Farmers' Market Superstars

Our farm-to-table street style shoot yields lots of market intelligence
New York Union Square Farmers Market Il Buco Shopping
Chef Joel Hough of Il Buco | Shopper Brittany Dorminey | Shopper Jasmine Bryan

Funky bitter melons and misshapen heirloom tomatoes aren't the only ones with character showing up at your local farmers' market. We brought our camera and reporter's notebook to NYC's Union Square Greenmarket to meet a few of the working chefs, artisans and charmingly idiosyncratic folks who shop there regularly.

They showed off their haul and generously shared their shopping advice (see the slide show). We'll be putting the tips we got from these market gurus into use year-round.

Name: Abby Swain
Occupation: Pastry Chef, Craft and Craftbar
Tip: "When in doubt purée." Swain juggles an abundance of fruit in the kitchen at Craft. When there is just too much to use up, she makes jams and compotes to use in desserts throughout the winter.

Name: Justin Smillie
Occupation: Executive Chef, Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria
Tip: What grows together, goes together. "I have the best luck when I purchase ingredients for an entire dish from one farmer. The ingredients are growing in the dirt at the same time, and it yields a yummy result."

Name: Christine Kern
Occupation: Singer/songwriter
Tip: "Come to the market ready to shop." Christine is truly an urban market pro with the gear to prove it. Her modified Granny Cart means that she can haul away the maximum amount of fresh produce--and bring her compost to the market too.

Name: Hiroko Shimbo
Occupation: Cookbook author, Hiroko's American Kitchen: Cooking with Japanese Flavors
Tip: "Be adventurous--use ingredients that are unfamiliar." Get Shimbo's recipe for refreshing shiso juice.

Name: Chris Miller
Occupation: Executive Chef and Owner, Miller's Near and Far
Tip: "Let the produce guide you." At the restaurant, Miller slices purple carrots on a mandoline and uses them as a sneaky topping on a market green salad. When sliced thinly, the carrots' purple and orange striations mimic the look of bacon.

  • Name: Bryce Shuman
    Occupation: Executive Chef, Betony
    Tip: This Eleven Madison Park veteran likes to make tomato water for fragrant and intense Bloodless Mary cocktails. It's a great use for tomatoes that are bruised. Here's how to make it at home: Throw a couple tomatoes in a food processor with a pinch of sea salt, and strain the resulting pulp in a fine-meshed colander and then through cheesecloth or linen. Blend with basil and herbs.

  • Name: Carmen Quagliata
    Occupation: Executive Chef, Union Square Café
    Tip: The grill is a summer fruit savior. Got stuck with a peach that's not quite ripe? It happens to the best of us. Quagliata recommends dousing the peach with some olive oil and salt and giving it a quick char on the grill, for a dessert that is quick and refreshing.

  • Name: Nic Jammet
    Occupation: Founder, Sweetgreen
    Tip: "Don't be afraid of items you don't know." When we met up with Jammet he was shopping for purslane and petite purple-and-white Fairy Tale eggplants. Purslane, a succulent considered by many to be a weed, is delicious and lemony when added to salads.

  • Name: David Sherman
    Occupation: Market Manager, Union Square Greenmarket, GrowNYC
    Tip: At this point everyone knows how important it is to get to know your farmer, but Sherman stresses the benefits of getting to know your market manager too. Talking to Sherman certainly paid off for us: He pointed us towards the only stand in the market selling shiso on the day we were there.

  • Name: Mike Anthony
    Occupation: Executive Chef-Partner, Gramery Tavern
    Tip: "Be realistic with the amount you purchase, it's easy to get carried away. Think carefully about the number of meals you are planning to produce with what you are carrying out of the market. Also, bring enough of your own reusable bags!  You want to be able to separate the heavy items from the delicate items; it would be a shame to get home and find that your purchases are damaged.  Plus, who wants to waste all those plastic bags?"

  • Name: Luke Venner
    Occupation: Executive Chef, BLT Fish

  • Name: Zachary Pickens
    Occupation: Urban gardener, farmer, seed saver, Master Composter and urban farmer, Riverpark Farm at Alexandria Center

  • Name: Yang
    Occupation: Farmer, Phillips Farm

  • Name: John Karangis
    Occupation: Executive Chef, Union Square Events
    Tip: "Ask the farmer themselves what they feel particularly excited about that they have today and why. That usually gives me an insight as to what they feel is special and I find myself gravitating toward that product because there is a story, sometimes an heirloom story, behind it. I feel more connected to the soil."

  • Name: Martina Pospisilova
    Occupation: Togio Orchards
    Note: Martina let us shoot at her stand for this shoot. Thanks, Martina!

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Craft New York 43 E. 19th St. New York NY 10003 212-780-0880 Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria 53 Great Jones St. New York NY 10012 212-837-2622 Miller's Near & Far 65 Rivington St. New York NY 10002 646-559-1210

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