Each Thursday and Sunday morning, beginning at 8 a.m., Columbians find themselves peering into baskets full of velvety purple potatoes or resisting the urge to follow the warm scent of brewing apple cider as they walk past Lerner Hall.
The Morningside Heights Greenmarket is one of 46 farmers markets operated by Greenmarket, a program of the Council on the Environment of NYC, which is a privately funded citizens organization in the Mayor’s Office. What began with only 12 farmers in 1976 has developed into the largest farmers market network in the country, boasting sustainable agriculture practices, USDA organic certification, and best of all, local and seasonal food.
Melinda and David Rowley, regular vendors whose produce comes from 130 miles away in Columbia County, are eager to inform regular locavores about their new fuel-efficient truck, which uses only one-tenth the amount of gasoline guzzled by a conventional truck. The Rowleys explained that they put Greenmarket’s environmentally-friendly philosophy into practice by “making farms more sustainable, caring for the land” and using the “least amount of off-farm inputs as possible.”
Columbia students nostalgic for springtime afternoon picnics may opt to try the Rowley’s Spicy Mustard Mix winter salad greens. Though they taste great with pomegranate or sesame ginger vinaigrette, their light and aromatic piquancy is so flavorful, anything more than olive oil and lemon may be borderline offensive. One might wonder, however, whether buying these local winter salad greens actually leaves a smaller carbon footprint than regular grocery store greens. They are grown in a greenhouse off-season, warmed by fuel sometimes keeping temperatures up to 44 degrees higher than that outdoors.
Students who prefer fruit to greens should try the McIntosh apples labeled “spicy.” They will find themselves crunching a blissful blend of tenderness, crispness, and juice. Compared to the fresh, complex sweetness of this local variety, Westside Market’s McIntosh apples, flown an unnecessary 2,800 miles from Washington State, taste bland, soggy, and soapy.
Columbia’s turophiles will want to sample Ardith Mae Farmstead Herb Chèvre. The Farmstead goats—who spend their time grazing on raspberries—produce a soft, creamy cheese that is then coated in organic lavender. This chèvre’s salty sweetness is a taste that simply must be experienced.
Morningside “conscientious omnivores” are going to have a treat drinking Milk Thistle Farm’s “best in the universe” organic chocolate milk, made with organic, fair-trade Honduran chocolate powder and a whisper of organic cane juice. All 365 days of the year, the Hesse family’s individually named cows roam around ruminating grass, as opposed to fossil-fuel intensive corn grain. But beware—this milk is not-for-wimps creamy. The Morningside Heights Greenmarket also offers naturally raised, grass-roaming beef, as well as free-range eggs, both hormone- and antibiotic-free.
Please also experiment with the winter butternut squash—it tastes great blended into a creamy, nutty soup or candied with yams and carrots. (Students will be able to pat their backs knowing that they’re not just eating local, but also eating in season.)
And to spice up any pasta repertoire, go ahead and mix Hudson Valley Farmhouse’s carrot and beet pasta with olive oil and garlic or pink vodka sauce. Before graduating, all brave Columbians should try the Hot Pepper Jelly. As a precaution to all spicy jam neophytes: be wary of developing habanero sweet tooth.
Although Morningside Heights isn’t widely considered a hotbed for high-quality cuisine, the Greenmarket allows you to make delicious food from local, high-quality ingredients on a budget and in the comfort of your own dorm kitchen.