Market Scene: Union Square Greenmarket

Market Scene: NY

Snapshots from the farmers market.

"Sorry, Dan Barber, but the greenhouse-grown raspberries were absolutely delicious."

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Greenhouse-grown raspberries from Fruit Valley Orchard in Oswego, New York

We headed back to the Union Square Greenmarket this weekend, mainly to pick up some sheep's milk ricotta from Valley Shepherd Creamery. Sheep's milk has a higher fat content than cow's milk, and a sweet, vanilla milkshake-like flavor that makes for exceptional creamy cheeses.

We weren't expecting to find much different from last week, as spring remains in full swing and summer produce isn't out yet. But the Union Square vendors had some items we had never even tried before.

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At Terhune Farm's stand, we spent a horrifying amount of money on wild asparagus. Our gardener friend suspected it was no different from normal asparagus, but some research confirmed that we hadn't been duped. Wild asparagus is sweet and delicate, and the ones we bought were particularly un-woody.

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Burdock kimpira is one of our favorite Japanese appetizers, but we'd never before confronted the root in all its foot-and-a-half-long, charcoal-colored glory. The folks at D'Attolico farms recommend a hot burdock tea, which they say will "clean you right out," and have a nice nutty flavor to boot. Feeling clean enough, we'll stick with the kimpira, which involves cutting the burdock into matchsticks and wok-frying it with mirin and sesame oil.

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Things started getting interesting at the Paffenroth farm, which had stinging nettles and "lambsquarters." We've had tasty nettle cheese at Valley Shepherd, but never seen the actual plant before, and were a little intimidated. A sign that warned that handling the nettle would cause itching, not to mention the word "stinging," scared us away from the fuzzy green leaves.

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We were a bit braver when snatching up the very last bunch of lambsquarters, otherwise known as wild spinach, that's supposed to be tastier and richer in vitamins than its cultivated cousins.

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Pea shoots

The crazy wild greens abounded at Gorzynsky farm--mizuna, yellow dock, comfrey, mugwart, and chickweed, among others. We brought home several bunches of pea shoots, which the farmer suggested serving raw, to preserve their fresh, sweet flavor and attractive leaves, and shallot cress, which would be tasty in an omelet to showcase the oniony flavor.

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Upon leaving the market, we came across the infamous greenhouse-grown raspberries, which both Dan Barber and Peter Hoffman mentioned at the Brooklyn Food Conference last weekend. Barber mentioned them as an example that, "even if it's at the Greenmarket doesn't mean it's the best choice," because the raspberries were grown in a fossil fuel-guzzling, heated greenhouse.

Barber had continued to discuss the inextricability of sustainable growing practices and quality of food, claiming, "I've never met a delicious carrot that didn't have a good ecological history." We gave the raspberry farmer a dirty look and headed for the subway, but our curiosity got the best of us, and backtracked to buy a $6.50 box. Sorry, Dan Barber, but the greenhouse-grown raspberries were absolutely delicious.