Local Produce in February? Farmers’ Market Five!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

In case you missed last week’s post with its science high five, today you have another chance to express your enthusiasm electronically, this time about the winter farmers’ markets here in Greater Boston. Yes, I said Boston. As in Massachusetts. As in the northeastern US. (I specify the location here for the benefit of my non-US readers who are less familiar with the landscape as well as my US readers who are geographically challenged.)

Go ahead, slap the computer screen. (Gently, now…) You know you want to.

Yes, Virginia, There Really Is a Winter Farmers’ Market in Boston

Wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles—which musical, theatre geeks out there?—Boston finally has winter markets. Many other cities have had them for years, including New York, but they weren’t happening in our humble city until recently.

Yeah, baby.  That’s what I’m talking about.

It’s no secret that I love farmers’ markets. I shop there as much as possible for the fresh produce as well as to support local communities and decrease the food miles of my diet.  (It’s also fun!) A number of my posts have dealt directly with the topic, including the school-girl giddiness that occurs each spring in anticipation of the official farm market season and the dreaded depression that accompanies the last day of the season, aka Black Friday for Foodies. (Here are some great photos from the Copley Square Market.) How can you not be excited with all of the fabulous farm-fresh produce at your fingertips? It’s intoxicating!

Watermelon radishes are so named because they look like teeny tiny watermelons.  They add terrific crunch, color, and taste to salads.

Imagine my utter delight when I was able to go to not just one but TWO markets this past weekend on a cold February day, one in Central Square and one in Somerville. (My husband, on the other hand, was all set with just the one.  And by “one” I mean “none,” but the fresh-baked scones are usually enough to lure him out of the house.) I wanted to check out the differences between them, as there are often distinct offerings. In this case in particular, we went to the Cambridge market first, where we hadn’t yet been, but then had to return to the Somerville market to pick up some watermelon radishes, which I adore.  I was so amazed to see them the week before I actually applauded. (Standing O for watermelon radishes! Of course, I was already standing, but you get the point.)

Like a kid in a candy store, I scampered around excitedly from one vendor to the next, successfully completing the vast majority of my weekly food shopping at the two markets. Beyond the smells of freshly brewed coffee and sights of colorful fruits and veggies, the sounds of folk-rock music further heightened my good spirits. A chick with a guitar sang some good tunes at the Cambridge market, including the Indigo Girls’ favorite Closer to Fine.  I needed to literally hold myself back from jumping onstage to provide the harmony for the song given my excitement for the farm market festivities. (But, seriously, who sings that song without two people? That’s just not right, and, furthermore, tortures wandering singers who know the song.)

Carrots and turnips and beets, oh my!

The panoply of winter squashes, potatoes, onions, carrots, turnips, beets, and braising greens was impressive. They were indeed very welcomed alternatives to purchasing the same at the supermarket, which is what usually happens during the New England winter.  A number of farmers also sold greenhouse veggies such as tender baby spinach, creating a lively palate for a farm-market-fresh salad in February (!!!). Unanticipated, however, was the array of apples that had been lovingly stored, providing tasty replacements to the mealy specimens usually procured this time of year in Boston. Finally, a goodly number of vendors purveyed cheeses, eggs, poultry, mushrooms, meats, pasta, bread, nuts, and baked goods.

As if this weren’t enough, both markets had fishmongers selling—wait for it—LOCAL LOBSTER. As in Boston local, not Maine local, which I’ve not come across before.  While these succulent crustaceans were sold out by the time I got there, sadly, I did have an interesting conversation about the lobster market here in New England.  I can’t wait to make my sublime lobster bisque!

So, yes, Viriginia, you can indeed buy local, fresh produce in Boston, even in the middle of winter. And not only are you helping your own health by keeping your diet plate plant-based—assuming you don’t just buy scones and cheese, that is—you are supporting local businesses and contributing to a vibrant community.

It’s okay to go back to the top of this post for a second farmers’ market five at this point. I won’t tell anyone.

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Dr. P.K. Newby is a nutrition scientist, speaker, and author with expertise in all things food, farm to fork, whether preventing obesity and other chronic diseases through diet or teaching planet-conscious eating. As a health expert and food personality, she brings together her passions for food, cooking, science, and sustainability to educate and inspire, helping people eat their way towards better health, one delectable bite at a time. Healthy Hedonism (TM) is her philosophy: Because healthy food shouldn’t suck.

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