Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Farmers' Markets in and around the District

I was lucky to grow up with parents who love fresh, local fruits and vegetables. We have a big garden in my parents' backyard with tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, hot peppers. You name it, we've got it growing out back. Therefore, I grew up eating sun-kissed tomatoes, picking fresh blueberries for Sunday morning pancakes, and eating blackberries until my mouth turned a deep blue. I also spent my youth watching my amazing Aunt create a restaurant that prides itself on only using fresh local ingredients. So, I developed an appreciation for fresh food at a young age.

My parents' backyard- see that giant bush by the pool shed?
Yeah, that's our "small" blueberry bush.

Growing up in Maine, there was also a plenitude of farm stands and farmers' markets that I'd drive out to with my mom. She always thought it was well worth a 25-minute drive out to a farm to buy fresh corn for dinner than to go to the grocery store down the street. And, in some parts of Maine farm stands run solely on an honor system. Yes, we are really that adorable in my home state (thank you bachelorette Ashley for bringing Maine nation wide attention about this and giving me the opportunity to feature a clip of the ABC's the Bachelorette on this blog...start watching at 5:15): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QlgzPmJQOqo

So, when I moved to D.C. in August 2010 and was staying with my friend in Arlington, I woke her up early the morning after I arrived (a Saturday) and dragged her across the street to the farmers' market. Then I was ecstatic when I moved into my Georgetown apartment a few weeks later and discovered the Glover Park/ Burleith Farmers' Market was literally a block away. Nearly two years later, one of my favorite things to do on a Saturday morning is to wake up early, stop at Starbucks and walk over to the farmers market. Or, alternatively, head over to Eastern Market on a lazy Sunday for brunch, then poke around at the different stands, and walk away with a variety of fresh, local goodies for dinner.

But what are the details of all these farmers' markets? Where are the various markets located? What are the crowds like? Is the produce fresh? Reasonably priced? Worth the hassle rather than just going to a one-stop shop like Safeway, Harris Teeter, or Whole Foods?

That's where I come in (along with some help from my fellow Gamma Girls). Below is a comprehensive list of D.C. area farmers markets. I'm sure I'm missing a few--- so feel free to add to my list in the comments section.

Please read on for more details about each individual farmers market:

Dupont Circle Fresh Farm Market
(20th Street NW between Massachusetts and Connecticut Avenues)
8:30AM-1:00PM, Sundays

The Dupont farmers' market is one of the largest in the District. I've never not run into someone I know. It's both neighborhoody and easily metro accessible (even though the red line does blow on the weekends). I would advise arriving on the earlier side. It gets very crowded and most stands are pretty bare by noon. This farmers market features more than 40 farmers offering fruits and vegetables, meat, poultry, fish, cheeses, fruit pies, breads, fresh pasta, potted plants, soaps and herbal products. Everything is always extremely fresh. My only issue is that sometimes when a stands has cut fruit out to sample it gets a little gross in the hot summer sun and attracts flies. However, if you stick to buying the fruit rather than sampling the fruit, you should be all set. There are also quite a few flower stands! And anyone who knows me knows that fresh flowers always make me happy.


Arlington County Farmers' Market
(North 14th Street & North Courthouse Rd)
8:00AM-12:00PM Saturdays only 

Yummmmm...look at all those fresh, delicious tomatoe
I mentioned this farmers' market in my intro. It's located in the heart of the Court House neighborhood in Arlington. Again, I suggest arriving early. This way you can avoid the crowds and you can easily find parking. However, if you arrive on the later side, there's a parking garage 1/2 block away that is reasonably priced. It is also one block from the Court House metro. I love the cheese stand at this market. Oh oh oh and the specialty lettuce stand. Yum, delicious. After you stock up on your goodies, walk across Wilson Blvd to Brooklyn Bagel Bakery. I dated someone from NYC for many years. As such, I developed a true snobbery for NY bagels. And the bagels at Brooklyn Bagels are legit. Need proof? Just check out the line that sometimes goes out the door and around the corner, and you'll see just how popular
this place is.

Glover Park-Burleith Farmers' Market
(Wisconsin Avenue and 34th Street, NW, Hardy Middle School parking lot)
9:00AM-1:00PM, Saturdays 

This is my favorite farmers' market. Granted, I'm biased because it's my neighborhood farmers' market, but I'm not alone. This market was voted the #1 Farmers' Market in D.C. in 2011. Why? I think it's because it is just so darn adorable. This market is on the smaller side but it's so neighbhorhoody. Each week there are games set up for children, people stroll through with their dogs on leashes, and there's always at least one food truck that pulls up to offer additional food options. There's usually a local band playing fun music, and often times local chefs will host different demos. This farmers' market is also hugely convenient for local residents because it's literally across the street from the Social Safeway. Here's what I do: I stop at the farmers' market first, buy my local produce, and then walk across the street to finish up my shopping at Safeway.


Ballston Farmers' Market
(N. Stuart and 9th Street)
11:00AM-3:00PM, Thursdays

Are your weekends too busy to get over to a farmers' market? The Ballston Farmers' Market is one of many markets that are mid-week. It's smaller than some of the weekend markets, but many of the same farmers have stands at this market. And it's a great excuse to take an extra long lunch break because Rustico is located right around the block and has delicious food.


Fresh Farm Market by the White House
(Vermont Avenue between H and I streets, NW)
11:00AM-2:30PM, Thursdays

One of the reasons why it's so fun to live in our great city is that you're constantly rubbing elbows with politicians, famous news reporters, and administration officials because they call Washington home, too. They live here. We live here. Want to scope out the freshest, ripest tomato with Jacob Lew? Well, then this is the farmers market for you. It's located right by the White House, and thus, attracts many administration officials. In addition to local fruits and vegetables, this market also features many types of meats, artisan cheeses, baked goods, and even organic, homemade yogurt. Again, it's mid-week, which is a great way to break up your long workday. I've never been but my friends who work downtown swear by it. In fact, many go there for lunch each Thursday.


Adams Morgan Farmers' Market (Written by Samantha Says)
(Columbia Road and 18th Street NW)
8:00AM-1:30PM, Saturdays

Because I'm more of a "I don't get out of bed until noon because I usually have a hot man with me" type of gal, you can bet your sorry ass that there are only two things that get me out of bed to go to a farmers market. The first is coffee. The second is brunch. That said, I've walked through the Adams Morgan farmers' market, and I guess it seems okay. I mean, I don't cook so I would never buy fresh fruit or vegetables. But maybe I'd buy cheese. Anyway, the produce looks fresh and it's always crowded, so I guess it's something I'd recommend checking out. Especially if you're a crazy fuck like Kate and wake up at the ass crack of dawn. Did you know that Kate also goes to church on Sunday mornings? Yeah, don't worry-- I question why I'm friends with her sometimes, too.


Crystal City Fresh Farm Market (written by Capital Katie)
(Crystal Drive between 18th and 20th Streets)
3:00PM-7:00PM, Tuesdays

The Crystal City Farmers Market crops up every Tuesday afternoon/evening in the summer. And I really mean "crops up" -- some of the freshest, juiciest produce I've ever eaten has come from the local farmers who set up tents in the two-block stretch from 18th to 20th on Crystal Drive. Of course, while the tomatoes I've purchased at this farmers market are by far the best tomatoes I've ever eaten, produce isn't the only thing for sale. You can also find a variety of meats, cheeses, local honey and breads at the market. And the selection of sauces and jellies from Bigg Riggs' farm are a can't-miss -- once you've smeared your morning toast with their Peachberry jelly, you won't go back to regular grape jelly ever again. In my opinion, the Crystal City farmers market bests other markets in the area because its location lends itself to being less crowded, so the food selection is less picked-over. Additionally, the ever-so-slightly-closer proximity to Virginia's farms means some vendors who aren't willing to brave the traffic into D.C. proper actually do set up shop in Crystal City, so you have a different/better selection there as well. There's less variety as far as tents go -- you won't find clothing or accessory vendors, for example -- but it's still a worthy market to visit.


Capital Harvest on the Plaza (written by Jules)
(1300 Pennsylvania Avenue in the Woodrow Wilson Plaza at the Ronald Reagan Building) 1
1:00AM-3:00PM, Fridays

The Woodrow Wilson Plaza at the Ronald Reagan Building is known for its summertime concert series, the free daily performances that take place at lunchtime and include African dance, Celtic folk songs, jazz violin, hip hop, Latin swing and pop rock. And on Fridays, nearby workers and visitors have even more incentive to pay the Plaza a visit: the Capital Harvest on the Plaza (CHoP). CHoP is a free, public event that brandishes the slogan E-I-EI-O, which stands for eco-friendly, informative, entertaining, interactive and original. CHoP provides a convenient downtown gathering place where market-goers can learn about food, agriculture and nutrition, as well as purchase farm-fresh produce, flowers, handicrafts, and baked goods directly from local merchants. Other attractions include an information booth stocked with recipes as well as tips on healthy living and composting, and a booth featuring fresh and healthy prepared foods for those on the go. In addition to the offerings of the marketplace, CHoP also features live cooking demonstrations. Each week, local celebrity chefs create dishes incorporating produce available at the Market, which market-goers are able to sample (and then, if they’re brave, attempt to recreate with a recipe they can take home). This year’s lineup includes Chef Todd Gray of Equinox Restaurant, Chef Peter Smith of PS7’s and Chef Xavier Deshayes of the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center.


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Still need more motivation? Here's two pictures of dinners I made with fresh produce I purchased this weekend at farmers' markets. Both were perfect for this hot, muggy weather we've been experiencing (and, yes, part of the reason why I'm posting these photos is that I'm slightly obsessed with instagram these days).
cucumber and "ugly" tomato salad paired with
grilled peaches and shrimp

grilled shrimp and tomato tossed with EVOO and gluten free pasta


While it's true that you're definitely going to pay more at a farmers' market than at a grocery store, fresh produce last longer, tastes better, and the markets support local farmers.

Plus, it's all about the experience, people. Moseying around an outdoor market with a cup of coffee is much more fun than being inside a grocery store.

Now get out there and explore all the great farmers' markets available in and around the District!

6 comments:

  1. Silver Spring also has a farmer's market which is year round: http://freshfarmmarkets.org/farmers_markets/markets/silver_spring.php

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  2. I'm a fan of the Takoma Park farmer's market, for those who live out that way.

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  3. H St has a wonderful Freshfarm Market(same company as Dupont Market) on Saturday mornings from 9-12pm. Also, FYI Eastern Market is not a producer's only market -- meaning that it is quite possible that the produce you buy there comes from Mexico or half way across the country. They actually are addressing that by adding a new Tuesday afternoon producer's market!

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  4. Thanks for sharing additional farmers' markets and info! Greatly appreciated :)

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  5. Every Wednesday from 3-7 p.m. in April to October, Foggy Bottom has a farmer's market set up in the hospital courtyard, near H and 24th St. NW: http://www.freshfarmmarkets.org/farmers_markets/markets/foggy_bottom.php


    The courtyard is the one directly outside of the Foggy Bottom metro stop, so it is metro accessible. In addition to fresh fruits and veggies, there are also fresh flowers, honey, breads, and gelato (with free samples)! There are also pre-cooked foods, if you're moseying home from work and want to buy some delicious dinner! As far as I know, the soups, empanadas, and steamed dumplings are legit--as long as you don't mind having to mingle with the feral looking doctors and med. students who have emerged from their sleep-deprived caves in the hospital to buy dinner too. :)

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  6. Oops...the hospital I referenced is the George Washington Hospital.

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