I may have made an error in judgement deciding to write Best Greenmarkets as my inaugural post highlighting the best specialty shops in the five boroughs, in August.
Let me explain. The idea behind this column is to save you some time and get you through the door of the city’s best bakeries, butchers, chocolatiers, fromageries, and so on so that you don’t waste time and money. We do the leg work and give you an edited list of the “Best Of.”
Heaven, I hope, is a farmers market in August. There is no “best” market in August in the straight forward terms of variety, price and accessibility. The best is the one nearest your apartment or office with a farmer behind the table with dirty fingers and deep wrinkles around the eyes who sees your salad sprout from the seed. The best is the one with a rainbow of carrots and potatoes, sweet white peaches perfuming the air, with bunches of herbs for a dollar or two.
In August, in New York City, that’s all of them. So let me tell you how to find your “best” market:
• The biggest challenge I have is sorting out which market is where on what day. I spend some time at the beginning of each market season and make a recurring event on my calendar so that I know that on Thursday: Battery Park City downtown, Port Authority uptown.
• Introduce yourself to the people taking your money. They might be cranky or gruff but they are dirt people usually, not city slickers and so warm them up by asking some insightful questions. NOT “is this organic?” Try instead, “How do you like to prepare this fairy eggplant?” Over a few weeks, keep asking friendly short questions, smile and don’t monopolize their time and you might find some bonuses in your bag before you know it.
• Union Square in Manhattan and Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn are the granddaddies of them all, but that doesn’t mean that you need to schlep out of your way or navigate through the hoards of tourists with their copies of Not for Tourists seeking out Alice Waters or Dan Barber. In fact, the smaller markets will allow you to be more memorable and the personal relationship between you and your food producer is why we go to the farmers market at all, right?
• Bring small bills, your own bags and for the love of god, have fun. The line to pay isn’t a good place to set up a soap box to pontificate on pesticides and colony collapse syndrome. Yes, these things are real and they are terrible but there is exactly nothing your farmer or fellow shoppers can do to change congress and Monsanto so just shop and enjoy your time with the tomatoes.
I’m looking forward to future installments of this column! I now have an excuse to eat oysters from every fish market and bread from all the city’s boulangeries. That will be fun when market season winds down. In the meantime, go find out what a fairy eggplant is while you still can!