While New York City may be far from an agrarian utopia, there are still many farmers markets open to the public that can provide some form of insight into the food and its original farming process. The Union Square Greenmarket is a fine example of one. This Greenmarket operates on the north and west sides of Union Square Park, and is open Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 8:00 A.M. to 6:00 P.M. There are many different vendors set up around Union Square Greenmarket, and they sell anything from organic red garlic to sheep’s milk soap to lemon catnip plants. One can visit this market for a simple stroll and casual observation session of the people and products, or to sample different foods and speak with the vendors about the farms where the food originates and what to do with it.
One featured vendor at the Union Square Greenmarket is Tremblay Apiaries, a small honey company based in the Fingerlakes region of upstate New York. Away from this small vendor’s stand at the Greenmarket, their 900-square mile apiary hosts 500 beehives. Tremblay produces honey, royal jelly and just about everything that comes out of a beehive. They harvest a variety of honeys throughout the year, and sell seasonal spring, summer and fall honeys. They even offer some single-flower honeys, along with specialty items, such as pollen mixed with honey or beeswax candles. Duane, a friendly vendor for Tremblay Apriaries, recommends eating their stronger-flavored honeys with breads and cereals, and the utilizing the milder ones for teas, fruits and yogurts. Anyone can stop by the Tremblay Apiaries stand at the Union Square Greenmarket to sample the different types of honey and beehive products, and allow the tastes, smells and overall feeling of this stand transport their mind to the dimensions this buzzing apiary 220 miles away from New York City.
For people into artisan alcohol, they can head over to Eve’s Cidery. This particular vendor sells Normandy-style hard cider. Their farm is based in Van Etten, New York, and they grow all of their own fruit for their ciders. Half an hour from the upstate college town of Ithaca, this farm and brewery produces hundreds of varieties of apples, including some cider-specific apples bred in England or France, along normal table apples like Fujis. The vendors at this stand give the customers an option of sampling the finished ciders that are sweet, semi-sweet, semi-dry or dry, depending on their taste. For those who purchase ciders to pair with foods, Danielle from the Eva’s Cidery says, “They pair really well with cheeses, in general, also with poultry and fish. Some of the more tannic ciders pair really well with earthy flavors, like mushrooms, root vegetables, grains, things like that. Some of the sweeter ciders go really well with dairy products, so cheeses, custards, cream sauces, but also can hold up to spicier flavors.” For those who sample the delicious hard ciders and are inspired to create their own concoctions in the facilities of their own apartments, Danielle’s advice is, “It’s really important to focus on sterility, if you want to have a good product that’s not too funky and farmy.”
Even in the most populated city in America, New Yorkers can still make the effort to be creative with their space in order to start some form of garden. Whether small yards, rooftops, balconies or even just windowsills, there are still many options open for city dwellers to grow their own food. This is why a handful of gardening vendors are set up throughout the Greenmarket. In addition to a variety of flowers, these garden vendors offer many edible plants and herbs, such as cucumbers, tomatoes, basil, eggplants, mint and peppers. One such vendor is VanHouten Farms. Jim VanHouten explains that the edible plants that they sell come from a 250-acre Pennsylvania farm where they grow assorted vegetables. Jim has been venturing down to Union Square for the past 36 years. As urban gardening has become more popular in recent years, Jim says that the most commonly-sold edible plants at his stand are tomatoes and peppers. For gardeners in New York City who do not have a lot of space to grow, he recommends starting with a patio tomato. He suggests not to grow this fruit in a small pot, but rather to set it up in a three-gallon container, with a wire tomato cage. For tomato growing, Jim advises, “All they need is… a little tender loving care, including watering, feeding every so often with fertilizer, and plenty of sunshine.” As for his advice to people who garden in NYC, he states, “Well, the food always tastes better if you grow it yourself!”