Summer is a great time of year for New Yorkers to experience the bounty, color, local fresh food—and community— of our Greenmarket system.
Founded in 1976, this citywide network of farmers markets operated by the nonprofit GrowNYC has 51 locations across five boroughs—many of them open year-round. At the flagship Union Square market, acclaimed chefs sniff, squeeze and select produce alongside home cooks from across cultures.
Here are five tips to inspire your own farm-to-table experiences, along with some favorite markets to discover or revisit:
1. Know Your Farmers and Producers
At the Greenmarkets, you’ll meet farmers, fermenters, beekeepers, fishers and artisanal producers from New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New England, as well as the Empire State. New York City can feel like a small town at these markets, where you can engage an early-rising, hard-working farmer or purveyor in conversation about their fresh, local food and chat up like-minded foodies shopping the same stalls.
2. Shop in Style
Emulate the French and stroll nonchalantly through town with a classic tote overflowing with greens, fresh flowers and the requisite baguette.
The removable, washable linen liner in this Seagrass Market Tote helps keep things chic season after season.
This Wide Market Bag from California’s Leather Studio, crafted with high-quality canvas and finished with hand-embossed leather handles, is perfect for heavy hauls. As for that hunk of fresh-baked bread you tear off on your way home…bon appetit!
3. Read Locally and Beyond
In learning about food justice, sustainable agriculture and how to support a healthy, local, fresh food system, you may want to look to a professional role model like Dan Barber, chef-owner of Manhattan’s Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns (within the nonprofit farm Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture). In The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food, Barber shares his manifesto, which encompasses paying frequent visits to farmers markets and healing the land directly with thoughtful farming.
To get to know the workers behind the locally made, multi-ethnic artisan breads and tortillas you love so much, you can read some of their stories in The Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook: Artisanal Baking from Around the World.
You can also learn the back story on another longtime vendor, Red Jacket Orchards, in Fruitful: Four Seasons of Fresh Fruit Recipes, co-authored by Sarah Huck, who spent summers selling rhubarb, strawberries, apples, plums, apricots, peaches, quinces and pears, and third-generation farmer Brian Nicholson.
4. Keep Your Food Fresh
If you’re shopping at the Greenmarket, you’re likely aware of the ecological campaign to reduce plastic consumption. Here are a few ways to store produce—no disposable wrap in sight:
Herbs: Treat them like flowers, recommends Smithsonian Magazine. Trim their ends, put them in a glass of water and store in the refrigerator. The exception is basil, which should be kept in a glass on the counter away from sunlight, because it will turn black in the refrigerator.
Fruits: To lengthen the life of fruits, store in your refrigerator’s low-moisture drawer, but only with other fruits. (Their high levels of ethylene gas can spoil surrounding vegetables, says Smithsonian.) Remove the fruit and bring it to room temperature before serving.
5. Serve with Style
While the farmers market can engage all your senses, sight reigns supreme—at least on Instagram. If you like to play food photographer at home, you will want to find just the right platters, so your creations will look as beautiful as they taste.
These handmade, colorful spinning disks from Concrete Cat make the perfect backdrop for cheeses, nuts and local honey for dipping. The one-of-a-kind concrete surface keeps things cool and interesting, and the Lazy Susan effect suits a hot summer day under a whirring fan.
To experiment with complementary colors—those opposite each other on the wheel of color theory—arrange a few orange peaches at their luscious summer peak on this Beach Walk Serving Platter. Its sky-blue surface is also a photogenic backdrop for bright berries or mixed tender greens sprinkled with edible flowers.
Finally, here are some favorite greenmarket locations by borough to find the right ingredients to serve and savor:
Brooklyn: Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket
Prospect Park West and Flatbush Ave, Prospect Heights
161st Street and Grand Concourse, Concourse Village
Manhattan: Union Square Greenmarket
North and West Sides of Union Square Park
Queens: Jackson Heights Greenmarket
34th Avenue at 78th St, Jackson Heights
Staten Island: Staten Island Mall Greenmarket
Staten Island Mall, Marsh Avenue and Ring Road, Heartland Village
Photos in order of appearance: GrownNYC, Food 52, GrownNYC, Concrete Cat, Lesouque