Have you ever heard of berdolaga, a Spanish watercress? How about purselane, a green with one of the highest iron contents? And have you ever tasted zucchini blooms? A newly installed farmer's market brings these and other bounty from the summer harvest to a strip of sidewalk at 116th St. between Broadway and Claremont Avenues every Thursday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The Columbia greenmarket, sponsored by Columbia University and Barnard College, in collaboration with the New York City Greenmarket program, is the city's first university-sponsored farmer's market and is open through Nov. 15.
As many as eight local farmers, some certified organic, bring freshly picked greens, seasonal vegetables, herbs, flowers and even freshly-baked breads to the Morningside Heights neighborhood every week. The market gives area residents a taste of country living through both the food and the more personal attention than is typically found at a large city supermarket.
Farmers provide preparation tips and nutrition information and share favorite recipes. Some, like farmer Sue D'Attolico, cater to hungry lunchtime customers. D'Attolico packs her organic greens with forks, bowls and even salad dressings for those interested shoppers.
Buying produce and other foods at the market supports Project Renewal, a Manhattan-based community project that helps the urban homeless transition back into the workforce in the fresh air of the country. Marion Sherrod, who grew up on a farm as a child and has been living on a pesticide-free farm for three months, said of the program, "There is peace of mind up there. We plant just enough to sell and to eat-- for ourselves and the rabbits."
According to Loretta Greenholtz, assistant vice president for environmental health and safety at Columbia who chairs the Advisory Committee on the Environment, one shopper said that this was one of the best things to happen to the neighborhood in 35 years.
The Columbia's Advisory Committee on the Environment, which includes a number of University departments and students from the Columbia-Barnard Student Earth Coalition, a green campus organization, has advocated bringing organic and pesticide-free produce to Morningside Heights to provide better access to healthy food alternatives. The University has worked over the past few months with the Greenmarket program to bring a farmer's market into the neighborhood. Greenmarket has organized and managed open-air farmers markets in New York City since 1976.
As area residents learn about the market, its organizers are learning more about neighborhood needs through a weekly questionnaire, which has already resulted in a fishmonger to be added to the mix of vendors.
The green market accepts food stamps. Families enrolled in the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and Senior Nutrition Programs in selected communities will be able to purchase fresh produce through a New York State farmer's market nutrition program.
For more information on New York City's Greenmarket program, click here.
To view the photo gallery of the Greenmarket, click here.