I was recently given a copy of The New Greenmarket Cookbook, by Gabrielle Langholtz and GrowNYC to review. Aside from the seasonal recipes, what I really love about this cookbook is the historical documentation of how farmers markets were developed in NYC and how these markets have changed our lives and fueled the movement to eating farm-fresh whole foods, not just in NYC, but across the U.S.
Reprinted with permission from Da Capo Lifelong, (c) 2014
The impact of the industrialized agriculture post World War II
Beginning in the 1950's until the mid 70's, two thirds of New York state farms went out of business, many of them small multi-generational family businesses. At the same time, New York city dwellers were fed by the imported foods produced by large-scale industrialized agriculture. Much of this produce was picked before ripe and shipped in from great distances, resulting in limited choices and subpar-quality fruits and vegetables.
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Farmer's markets save small farms and elevate quality of produce
In 1974 a city planner by the name of Barry Benepe found a way to help New York's farmers and NYC residents, by bringing farmers and their produce to NYC. The first market, located next to the Queensboro Bridge, was such an overwhelming success it was discussed on the Ed Sullivan show. This original market has now grown to more than 50 markets across the city. The GrowNYC's Greenmarket program is now an indispensable source of seasonal, farm-fresh food for individual New Yorkers as well as New York's chefs, who have seized upon the benefits of farm-to-table cuisine.
U. S. farmers markets now generate $7 billion dollars annually at more than 8,000 farmers market locations in the U.S. The results are consumers have access to a wide variety of farm-fresh, nutrient-rich produce, and small farmers have found a way to compete with industrialized agriculture. Farmers markets provide a way to connect with the people who grow the food you eat and to learn more about the food we eat. Farmers markets give you the opportunity to do as as Michael Pollan says, "Shake the hands that feed you."
Who doesn't enjoy a walk through a farmers market?
If you are like me, you love farmers markets. I enjoy shopping at farmers markets near my home, but I really love to go to farmers markets and public markets when I travel. Visiting markets gives me a more intimate look at the local culture as well as inspiration for new recipes. Sometimes this creates problems for me when I discover really great products but am staying in a hotel without a kitchen and have nowhere to cook my great finds. Even without a kitchen, I can usually find some fresh fruit, local spices or regional cheese that I can't resist.
Some of my favorite farmers and public markets
President Wilson's in Paris (also called Marché du Pont de l'Alma) - is a fabulously long market that stocks everything from fresh fruits and vegetables, to flowers, to foie gras, to seasoned sea salt. Here is a picture of my daughter Lauren and a charming sea salt vendor who told us his name was George Clooney. He was so charming we bought a dozen of his products! Pike's Place Market in Seattle - Fresh flowers, produce and hand-crafted cheese are plentiful, but the real treasure is the amazing seafood.
The Great Market Hall in Budapest - This is the place to buy paprika and dried peppers, as well as these beautiful jarred vegetables.
Melbourne's Queen Victoria Market - Highly unusual "down under" specialties such as kangaroo salami and vegemite ice cream are some of the more interesting items. The Australians have many great markets and have a high regard for farm-fresh produce.
Borough Market in London - Where all manner of wonderful things can be bought if you can only make it through the crowds.
Don't forget to check out the cute florist under the bridge that was filmed in the Harry Potter movies.
Street markets in Hong Kong - are not for the faint of heart. The fish are often alive and no animal part goes unused.
But you have to admire the meticulous care the vendors give their produce.
Thai street markets - the street markets in Thailand are plentiful and packed with beautiful fruits, vegetables and the ever-present Thai chilis.
And the vendors take great pride in their exotic products like these pig parts smoked in Chinese 5-spice.
Launiupoko farmers market on Maui - This small band of farmers offer wonderful island produce and hand-crafted foods, including the most amazing egg salad sandwich I have ever eaten. The husband and wife farmers raise the chickens, grow the lettuce and tomatoes, bake the squaw bread and even make the pickles. So ono!