Over the last week and a half I visited three different farmers' markets: Towson's on Thursday morning and afternoon, Waverly's on Saturday morning (I just got back from there in fact), and the I-83 one on Sunday mornings. Each one has its own unique personality, with a little overlap - there are always the "farmers' market junkies" who go hopping around from farmers' market to... er, um. Damn, I guess I'm one of those "farmers' market junkies".
Apart from that, Towson's seems to be the farmers' market for the leisurely crowd, the Roland Park- and Mount Washington- types, who may have the money to buy a few nice extra vegetables, chutneys and nuts. The Waverly market is a more plebeian one, with a hodgepodge of different working, middle, upper-middle and "granola" class folks all co-mingling together on a super small and compact scale. The I-83 market is just a big mishmash of everyone and everything, a nice cross-section of the city at a massive farmers' market for the 19th largest city in the US.
I went last week on a whim - and some asshole snapped a photo of my license plate, I am certain of it. I circled round again and he was about to do it again, but I slowed down and glared at him. He seemed a little taken aback wen he saw it was the same car. I wanted to ask him why he did that - did he have some nefarious plan or something? So I parked in the Towsontown garage next to Trader Joe's (you can do that, y'know) and went over to ask, but he was safely nestled in a conversation. It looked like he was a press photographer anyway, since I saw him snapping photos of the merchants later. I let it go, but not before I bought a freshly grilled hamburger from the folks at Kabob Hut, who regularly set up a grill in front of their place on Market Day. A hamburger - which you will probably get medium rare - is $4. It's patted by hand and is juicier and more flavorful than most hamburgers I have eaten anywhere at all. Hot dogs are $2. I didn't see any produce that I needed, but almost bought some strawberries for $5 a pint. I'm usually a little disappointed with the selection at Towson's market, though I love that it's located so close to many great businesses, including Towsontown Center and many restaurants right along the same street. I've eaten at the Kathmandu Kitchen several times, and it's often due to the Towson Farmers' Market.
The next one I went to was last week's I-83 Farmers' Market. I got there pretty late, as much of the good stuff was taken (no spinach). Mostly I went shopping for my sister, who has her own little handful at home in Lansdowne. She wanted spinach for salad, and fixins for a salsa. She gave me $20 and a loooooong list of veggies to get. I found about half of what she asked for, and paid more than I wanted to for the rest. She wanted avocados and three different bell peppers and some jalapeños, of which I found none. Also no spinach, though I did find a mesclun and baby spinach mix for $6 for a pound. Also found ten shallots for $4, garlic at 50¢ a head, and cilantro (bunched) and basil (live) for $1 each. I bought myself some garlic scapes - 3 for $1 - and a $1 bunch of oregano. And I was amazed to find something I hadn't enjoyed since I went to the Market Nights a few years ago on Thursday nights in Redlands, CA: cinnamon-y mini-donuts with powdered sugar (one minibag for $4). I put on my own cinnamon and powdered sugar but I love them just the same.
Hoo-wee! I hit the jackpot here. There were some nice little prepared foods here, though I think I-83's is better for the sheer size of the selection. I just got back with a bag of green tomatoes - from the Eastern Shore - for $3.75, a big-ass bunch of basil for $2 (which makes the piddly live plant I got for Cathy look like the Charlie Brown Christmas tree), a nice large bunch of cilantro for $1, and two, no, three ears of bicolor corn for $1.
It's fun to see what turns up at Waverly's market. There was a group of people selling furniture out of a U-Haul van today, and it wasn't crap either but nice, older, sturdy wooden furniture. It was all lined up along the entry walkway so I walked around it. I don't need any furniture. As with every farmers' market, there is also more than produce at Waverly's, too. And I know that these same merchants pop up at most of them, but they're just so much more accessible here for some reason. I can't explain it. The purveyors of flowers, meat, cheese, bread, potted herbs, desserts are all out there for you - it's cozier.
The prepared food is nice, as I have stated before. Today's selections included a gluten-free vegan spelt brownie with dates and (yuck) nuts ($2). The nuts were only on top. Usually I can't stand or tolerate nuts on my brownies but this one really made an exception. This brownie just tasted richer and more chocolaty than most brownies. It was also a little oilier. I also got a small container of yemisir wot (spicy lentil stew) from the Ethiopian Delites kiosk ($3). They also make a take-out meal for $5, including a little of everything they sell (also all-vegetarian). I finally inquired about where to find injera bread in Baltimore. The solution: call Dukem ahead of time and buy it from them. Easy enough!
I cuaght the location of the South Asian market nearby as I was leaving so I parked again and went into Punjab Halal Meat & Groceries (the City Paper's Best Ethnic Grocer of 2006, and Best Indian Grocer of 2007) for some asafoetida powder for $2.75 and a samosa for 85¢. Love their selection, especially all the frozen fishes.
So from this past week's farmers' market hopping I have learned the following things:
- The I-83 market is like the Arundel Mills of farmers' markets
- The Towson Market has some gems, and is centrally located around Towson's businesses, though can be lacking in its selections.
- The Waverly Market seems to have the best selection of produce in a small area, and is - again - cozy.