Despite humidity and temperature climbing into the 90s, the Union Square Market was packed as ever this Friday and Saturday with shoppers angling for the first flush of greenhouse tomatoes—which will rule for a few more weeks until the real crop shows up. The market in late June can now officially be called a bounty: there is a full selection of lettuces, chards, and other hearty greens; the first broccoli and cauliflower is here; the bunches of herbs are no longer small and babyish but large, flowing, and generous. Strawberries are on their way out, replaced with all manner of cherry, from sour to red and yellow sweet varieties. The first raspberries—still quite tart, to put it nicely—are also appearing, along with small blueberries. Beets are to be found, as well as the first signs of the long season of summer squash/zucchini.
On Friday, my first stop was Berried Treasures, where I found what were probably the best sugar snap peas in the market—a June vegetable that won't be around forever. "Tasting is believing," a nearby sign read, and I noticed lots of believers.
Conuco Farms near New Paltz, New York had one of the most beautiful spreads in the market: bunches of beets in all colors, various squash, broccoli, fresh garlic, and garlic scapes.
Fresh garlic can be used like regular garlic, but the normally papery membranes between cloves can be used, because it's never cured dry like what you'd buy in a grocery store. The flavor is a bit milder. Scapes are a curly part of the plant that farmers used to throw away, until somebody realized they could be chopped and stir-fried, or blended into an intoxicating pesto.
Migliorelli Farms, one of the largest vendors with stands in greenmarkets all over New York, has settled into the long haul of summer with their endless bins of chard, kale, spinach, and any other cook-able green you could imagine. While these vegetables have been around for a month or so, all the bunches are bigger and more generous, especially the herbs, like basil.
Jersey Fresh had the largest spread of tomatoes out of anyone at the market, from cartons of heirloom cherries to plum to traditional round red. They confirmed that they were all grown in greenhouses, but with real soil and not hydroponically, "so you shouldn't be able to tell the difference." That's almost true—they taste great—but there's nothing like a tomato ripened by pure, unadulterated sunshine (those tomatoes are just a few weeks away). They also had an enormous pile of sour red cherries.
My favorite find at the market was Esopus Creek Farm, who have recently started coming on Fridays. They are a part of the Certified Naturally Grown program, an alternative to the USDA's Organic certification, which many feel is not supportive of small, diversified farmers who cannot afford the extensive paperwork and fees (which corporate organic farms can).
Their produce was stunning: heirloom lettuces, bunches of mizuna, and beets. The lettuces were most enticing, especially the speckled Red Leaf lettuce and the Speckled Trout lettuce (an heirloom). I asked what made them choose these particular varieties: was the flavor different? Not really, but they sure are beautiful. "The chefs snapped it up," they said. I'm looking forward to what else they'll have at the market in weeks to come—they specialize in heirloom offerings.
What's in Season
Cherries Raspberries Blueberries Cookable greens (chard, kale, spinach, etc.) Lettuces Herbs Fresh garlic Garlic scapes Broccoli Cauliflower Beets Squash / Zucchini Greenhouse tomatoes Potatoes Radishes
Outdoor Tomatoes Corn Fennel Carrots Lots more berries Onions Peaches