I grew up in New Jersey, also known as The Garden State. Outsiders may love to tell jokes about the Turnpike, but insiders know that come August, we grow the sweetest corn and lushest tomatoes. But, other than that one month, and those two vegetables, I don’t remember eating locally-grown produce. In fact I never thought about vegetables. Iceberg lettuce and frozen peas, perhaps some fresh string beans once in a while, was the normal standard. Broccoli was eschewed.
Fast forward past Alice Waters and The Moosewood Cookbook, and the multitude of studies confirming that virtually everything green is healthy and low in fat. And never have vegetables been more celebrated, especially if they come straight from the farm.
In Manhattan, where growing patches are rare, the city sponsors Farmers’ Markets. At Union Square, which sits between 14th and 17th Streets, the Saturday market brings a stampede of locals, who scoop up whatever happens to be in season.
Any farm or business that grows its own produce, or raises its own animals, or makes its own bread and cheese, is eligible to participate.
And since spring has arrived, so have tables laden with ramps, scallions, leeks and asparagus, onion chives and garlic chives, and pots and pots of every herb under the sun. There aren’t enough meals available to eat it all.
Even if you’re not buying, it’s fun looking at all the other stuff – the beds of petunias and the buckets of blossoms; the lamb sausage and ham hocks: