Rant: When You Get Bad Food in A Green Market
Yesterday, I visited one of my local greenmarkets in Westfield NJ (the other is in Scotch Plains). Both are on a small scale, maybe 8 stands total but serve their purpose quite well for our small towns.
In the past I bought pies from one of the farmers which were wonderful. I decided to try them from the amish vendor this time. They looked nice enough, and I kind of had this thought that the amish would make a real down home style pie.
They were perhaps the worst pies any of us had ever eaten. They had used canned fruit. This just seems so incredibly wrong as we are in the height of fruit season. I bought a peach and blueberry pie. Really great local peaches and blueberries are plentiful now in our area. This was just so unacceptable on so many levels. Even the pie crust was terrible.
Obviously I can't return them. My sister even asked me to take the unused blueberry home (we didn't bother cutting into it since the peach was so disgusting). I told her to hold onto it and try serving it to her weekly Bonkos game (sp? I don't play the game) and see of her friends care for it. If not, toss it. I certainly didn't want to take it home with me LOL.
Next time, I'll stick with the local farmers. Guess I'll be staying away from the Amish stand from now on, at least as far as the baked goods are concerned.
When I lived in DC a few years ago, the Amish operated several indoor green markets in what had previously been grocery stores. There were stalls for meats, sausages, cheeses, fruits & veggies, and baked goods. One of the baked goods specialties was their fruit bread - loaves of bread with fruit baked into it like blueberries or cranberries. To this day I wistfully remember how absolutely fabulous that bread was. Everything in that market was absolutely great. I guess, like so many things, it's a regional thing.
I grew up in PA and the Amish people at the farmers' market near my parents house always had really good stuff--naturally raised eggs, milk and meat before that sort of thing was mainstream. We never bought cheese from them, so I don't know how it was, but their baked goods were always really good.
In particular I remember one of the Amish bakeries had delicious, amazingly fresh home-made blueberry glazed donuts and something we called apricot bread that was like a very eggy brioche loaf with chunky gooey Apricot jam (which may have been made from canned apricots)running through the loaf and a thick topping of sugared crumb. This stuff tasted rich and like it was made with good ingredients, care and skill.
I've never been too into the baked goods at NYC greenmarkets, either, but the old-school Amish ones I ate in the '80s were memorable.
I've bought very good fruit pies at the Red Bank farmers market -- from Tammy and Bill, a young couple farming in Lakewood. The pies are vegan... no lard or butter in the crust, but they are freshly made and very tasty. They have their own peach orchard -- organically grown.
Another goodie at the Red Bank market... apple walnut cake from Tasty Pantry. The last one I bought was baked that morning. Pricey, but really delicious, made with organically-grown ingredients.
There are other vendors selling baked goods at Red Bank, but they haven't impressed me. Get there early for the good stuff.
Red Bank farmers market is Sunday ~9-1, Galleria parking lot corner of Bridge St and Front St.
I agree with you about never having a really decent pie from a NYC or NYC Suburbs Farmers Market. Even the supposedly great Biermere Farms pies on Long Island are disappointing during much of the year because they are making them too fast and cutting corners for mass production.
I have been consulting to a great many farmers and worked with some of the NY market organizers the past year and so I have been to dozens of farmers markets and haven't had a good pie at any of them. I have been in the commercial kitchens for several of the farmers/vendors and basically it's a matter of the kitchen help that many have. Pie making is a skill that isn't easily learned. Farms have great difficulty hiring high quality help. They don't make huge profits, can't pay good salaries, and young locals want to move to the city to make money, not stay out in the country working at minimum wage. More and more upstate NY communities are becoming empty during the week because a majority of the houses are second homes for more affluent city dwellers. I have had very good pies at farmers markets in other areas but they are usually pretty rare.
We have several Mennonite families selling produce at our farmers' market, and the quality of their produce is on a par with the other vendors. I would never buy a pie from anyone at a farmers' market -- obviously, it would have to have been baked well in advance. This is not a good thing for pie. Buy the fresh blueberries and peaches and make your own pie!
The event I am referring to was at least 10 years ago and the family group (they sold in many markets at that time) sold cheddar cheese which, I believe, contained veg oil. The point is that some of their "manufactured" items are made cheaply without the loving care one mentally associates with people living a traditional, rural life. Having said that (1) there are mennonite vendors selling back in NY now - their produce is on a par with others, and I have no reason to think the cheese they sell is adulterated currently (2) I have NEVER bought a satisfactory pie at a farmers market in NYC - they are often undersweetened, underseasoned and bland and the crusts never include butter.
You will often have this disappointment with the Amish (actually I think mennonite) vendors at the markets - the baked stuff as well as cheeses can be no better than industrial with the cheapest possible ingredients (some of these vendors were banned from NYC for a while a few years back because of their cheeses). I also noted that the amish vendors out in the E. Livingston market were selling fruit from California.
re: jen kalb
Thanks for that info. Somehow, you'd think I would have heard about the NYC story since I work in the city and used to live there and frequent the Union Square greenmarket regularly, but I guess it bypassed me.
I learned my lesson. Now, I only wish I could figure out a way to whisper in people's ears before they also purchase from these same people. But, I guess that wouldn't be the nicest thing to do (or then again, maybe it would be).