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Farmers Markets: Which Ones Are Your Favorite?

Buzz Poole
04/19/2011 - 10:00

It’s no secret that a way to the heart of a culture is through the stomach. Flavors and culinary habits of nations and regions provide authentic tastes and insights into how the locals live. Restaurants, roadside vendors and home cooks offer up different types of food-related experiences, but what they all share in common is the need to source their menus from their markets of choice.

I’m really lucky. I live a short stroll away from the Jackson Heights, Queens, farmers market, the borough’s only year-round market. This past winter was the first one during which the farmers braved the cold and snow to bring the neighborhood local foodstuffs, from cheese to bread, dairy mushrooms, squash, wine, meat aplenty and organic greenhouse produce. While not as big as the Union Square market, the Jackson Heights branch attracts an equally dedicated group of vendors and regulars who come together on a weekly basis in the name of local, sustainable food. An urban jungle, yes, New York City has really grown its Greenmarket program as Americans re-discover the joys of supporting fresh and local foodstuffs, today boasting fifty-four markets and about 230 family farms and fishermen.

In London, the market to end all markets is Borough Market, which is steeped in some serious history according to its website: “As far back as 1014, and probably much earlier, London Bridge attracted traders selling grain, fish, vegetables and livestock. In the 13th century traders were relocated to what is now Borough High Street and a market has existed there ever since.” I can tell you from experience that a visit here will get your saliva glands working overtime. Fresh seafood served in clam shells, cured grass-fed meats, mountains of produce and artisanal baked goods and countless variations of prepared foods that echo the city’s eclectic citizenry.

Not as old, but just as richly infused with elements of international cuisine, Honolulu’s Kapi ‘Olani Community College Saturday market is a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to tropical climate yields jungles of fresh herbs and leafy veggies, not to mention juicy fruits. The brilliant combination of Japanese, Thai, Micronesian, Chinese and Vietnamese cooking traditions with staples of Americana like burgers, hot dogs, pizza and popsicles is divine. And because of the island’s climate, the growing season runs year-round, ensuring new tastes and flavors on a weekly basis.

Of course, the world is peppered with exceptional markets that specialize in local, seasonal food - many of which are set up so you buy directly from the farmers and vendors that prepare the food. What are some of your favorites?

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