey has always drawn people to farmers' markets, and every part of the country offers its own specialties. Since honey varies in flavor, color, and perfume according to its flower source, you can find orange blossom honey in Florida and blueberry honey in Maine; and in Hawaii, coffee honey is a particular treat. In our neck of the woods, Walter and Noni Bauer's Twin Spruce Apiaries offer linden, buckwheat, wildflower, and clover honey, along with a variety of honey-sweetened treats (see Noni's recipe for Honey-Carmel Apples, page 118). And at David and Mary Graves's Berkshire Berries stand, you can buy true New York City honey, because David is that rare creature, an urban beekeeper. For a short time, he kept a hive of bees on the Greenmarket office roof; it has since been moved, but David still maintains some secret bee locations in the city. Berkshire also has maple syrup products and homemade jams.
Buck Hill Farms produces and sells maple syrup and other delicious maple products of high quality (see the Bucks's story in Chapter 4), and the Van Glad brothers, Tony and Andy, sell excellent maple products at their Wood Homestead Stand. Howard and Stephan Cantor of Deep Mountain Maple will introduce you to maple candy with hot peppers, ground ginger, and other exotic flavorings that range from "warm" to "knock your socks off" (see their Maple Syrup Tips, page 132).
If you are delighted when people prepare food for you, join me at Beth's Farm Kitchen, where Beth Linskey offers tempting jams, pickled items, and chutneys, among other treats. Her seedless black raspberry jam is irresistible!
Keep your eyes wide open and you'll discover that the market is much more than green. It's also a great place to stock up on dairy products, bread, eggs, poultry, meat, seafood, and, of all things, cloud-soft, vividly colored yarn.
Little Rainbow Chèvre offers tempting goat cheese such as Berkshire Blue and feta, goat yogurt, and, of course, goat milk. Try their samples! At the Ronnybrook Farm Dairy, someone from the family is always keeping tradition alive, providing milk in glass bottles, offering fall and winter customers fortifying hot chocolate, and tempting warm-weather shoppers with ice cream to die for. Ronnybrook produces dairy products with no growth hormones.
Coach Dairy Goat Farm, owned by Miles and Lillian Cahn and their daughter, Susi (who is married to Chef Mario Batali), displays goat cheese, yogurt, and yo-goat yogurt drink, among other products. Coach Farm goat cheese is ladled by hand into tapered molds, as opposed to the extrusion method, and you can notice the difference in texture and taste. And Hawthorne Valley Farm sells biodynamic cheese, yogurt, bread, meat, and quark, a subtly flavored cream cheese-like spread seldom seen outside of farmers' markets (see page 59 for Onion Lovers' Dip).
At this point, if you start to long for a hunk of crusty fresh bread to eat with some of that cheese, Rockhill Bakehouse offers quite a few temptations, and Don Lewis's Wild Hive Farm Bakery sells very good honey-sweetened baked goodshis corn bread is excellent.
When you shop at a farmers' market, forget everything you've ever learned about eggs. There are many more options than just white or brown; small, medium, or large; and chicken; and you won't find better or fresher quality unless you raid the coops yourself at dawn.
Be sure to visit Morse Pitts's Windfall Farms stand for blue-shelled Araucana chicken eggs, whose flavor and quality are as remarkable as their color (and for exotic lettuces and micro greens, as well). Fred Price and Faye Chan of The Fifth Floor Kitchen sell the eggs of free-range game birds and use many of these unusual eggs in their baked goods. At the Knoll Krest Farm stand, Bob and Alice Messerich sell both the chicken and the eggbrown and white free-range eggs and excellent free-range chickens, whole or in parts.
Look for fresh duck, goose, pheasant, and wild turkey eggs at Quattro's Poultry and Game Farm stand, where the Quattrociocchi family also sells free-range pheasants, wild turkeys, capons, and guinea hens, as well as pheasant sausage and scrumptious turkey and chicken pot pies. (See Joyce's recipe for Roasted Wild Turkey with Bread Stuffing, page 108). Peaches from their beautiful peach orchard are an unexpected treat.
The Union Square Greenmarket may look landlocked, but don't be fooledfew places offer such easy access to the high seas. Alex Villani's Blue Moon fish and seafood stand brings a variety of sparkling fresh fish to the market, and the lines of customers are long and enthusiastic. Alex is joined by his wife, Stephanie (see her intriguing take on Greenmarket in Chapter 3). Visit Jack Gunn (aka Captain Jack Flash), with partner Richie Puza, at the Point Lookout Fish Company. Jack is an experienced and knowledgeable fisherman, and the quality of his seafood is unbeatable (read about Jack's adventures in Chapter 4). At Eden Brook Aquaculture, Rissa and Jon Wallach sell the gleaming fresh trout that they raise in Catskill Mountain-fed streams. You haven't had trout until you've tried theirs! And at Atlantic Lobster Company, Paul Schultz brings us high-quality lobster and other delicious seafood. The Doxsee Sea Clam stand is the source of savory baked clams, clam puffs, and frozen chopped clams, and Bob Doxsee is the source of much Greenmarket lore (see Chapter 4).
Two stands sure to capture your interest sell both lamb and beautiful yarns: Barbara Hillsgrove's Wooly Hill Farm; and Whippoorwill Farms, owned by Malcolm and Linda Maclaren. Linda acts as knitting instructor every day she's at market, and she also will knit things to order.
When you've finished that satisfying market-fresh meal, what can you do with the inevitable table scraps, kitchen and garden cuttings, and other biodegradables at your house? Greenmarket has the answer! Bring them down to the Lower East Side Ecology Center's stand and Christina Datz and Clyde Romero will have them composted (but no animal products, please). And as a contributor, you can get back compost for your own potting soil or garden. Trust Greenmarket to guide you through the cycles of nature, from start to finish.
At this point, tour completed, you should be feeling a little tired, and considerably elated. Now it's time to open The Greenmarket Cookbook.
How to Use This Book
How exciting it was for me to learn that the word season has its origins in the Latin word for sowing: since ancient times, farmers have planted seeds in harmony with the cycles of nature and have harvested crops and eaten fruits, vegetables, and grains according to the same cycles. Today, the resurgence of greenmarkets and farmers' markets is giving us the opportunity to return to the seasons and the earth.
Not surprisingly, this book is organized according to season. Each chapter introduces a season at the market, then presents a shopping list of what farmers will offer during that period.
The items in these lists are not arranged alphabetically, as you might expect. Instead, under each category (Salad and Cooking Greens, Vegetables, and so on) they appear in order of their harvest, so that gooseberries precede garlic tops, and summer squash precedes corn. Nor are the seasons strictly what your calendar would lead you to expect. Summer at the market means July, August, and September; fall is October, November, and December; winter is January, February, and March; spring is April, May, and June. These are the farmers' seasons here in the Northeast.
Each list is a simple introduction that will get you fired up and ready to shop for old favorites and new discoveriesbut what exactly is "anise hyssop?" For fuller information on each entry, see the Appendix, where market edibles are listed alphabetically and described.
Useful charts for interesting categories of vegetables or fruits are also part of each chapter, as are fruit and vegetable tips and anecdotes about the people you will meet at market. Finally, you will find recipes that are easy to follow and written for people like me who are not professional chefs, but who enjoy making fresh, exciting meals at home for family and friends. All this aims to give an understanding of what it means to cook and eat meals based on local growing seasons.
The section For All Seasons that ends this chapter offers "Filling Your Market Basket Year-Round," a list of Greenmarket stalwarts that are always available. It also contains "The Greenmarket Pantry," with recipes for Vegetable Bouillon, Chicken Stock, and piecrust; and directions for roasting peppersall useful for preparing the dishes in the chapters that follow.
On your next trip to market, use this book as your guide. Review the recipe list for each chapter or scan the index to find a recipe or key ingredient that excites your imagination and your palate. Write out your shopping list and take it along. But leave yourself time and space for spontaneity. Prepare to give in to the temptations you surely will find.
You may arrive with five things on your list, when suddenly, your attention is caught by some golden beets, sparkling in the sun. You're being reeled in, and you're hooked when the farmer offers you a sliver to taste and it is moist on your lips, sweet on your tongue. Now there will be six things in your shopping basket, not five. You pass a few more stalls and another farmer casts her line in your direction. "How are you doing today?" she calls out. "I see you've got a lovely bunch of beets. How are you going to cook them?" You respond, "I haven't decided yet." The farmer continues: "I have some fresh rosemary here today. My mother always cooked her beets by roasting them with a little rosemary. Delicious!" Caught again! You pass the farmer a dollar bill for another spontaneous purchase, and walk down the aisles, rubbing a sprig of herb between your fingers and raising it to your nose for a glorious whiff.
Good farmers' markets overcome shopping listsand traditional approaches to cookbooks. Consequently, I encourage you to use this book as raw material, the paint or clay that will be the basis for your culinary masterpiece. Whatever the season, browse through the market basket list, charts, and recipes; they will help you understand what seasonal cooking is all about. Then, with recipes in mind and senses alert, let the market help you decide what's for dinner or lunch.