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Haymarket

Now, I'll be honest, I haven't been to Haymarket in a long time-- probably a year and a half, but from what I remember- they sold good produce there. Now, my BF and I argue about it because he says the stuff at Haymarket is terrible. Am I not remembering correctly? I remember buying romaine lettuce for a dollar and having it last 2 weeks. He says everything goes in a day or two.

I'm very confused.. what are your thoughts on Haymarket?

I guess I should just go back and revisit. Maybe my tastes have changed...

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Haymarket
Blackstone St, Boston, MA

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  1. Produce is delivered from Sunday overnight to Friday morning. The vendors need to move what they have, some fresh, some rather old and nasty.
    You will always see the best produce on top and often they will sell garbage fro under the table if you let them.Always check what you don't see ot can't pick. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true...

    2 Replies
    1. re: trufflehound

      On the same note, Friday mornings are the best time to skim whatever is still very good. There are some terrific finds at Haymarket. In a good week I could buy cut, organic butternut squash for $1, a beautiful head of purple cauliflower for $1, a pint of golden raspberries for $1.50, perfect tomatoes on the vine for $1/lb, and a giant bunch of basil that made me two pints of fresh pesto for $2. The rule seems to be go early on Friday and pick your own. There are also jerky vendors there (I've witnessed out and out racism several times from one of the vendors closer to the side Haymarket T station) so if they are rude to you or anyone else, skip them. There are plenty of others who are great and would appreciate your business. Definitely take your time and look around since prices and quality can vary significantly.

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      Haymarket
      Blackstone St, Boston, MA

      1. re: oniontears

        If you have a big bbq or church events that will need large quantities, then go there. Otherwise it's not worth it as most of the stuffs are staled or will stale quickly.

    2. Agree with all the responses. I find that the stalls with Asian produce tend to be the freshest, and they always let you pick your own. If you do hit a place that pulls the bait and switch, open up the bag they hand you and demand replacements for anything dicey looking. If you put on a good Bahston accent, they'll switch it out with something edible. On the racism front, if you seem like a furriner, the same requests for exchange of rotted goods are usually met with abuse. One other thing the vendors seem to unversally hate is when you squeeze the goods.

      1. The somewhat negative reviews do not factor in the pure entertainment aspect of Haymarket; e.g. a 300 pound vendor yelling at at a 3 ft tall Asian grandmother who is ignoring him. Even if half the produce is bad you are still way ahead of supermarket prices, and getting anything in exchange for 50 cents these days is a pretty unusual experience, as is getting 3 hours of parking downtown for $1. And alot of produce is ok - for $2 I have enough limes to keep me in margaritas for awhile. Add in a slice from Haymarket Pizza or Ernestos and it makes for a pretty enjoyable morning.

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        Haymarket Pizza
        106 Blackstone St, Boston, MA 02109

        Haymarket
        Blackstone St, Boston, MA

        3 Replies
        1. re: drb

          Where can you get parking for $1?

          1. re: trufflehound

            It's $3 for three hours in the adjacent (Parcel 7) garage - it has to be validated by one of the area merchants.

          2. re: drb

            drb is right on. It's great entertainment in addition to some real bahgans. If you like to dry fruits and vegs then the very ripe ones are the best. Also, even factoring in some spoilage the prices are great. I usually check the end of the day. Recently I bought a 40lb bag of red potatoes for $1 or 2, really, culled the bruised ones and still had 30lb of good ones.
            And pizza and cheese are a must!

          3. The vendors in the middle that are difficult to get to tend to have lower prices than the ones on the outskirts, so its usually a good idea to walk through the entire market before buying.

            I think the pros of Haymarket outweigh the cons. I like to go on friday afternoon and spend maybe $7 which will supply me with enough veggies to make a huge stir fry or a vegetarian chili. Just inspect everything you buy and use it within 36 hours or so.

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            Haymarket
            Blackstone St, Boston, MA

            1. I also really recommend the cheese shop (Harry's Cold Cuts, I think). You can get ridiculous deals on some cheeses (real Italian Fontina, Stilton, Robiola, aged Gouda). You just have to go there without a particular cheese in mind, as the quality varies widely. If it looks nasty, just move along. They will also let you taste a bit before you buy.

              1. 1. Most vendors now let you pick your own produce. Many don't want to do it for you anymore and prefer to hand you a bag. I avoid the ones that do it for me.
                2. Some of the stuff is delivered on Thursday afternoon and sits in pallets for many hours. I don't buy extremely perishable items if it's hot out because they won't last.
                3. BUT, many of the vendors get resupplied during the day.
                4. If the crowd in front is bad, try going around back. The same stuff at many booths sits out on the back side too.
                5. If only 2 vendors are selling something, odds are higher that it's old.
                6. You can pick up some interesting things, like big squash, for a fraction of a supermarket price. I buy kubota squash, celery root, stuff that is way over-priced in markets. I also pick up parsley, cilantro, scallions, etc. for half the price of a market. They are exactly the same quality, sometimes better.
                7. If you park in the garage next door, you can have most merchants in the row validate with a purchase. Spend $1.25 for a slice and park for $1 for 2 hours.

                1. I have horrible memories of Haymarket... moved to the North End in '86 and left about five years ago. Stopped shopping there after being yelled at for touching the vegetables and several episodes of bringing home a pint of berries to find everything under the top layer rotten and moldy. The final straw was talking to a someone whose Dad was a vendor - she told me his general practice was to go down to the terminal in Chelsea and buy the oldest cheapest stuff he could find to resell the next day. Plus it was a magnet for pickpockets and purse thieves back then. Living alone and cooking for one, it just wasn't worth the aggravation. So it's great to hear it's a better experience these days.

                  One great funny memory, back around 1987 my best friend got married - her folks lived in the midwest, so she spent the night before with me. We went to a salon at Faneuil Hall to get our hair and makeup done, and they pinned on her veil. We went running back through the market early Saturday morning and all the vendors started chanting, "DON'T DO IT! DON'T DO IT!" at the top of their lungs.

                  1 Reply
                  1. Just think what would happen if a brick and mortar business delivered cheap but sometimes rotten food and was rude, dishonest and racist towards customers. And, the store was not clean, needed the city to send in garbage trucks and crews to clean up after it. Plus it smelled terrible, littered public streets... Shall I go on?How long do you think it would stay in business?

                    Haymarket fans sound like a battered spouse who keeps going back thinking things will change. They must think it's okay to be abused.

                    One of my strongest objections to Haymarket is that I've heard people at farmers markets look at a quart of fresh, nutritious, local organic strawberries and say, "That's highway robbery, I can get a flat of them at Haymarket for less than that."

                    You get what you pay for and the vendors get away with what they do because you let them. But, then I don't enjoy watching people abused on reality television shows either.

                    Penny
                    http://www.bostonzest.com/

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: BostonZest

                      Yeah, better that it go into a landfill than into the kitchens of the most diverse group of ethnicities to be found in one place in Boston. Better that your food dollar go to corporate retailers than a local family business (most of whom do not actually yell at you, by the way). Better you support Whole Foods in Dedham's Legacy Place than an urban market. Its great that you can afford $10 a quart for those fresh nutritious organic strawberries that are available for 3 weeks in June. Being able to get a flat of Florida strawbs for $5 is a pretty decent alternative, even if you have to eat them fast. And it is $1 to park (for 2 hours) at Parcel 7 with validation.

                      1. re: drb

                        Thank you, drb. Your response beat me to it.
                        I would add that it's not always clean, not always pretty, not always polite, but always interesting and usually exciting. It's the people and the city, with all its warts and freckles, and I love it.

                        1. re: powerfulpierre

                          I loved Haymarket better before I had my pocket picked while I was pinned so tightly in the crowd that I couldn't move to protect myself.

                          I'm with Penny - I prefer to buy my strawberries from the local farmers in June & July, when they're actually in season and TASTE GOOD, maybe get some extras and put them in the freezer for later. And no, I'm not buying the $10 a quart organic ones either, but I won't buy California berries at any time of year. They may be cheaper, but they're not worth my money.

                      2. re: BostonZest

                        Are Haymarket strawberries somehow less nutritious then these magical local strawberries you speak of?

                        Hint: they aren't

                        1. re: ac106

                          The nutritional value of big "agra-business" grown food is declining but here is a piece with some tips for getting more nutrition in what you do buy.

                          http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/37396355/...

                          "The nutrients in most fruits and vegetables start to diminish as soon as they're picked, so for optimal nutrition, eat all produce within 1 week of buying," says Preston Andrews, PhD, a plant researcher and associate professor of horticulture at Washington State University. "If you can, plan your meals in advance and buy only fresh ingredients you can use that week."

                          You can ask your Haymarket vendor how many days it has been since that produce was picked and make an informed decision-- if you believe what the vendor says.

                          Penny
                          http://www.bostonzest.com/

                          1. re: ac106

                            Who cares about nutrition?

                            Are Haymarket strawberries LESS TASTY than local strawberries that you buy during strawberry season?

                            Hint: You bet your ass they are!

                          2. re: BostonZest

                            I agree completely with Penny's 9:27 comment. More bad than good experiences here. Maybe as the old guard gradually gets replaced with less shady characters it will change.

                            We need something like the Jean Talon market in Montreal. Expansive, with gorgeous produce and helpful people. A real farmer's market. Haymarket is more of a carnival, where a good chunk of the customers are getting ripped off.

                            1. re: nightsky

                              Its impossible to get "ripped off" at Haymarket. Shop around and send back subpar food. Worse case scenario? You spent $1 for 3 yellow bell peppers and none of them are very good. You are still only out $1, and that amount of money doesn't buy you a single yellow pepper anywhere else, so you still win.

                              Anyone who ventures into it should know that not all produce is equal and not all stands sell for the same price. Keep that in mind and you will pay 1/4th of what other places charge for produce.

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                              Haymarket
                              Blackstone St, Boston, MA

                              1. re: Kinopio

                                But you're still out $1 on bad peppers. So you only got ripped off for a buck, but you still got ripped off.

                          3. I guess this is what I'm confused about. I didn't find the quality bad at all. Granted, I didn't really but much fruit-- since I tend to buy fruit seasonally (I think berries taste awful in the winter, no matter where you buy them), so it's kind of hard to say "oh that romaine lettuce taste AWFUL!"

                            I feel like when buying certain veggies and fruits that aren't hard to mess up- such as squashes, apples, lettuce, peppers, etc- then Haymarket is perfect.

                            Also, blame my ignorance and lack of developed taste if there IS in fact a difference in taste between Haymarket romaine and Farmer's Market romaine...

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                            Haymarket
                            Blackstone St, Boston, MA

                            1. i've been shopping at haymarket for about 20 years and the quality is consistently much better in the last few years than it previously was. as mentioned upthread, if it's very hot, i just don't buy anything delicate or if it already looks wilted. i would much rather spend my produce dollars there than at shaw's, ok? i am not a buyer of strawberries in january, but yes, i use lemons all year long and 6 or 10 for a dollar is a far cry than 2 for a buck at a chain grocer.

                              the recent influx of asian and latin vendors are way more customer-friendly than some of the old guard. there remain one or two guys down there who are outright hostile and i simply don't buy anything from them.

                              harry's is great and so are the middle eastern markets below-ground.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: hotoynoodle

                                Ditto. I've rarely had a problem with the produce I buy at Haymarket, but I'm careful to choose things that hold up well. If I get a bad bunch of something, I chalk it up to experience and cut my losses. I've routinely gotten limes @ 10/$1, peppers @ 5 or 6/$1, etc. I also just walk away if a vendor is rude, and won't patronize him/her in the future if I remember which stall it is.

                                During the local growing season, I always buy berries and other seasonal produce at farm stands and farmers' markets and they can't be beat. I can still get good deals on citrus and other produce that isn't local at Haymarket, so I occasionally shop their in the summer, too.

                                I think the public market that is planned for the Haymarket area will be great, and I'll shop at both. I'll get my artisanal cheeses, breads, etc. and local produce from the market, and a few other things at Haymarket. They serve different functions, and each has its useful place.

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                                Haymarket
                                Blackstone St, Boston, MA

                                1. re: bear

                                  that public market and the drama over the space has been on-going now for years. i am not holding my breath, but would LOVE to see it happen.

                              2. I guess the lesson is that the Haymarket is a place to shop with caveats. But at the end of all of this, you'll be an informed customer. Check out one of my recent Friday bounties from the Haymarket, total: $10, and decide if you'd like to check it out for yourself. Hint: 6/$1 navel oranges make the most affordable and delicious fresh squeezed OJ around, and oranges need not be in perfect condition!

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                                Haymarket
                                Blackstone St, Boston, MA

                                 
                                1. I shop at Haymarket just about every Friday and am in agreement that the over all quality is good if you buy the right things and look carefully at the items. You can't really come with expectations. For example, I wanted some fennel this week and could not find any. But I did find terrific red peppers at 3 for $1.50 so I bought quite a few to roast up for muhammara. I also buy all of my limes and lemons there as you can not beat the prices. 6 or 7 for one dollar is a lot better than Shaws. I have always had luck with plum tomatoes for slow roasting, garlic, mint, cilantro and rosemary, lemons and limes, cabbage, cukes and grapes. I never buy corn or strawberries. I sometimes buy mangoes, bananas, onions, oranges, eggplant, lettuce and apples. My one bad experience has been one rotten mango. That is it.

                                  I shop at the farmers markets, too, where I buy my beets, corn, tomatoes, onions, lettuce, zucchini and eggplant.

                                  It's an experience. I always have fun and it has become part of my routine.

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                                  Haymarket
                                  Blackstone St, Boston, MA

                                  1. Since moving to Boston, shopping at Haymarket has become such a part of the family's weekly shopping.

                                    Haymarket is not a Farmer's Market. It is not supposed to be pretty and well laid out. It's rough and tumble while paradoxically touristy. It is not for people that do not know how to pick their own fruits and vegetables.
                                    -Don't go in looking weak or looking like you don't know what you want.
                                    -Watch what they're giving you, and pick your our pieces.
                                    -Know that you will get some rotten ones in a pre-packaged bunch. $1 for 1 1/2 lbs of strawberries is still a pound in my belly before the afternoon is over.
                                    -Wash your finds immediately!
                                    -And eat them quickly.
                                    -Go as early in the morning as possible. If you accidentally sleep in, don't go that week. On a hot day, you should expect rotten stuff by 11.

                                    Yes, I get what I pay for and I paid $2 for a freaking huge watermelon and because I think of this as a weekend activity, I walked in with my game face and dug through the barrel til I found a delicious, gorgeous watermelon.

                                    Finally, and I think this is secondary, but I love the environment. I'm sorry you think they're rude, but I think of Haymarket as a little slice of the UN, of the United States melting pot in action, but without the politically correct niceties. The Lebanese vendor is yelling at his neighbor the Vietnamese guy who is making wise cracks with the Black guys next door while the Venezuelan man quivers in fear of the Chinese lady while they sell cheap produce to tourists from France and stout Italian grandmothers who know what types of tomatoes are going into her sauce in her apartment in the North End. Let's play "We Are the World" and go digging for some unbruised apples now.

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                                    Haymarket
                                    Blackstone St, Boston, MA

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: sox_foodie

                                      I will never be able to shop in Haymarket without humming "we are the world" again.... and now all of you will know who I am!

                                      I rarely shop there anymore. Too much hassle to get the bags of food to the T, and then onto the bus back to Somerville. But back in the day, when I was much younger and cuter, I did get some tremendous deals. And some really nasty rotting items at the bottom of the container. It was just part of the deal.

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                                      Haymarket
                                      Blackstone St, Boston, MA

                                    2. Its always important to be an informed consumer and this is something that is not limited to Haymarket, but that plus the ability to look beyond the pricetag is important at Haymarket. Its possible to find deliciousness (what chowhound is about) at Haymarket -- between the cheese stand, the shucked shellfish in more temperate weather (avoid all the other seafood), Ernesto's (better) and Haymarket Pizza, and sometimes unusual produce (peruvian purple potatoes, asian greens, tropical items which you won't find grown locally no matter where you buy them). You might be able to find some organic produce while you are at it (believe it or not the wholesale markets in Chelsea push a lot more organic produce than whole foods, plus there are some which specialize in local produce in season, although that doesn't normally end up at Haymarket). But if you go on just "dollar a box" you might buy something from someone who doesn't have any permits, who bought or found some castoffs and squatted on someone else's space after they closed (common after 5pm on Saturdays) then put things in a box to look like a "lot." We tend to get a rosy ideas about things we like. For instance even upscale markets preferred not to label the origins of fish, meat, and produce before they were required and many of them replace a popular product with a private label one where the packaging is close enough that some people believe they are buying an equivalent item. Wilson Farms gets recommendations on chowhound as a "small family farm," but much more of their produce comes through Chelsea than their NH farm (they offer some great products, but in the past their produce manager refused to answer point-blank questions about produce origin). There also are many farmers markets whose by-laws require that produce come from MA farms, but not all farmers markets publish their rules and the state doesn't require that.

                                      You have to be an informed consumer and likely a bit pushy to find deliciousness at Haymarket, but its possible. And you should ask questions of your local upscale grocer or farmers market manager.

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                                      Wilson Farm
                                      10 Pleasant St, Lexington, MA 02421

                                      Haymarket Pizza
                                      106 Blackstone St, Boston, MA 02109

                                      Haymarket
                                      Blackstone St, Boston, MA