Based on the gloomy weather and still early-season date, we packed our reusable bags for Union Square over the weekend, home to New York City’s largest farmers' market, but out of curiosity, stopped by the Greenmarket at Grand Army Plaza first. Produce season in Brooklyn was in full swing, and the Park Slopers were out in droves.
April showers brought lilac flowers, which were everywhere. Kernan Farms had bunches, along with some tender green asparagus. And how could we forget about rhubarb! Wilklow Orchards recommends eating the ruby stalks raw, broken in half, and rubbed with cinnamon and sugar. Realizing we’d only had rhubarb chopped, baked, and hidden under inches of pastry crust, we couldn’t help but sneak a bite right then and there. It had an eye-wateringly lemony flavor, with a texture nearly identical to celery. It'd be great sautéed with butter, topped off with Ronnybrook ice cream, which was also at the market. Or the Wilklow Orchards folks suggested having it with oatmeal.
The only ramps to be found were a few measly bunches next to the rhubarb, also at Wilklow’s stand. Apparently the otherwise intrepid alliums couldn’t handle the heat wave last weekend, so this might have been their last week. The Wilklow farmers dissuaded us against our get-rich-quick scheme to plant ramps in the backyard—they’re nearly impossible to grow, and never spread once planted.
This sorrow from this non-rampant ramp news didn’t last long. We were glad to see their cultivated cousins, leeks, at several stands. At Philips Farms, we bought some thick, juicy stalks, which we like baking in the oven with Parmesan, butter, and breadcrumbs.
Philips also had piles of the year’s first spinach, which, with its thick leaves and deeply earthy flavor, tastes nothing like the pre-cut bags at the grocery store all winter.
We had to re-check the calendar when we noticed perfect, shiny tomatoes and a rainbow of bell peppers at Williams Fruit Farm’s stand. But global warming hasn’t become that bad, yet—these veggies were grown hydroponically in a greenhouse by Mountain Fresh Farm. This non-soil growing technique often produces beautiful but bland-tasting veggies, so we decided to hold off until the summer.
Full shopping bags in tow, we slipped behind some trucks to admire Prospect Park in glorious bloom. What did we find but a whole row of hidden farm stands, including Madura Mushrooms, which was selling gorgeously frilled maitakes the size of grapefruits. We had to scrape together our last pennies to buy some, but are sure it will be worth it when we sauté them in a simple soy-butter reduction.
Asparagus is very in season.
As the Brooklyn Food Conference’s marching band paraded through the market, our suspicion that Grand Army Plaza’s market would fall short of Union Square disappeared. Brooklyn takes its local food seriously.
Asparagus Rhubarb Spinach Leeks
Lettuce Radishes Strawberries