The Greenmarkets are a city-sponsored program designed to help regional farmers stay in business and give city residents access to fresh produce. The program started in 1976 and today nearly 50 Greenmarkets are located throughout the city on selected days during the growing season. The rules say that “all items must be grown, raised, foraged, caught, or otherwise produced by the seller.”
For many New Yorkers, the Greenmarkets are our only opportunity to interact with farmers, so every shopping trip becomes an education — for both buyer and seller. Many Greenmarket farmers have learned that we are happy to try new and exotic items, so, as the seasons change, the tables often feature products rarely (if ever) sold in most supermarkets: tiny lavender and white striped eggplant, cucumbers the size and color of ripe lemons, stalks of ivory-white rhubarb, baby golden-hued beets, pale green fiddlehead ferns, shiny, chocolate-brown peppers, deep blue fingerling potatoes, knishes stuffed with black beans and corn, ginger-flavored lumps of maple sugar, goat cheese studded with caraway seeds, red, yellow and orange nasturtium flowers and Japanese turnips sweet enough to be eaten raw like apples.
On summer Saturdays a Greenmarket operates on the plaza in front of Brooklyn Borough Hall and the Federal Courthouse. A bustling, green oasis in the middle of one of Brooklyn’s busiest areas, it is a movable community — a place where, once a week, the hustle and noise of the city seem to fade while people gather to snack on a fresh-baked cookie, search for the perfect centerpiece, exchange cooking hints, flirt and gossip.
This is a perfect, clear Saturday and season’s gorgeous, delicious bounty is filling the plaza. Sweet corn on the cob, crispy green peppers, tree-ripened peaches, fragrant raspberries, gigantic, bulbous leeks, carefully-packaged green and yellow squash blossoms and delicate, curling tendrils of garlic shoots are displayed next to stands filled with fresh baked goods, herbs and flowers, fish, meat, poultry, honey, eggs and cheese.
The turkey farmer was sizzling samples of his homemade sausage on a grill. At a bakery stand, a tray of broken cookies was available for sampling. A farmer who specializes in fruit spread her homemade jam on crackers and artfully arranged them on a paper plate while a girl nearby set out slices of ripe, juicy peaches. It was impossible not to taste and buy, taste and buy, taste and buy.