It's hard to miss Berried Treasures at the Union Square Greenmarket. If their colorful sign and picture-perfect produce doesn't get your attention, then surely Franca Tantillo, a Staten Island native who runs the farm and works the stand at the market, will. A former nurse and nutritionist and now first generation farmer, Tantillo has been running her farm in Cooks Falls, NY in the western Catskills for 25 years.
"I got tired of pushing vitamins and minerals on people and put them in my soil," she says, explaining that the minerals are what makes her produce so delicious. "It's the mineral that matters. The higher the mineral, the higher the sugar content." Indeed, Tantillo's crops are supplemented with all kinds of minerals from chicken manure to seaweed spray. Whatever she's putting in that soil, it's working. Berried Treasures is not a certified organic farm—"organic is an empty word," Tantillo says—but their practices are organic.
Berried Treasures has been at the Greenmarket since 1985 when, according to Tantillo, "we were coming in and kicking out the drug addicts" in the park. Since then, Union Square has changed, but many of the same customers are still coming to the Greenmarket for Tantillo's transcendent produce. In addition to her regular customers, many of the city's finest restaurants buy from Berried Treasures. Kate Galassi, a food buyer for The Spotted Pig and The Breslin, buys produce for the restaurants from Berried Treasures religiously. "I'd love to say we buy from Franca because she's organic but it's all about the flavor. And I like it that she focuses on the things she focuses on: rather than having 50 different things, she's got unbelievable strawberries, unbelievable potatoes, unbelievable English peas."
Not sure if Tantillo's produce is worth the money? "I just want you to taste one," she implores her customers. "That's my big thing. I want everybody to taste everything. Tasting is believing." So stop by, have a taste. What have you got to lose?
Berried Treasures is at the Union Square Greenmarket on Wednesdays and Fridays and at the 77th Street and Columbus Avenue Greenmarket on Sundays.