Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Good Ideas from the Union Square Greenmarket

With beautiful, classic skyscrapers surrounding us, I had an inspiring visit to New York's Union Square Greenmarket last Saturday.  Despite the steamy 94°F weather, the crowds were thick, curious, and seemed genuinely at peace with the oppressive heat.

This was my second visit to the Union Square Greenmarket.  My first visit in 2010 was just a quick zip in, zip out affair so I vowed that on my next visit I would take my time.  And take my time I did.

The market is one of my favourites in New York.  It has a huge number of vendors and a truly urban feel and it seems I'm not the only one who shares this opinion.  According to many of New York's visitor guides and our concierge, the market has its share of chef sightings, celebrity or otherwise who visit the market to load up on fresh, locavore goodies.  Since the market is open year-round and four days per week who knows whom you may encounter?  You may want to pack your camera and autograph book along with your cloth bags!

The market occupies the entirety of Union Square which is snuggled between Greenwich Village and Gramercy Park in Manhattan's Midtown South Central area. Near the market are hundreds of interesting and eclectic shops and restaurants so if you have the time you can make it a day to explore, provided of course your arms aren't loaded down with goodies from the market.  When you're ready for a change of scenery, you can retreat to the  beautiful, non-smoking Union Square park to chill out but if you'd like to do more shopping it's just a short a cab ride away to all the buzz in Soho.

Recipes from the Grow NYC stand

The brains behind the market's calm façade is not-for-profit, Grow NYC.  I love how they've transformed their network of farmers' markets into vibrant community meeting places with innovative programmes like community gardens, youth education, on-site clothing recycling drop off and composting, and "Stop 'N' Swap" to name a few.

My favourite of their programmes is Health Bucks for anyone who receives groceries from America's publicly funded Food Stamps programme.  Here's how it works:  for every $5 worth of Food Stamps a buyer spends at a Farmer's Market stand, he or she will receive $2 of Food Bucks redeemable towards the purchase of products from any of the participating vendors. I think it's an enlightened way to provide fresh food to those who wouldn't normally have the resources to buy it and support local farmers at the same time.  Maybe we should be doing the same thing with our Food Banks?
Tundra Ale. Hubby's favourite stand.

In all, we spent a leisurely hour or two poking around and talking to the many busy, engaging vendors. We bought some raspberries that were so good we gobbled them down on the spot and some sweet, little pink sugar plums that we munched in our hotel room later in the day.  I brought home some superb goat cheese, popcorn, and a bag of wild garlic orzo which I plan to whip up for guests once it cools off a bit.

Hubby discovered his own goodies too:  ale from Tundra Brewery.  True to their locavore claims, they grow their hops and barley on their own New York farm and the honey they use to sweeten their ale is sourced from the neighbours.  Hubby reported that the ale was very good ale indeed.  

I left the market inspired, filled with ideas, and wishing we had booked an hotel room with a kitchen so I could have bought and cooked what we saw that day.

The next time we visit New York I think I'll do just that!
Union Square Park.  A calm retreat from all the market hub bub

Gracious (soon to be married) vendors from Conuco Farm


Iron Chef Bobby Flay and a lucky Knoll Krest Farm hen


Anonymous said...

Pretty cool when people from far away come to see what New Yorkers do when it comes to food shopping in our markets and neighborhoods.


Anonymous said...

For all that there is much that is bad with american fast food they really have some of the best fresh food markets in the world!

Gustia said...

You said it.