It was such a relief last week to find out our local Queens farmers market, in Jackson Heights, has been changed to year round. With only a week left to Thanksgiving, we usually are stocking up on the turkey meat and sausage that we will freeze and use throughout the winter. We have previously made good use of that system, but not getting seasonal vegetables has been the hard part. “Do we really have to go to Trade Fair [our overcrowded supermarket] for produce?” This is a common question we repeat throughout the cold months. “I miss the farmers market,” with a sad face, is another generic overused statement during the dark days of January and February.
We have become so accustomed to our Sunday walk around the block, into the heart of the Jackson Heights historical district. It is nice to walk in the opposite direction from our usual path to the train and remember this is our neighborhood too. It’s the part that feels more like a neighborhood: manicured landscaping, endless rows of trees, families coming and going. There are no stores, no subways, and hardly a spatter of garbage. As we approach the market from across the street, we start planning how we are going to tackle the vendors in the most efficient manner. “Should we start from the near side, or work our way back from the mushroom guy?” “Are we actually going to spend all that money on mushrooms?” These questions have become such a part of our weekly routine. And they are some of my favorite questions to ask. Then there’s the inevitable, “What are we going to have for dinner tonight, and tomorrow?” “Do we want fish?” “What would make good sides?” And you can’t forget, “What can we make that will last two days?”
As we go through the stands, we carefully choose our vegetables and purchase whatever fruit is available for our morning bowls of cereal. If we see eggs, we will pick those up, and of course the juice guys are a weekly pilgrimage. No more Tropicana for us! This year there are some newbies: grass-fed beef and local cheese, even Long Island wine. We pass those stands quickly, knowing we must budget and spend wisely.
As December approaches, we are anticipating fewer of our favorite vendors to show up. And through January there may be just a few who will brave the cold. But we will be there to support the farmers and fill up our kitchen with all the local produce and meats and eggs we can. And if no one shows up, we know we can always walk in the other direction and get a cheap taco or tamal on Roosevelt Avenue.