Tuesday, July 29, 2008
A Very Local Favorite: The Natick Farmer's Market
The Natick Farmer's Market is definitely not fancy. It doesn't offer many of the gourmet specialty items that are available at the Harvard Square Farmer's Market. It doesn't have the dozen of stands that are at the Newton Market.
Ironically, that is exactly why I love it and try to go each week. It is a place for people to gather at the town green and to get wonderful produce and treats. I love that while a supermarket feels so anonymous, here you can talk to the vendors who picked the food that morning, as well as reconnect with neighbors. The parking is easy. There is no stress other than deciding which types of zucchini to buy or how many cobs of corn a toddler can eat.
The market takes place on Saturday mornings from 9:00 to 1:00, in the center of Natick. It is a popular place to bring children (and dogs!) who can run around the gazebo and play in the grass while munching on some fresh fruit. My son and I often go to the wonderful children's room at the library and then head to the market to buy some food for lunch.
The vendors vary each week. You might find some children selling their crafts or a local person who is experimenting with setting up their own cookie business. But you can always find a few farms that come each week.
I always stop at Keown Orchards for their a varied selection of produce. This week the highlight were some little plums. They also had fresh apricots and the first peaches. In the fall, I can always count on them to provide a range of apples and excellent descriptions to help me choose which to buy.
The Chestnut Farms stand is run by a mom and daughter team. They are always patient with questions and it is a great opportunity to get organic, free range meat-direct from the source.
This is the ultimate in "local" food. I have only bought their eggs and burgers so far, but both were very good. Their website is particularly interesting, too, and you can even visit the farm.
I never skip a visit to the Hmong man's stand. I don't know his name and for that I apologize, but I do know that he is part of the Flat Mentor Farm in Mendon. I often get his herbs (a great bargain at $1.00 for a large bunch of basil or cilantro) and his bok choy.
Recently I had his pumpkin greens thrown into some soup. He often has pea tendrils, too. You can just stir-fry either of these with garlic to have some healthy greens.
Tangerini's also has a good selection of produce, as well as friendly and enthusiastic staffers. This week's blueberries were very sweet. They offered gooseberries (they taste like big grapes) and fresh corn. I get their weekly farm newsletter and they offer pick your own options and ice cream at their farm in Millis.
The Natick Organic Farm stand is also a wonderful place to buy some beautiful flowers.
They also have maple syrup, herbs, and a nice selection of vegetables. I will confess, though, that I prefer to just visit the actual farm (only about 1 mile away) and see the animals.
We go as often as possible between May and October, appreciating the market while it is around and eagerly awaiting the return when the cold New England weather still lingers in April. I will still have to return to the Harvard Market for my Taza chocolate and Fiore di Nonno Mozzarella, but here is personal service, warmth and calm each Saturday morning.