12 years ago I started my first culinary job. I was working at Union Square Cafe, restaurateur Danny Meyer's original New York City restaurant. While I was there, I learned how to make ice cream and sorbets, puff pastries, many different kind of breads, souffles, and many kind of plated desserts - all from scratch. Not only did I learn by doing, but my love for food began to grow by observing. Memorably, I watched the chef select the most beautiful fruits and veggies from Union Square Greenmarket. It impressed on me that the most delicious food comes from as close to its origin as possible. Of course, in the case of fruits and vegetables, the source is nature.
We would have these beautiful heirloom tomatoes in the summer, the most gorgeous kabocha squash during the fall, and different kinds of citrus fruit in the winter. The variety of citrus alone was wonderful - including meyer lemons, blood oranges, and tangerines. Lemon tart in February anyone?
Needless to say, Farmers' Markets have become my go-to, the original supermarket in the open air. It's a blessing for buying ingredients whenever I need to cook or bake. So when I moved to Westchester County (which some of my friends called it upstate!) on top of my list of Google searches were local Farmer's Market and good restaurants.
But be prepared to know what's in season before heading to your local Farmers' Market because you may not get those juicy white peaches in the middle of January! We found a great resource on how to find what's in season in your state.
Here are what to expect when visiting Farmers' Market:
1. You will get fruits, vegetables, and flowers within season. Produce vendors at Farmer's Market are typically... farmers. So they sell what they harvest. By buying anything in season, you will guaranteed get the best flavors and reap the most health benefits from its produce. Generally, anything with Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) will not be at their booth.
2. You will meet small business owners. Ever wonder who bakes those crunchy baguettes, or makes those yummy blueberry pies? People who sell at the farmers market are usually bakers, jam makers, dairy farmers, butchers, or gardeners. They either own a bakery, a farm, a coffee shop, or a beauty products business. So feel free to ask questions about their product, their ingredients, or their methods. If you are very very lucky, you may get some tips or even get invited to their farm!
3. Fruits and veggies are stacked in wooden crates, and the customers often bring their own canvas shopping bags. That means less plastic waste, which is hopefully helpful to our sea turtles and other sea animals from affected by eating plastic bags in the oceans.
4. You will feel the warmth of sunny days during summer, and the nice breeze of October wind. You don't have to suffer from frostbite, or bring a sweater around with you on a 92 degree day, just in case the local supermarket is as cold as a walk-in refrigerator.
5. Your baked goods will be handmade. They will likely be made without preservatives. Many farmers market organizers have very strict rules about baked goods, or ready to eat food they sell. Some of the rules I've seen include no preservatives, no artificial ingredients, and non-GMO ingredients.
6. You will see many interesting, unique, and beautiful products. Tomatoes will be in so many different colors and shape, and your kale will have different shades of green. So it's perfectly normal to get baked goods with slightly different shapes and sizes. Because they are not made in a factory which every single bread or cookie looks exactly the same and have the exact same size from one another.
It is thanks to organizers like Greenmarket co, Morning Glory Market, or Downtoearth Market, and many others, that we have this special place. They are the ones who promote the farmers' market's existence in their communities.
To eat whole foods literally start by choosing your ingredients!
Here are some lovely farmers' market I recommend visiting, which are local to where Hey Mama Kitchen is headquartered. Hope to see you there!
1. Union Square Green Market. 8am-5pm Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays year round.
2. Bronxville Farmer's Market. 8:30am-1pm Saturdays, Seasonal.
3. Rye's Down to Earth Farmers Market. 8:30am-2pm Sundays, Seasonal.
4. Pleasantville Farmers Market. 8:30am-1pm Saturdays, Seasonal.
5. Muscoot Farm Farmers Market. 9:30am-2:30pm Sundays, Seasonal.
6. The New York Botanical Garden Farmers Market. 9am-3pm. Wednesdays. Seasonal.