NYC’s largest farmers market is open year round Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday from 8 AM to 6 PM sprawling over most of Union Square Park. During peak seasons, more than 250,000 customers visit per week but it wasn’t always this way.
Believe it or not, back in the 1970s, New Yorkers had few fresh produce options with iceberg lettuce, unripe tomatoes, and unseasonable fruits being the norm. Regional farms were going bankrupt and getting paved over. In 1976, twelve farmers took over an empty lot with makeshift produce stalls setting the foundation for a city-wide Greenmarket system that exists today. Now the largest regional food network in the country, this win-win arrangement helps small family farmers stay in business, preserves farmland for future generations, and supplies City neighborhoods and chefs with an ongoing supply of organic or naturally-grown local produce and other farm products.
Stroll through and you’ll see that this market doesn’t just cater to upscale vegetarians. In addition to browsing the over 1,000 varieties of fruits and vegetables including 8 to 10 varieties of potatoes, bushels of heirloom apples and pears, and a mind boggling selection of mixed greens like mesclun, red mustard, arugala, tat-soi, bok choy, broccoli raab, and broccoli sprouts, prime cuts of grass-fed beef and pork, breakfast sausage, pork chops, and spare ribs await. Try pairing some gourmet brick oven bread, sunflower millet, sour seeded rye, or exotic Focaccia with artisan farmstead cheeses like Brigid’s Abbey (a nutty Belgian Trappist). For some extra energy at breakfast, take home some maple or cinnamon butter, fine honey from the Albany-Saratoga region, or a poppy-prune coffee cake.
Best of all, you’ll get a chance to meet the farmers behind it all at your own pace and know that unsold produce is donated to City Harvest, a cooperative that distributes food citywide to pantries and soup kitchens.