Last week many farmers' markets opened for the season around Boston. Shoppers were out in large numbers welcoming their favorite farmers back to the city. And, everyone was pleased that a combination of great growing weather and agricultural shelter systems brought more early crops to market.
For me, a full week of market-hopping began in Jamaica Plain (map) on Saturday. My quest was for local tomato plants. This is the location of Stillman's at the Turkey Farm's meat CSA pick-up. Since the farm had other items ready to sell, they set up a mini-market.
Stillman's had a great selection of heirloom tomato seedlings. And, like other shoppers, I was buying local, following the advice of UMassExtention's late blight alert report. The state's experts said: "Tomato plants started from seed locally (in the Northeast) will be free of the disease. Growing your own transplants from seed or purchasing from a reputable local grower will ensure a healthy start to the season for your customers and local farms." Last year many farms in the area lost some or all of their tomato and potato crops to this disease.
Sunday the SoWa Open Market (map) in Boston's South End brought another group of farmers and specialty food producers to the city. Herbs, greens, olive oil, cheese and pastry were the stars. Andy Pollock from Silverbrook Farm was offering customers samples of pea tendrils and cat tails; new foods to some shoppers.
Tuesday the big market at Copley Square (map) opened for the season. Atlas Farm surprised me with early strawberries and cucumbers. All around the market, farms had plenty of salad greens, radishes, and sauteing greens.
A new vendor, Narragansett Creamery was welcomed to the market by large crowds ready to sample and purchase their Italian and Latino cheeses. I was thrilled to find this great source for Queso Fresco and brought a round home to sprinkle on everything from tacos to fruit.
Wednesday a new market opened at Cambridge Center (map) near the Kendall/MIT MBTA stop. Mother nature poured rain on their premier. But, workers, residents, and the crowd from the MIT campus cleaned some vendors out of their goods. When I heard that Warner Farm was late arriving at the market because they were still out picking organic asparagus, I knew what I was going to have for supper. A big bunch came home with me and never saw the inside of a refrigerator.
Thursday was the first market day for the vendors at the Prudential Center. (map) This market, set in the middle of a mixed retail, business, and residential area is becoming known as a place where you can pick up lunch and do your food shopping at the same time. Returning vendor Nella Pasta, welcomed newcomers like Lawton Family Farm and Samira's Homemade. Lunch for me was authentic Egyptian and Lebanese food from Samira: fava bean hummus and baba ganoush on oven-fresh pita.
Local honey is one of my kitchen mainstays. Springbrook Farm had a good supply of honey along with baskets of fiddlehead ferns and bags of their popular caramel popcorn. This is a genuine family farm. Springbrook has been in the same family and in continuous operation since 1713. This is their 297th growing season.
Friday I made it back to Copley Square. That market is open two days a week. The only day I didn't visit a market was Monday. This week, the Boston City Hall Plaza (map) and Cambridge Central Square (map) Monday markets will open, which means I'll be within easy reach of fresh, local food seven days a week.
Seasonal Produce Guide
In Season Right This Minute
Annual & vegetable plants
Hoop House Strawberries
About the author: Publisher of BostonZest.com, Penny Cherubino is a perpetual student of food, wine, cheese and the good things in life. She loves cooking, dining out and being part of the Boston food community.