Fresh Local Produce in Every Corner of the City

Richmond Restaurants — By on June 26, 2010 11:09 am

Hello loyal Richmond eaters and readers.  I apologize for my hiatus from posting but I was visiting Central America for a few weeks seeing what delicious morsels Costa Rica has to offer.  To my chagrin, Costa Rican food, with the obvious exception of fresh fruit, is pretty bland and blasé.  Now I’m back in Richmond eating the food I missed while I was abroad and scrambling for a topic to discuss for this blog.

I mentioned how delicious the fresh fruit was in Costa Rica.  Fresh produce leads me to a topic that is very pertinent in Richmond—farmers’ markets.

While in Costa Rica, I volunteered at an organic fruit and spice farm in hills of the Limón province and sold pineapples at a farmers’ market in the town of Puerto Viejo de Talamanca.  The market was swarmed with locals, expats and tourists all looking for something fresh to eat.  They found it without difficulty.

Piles of green plantains and sweet papaya lay strewn about on the street and the energy was bustling.  Dollar pineapples and fifty-cent mangos went by the bushel.  Central America’s food economy is based largely—though decreasingly—on this kind of market as is much of Europe’s.  Fresh food goes directly from the hands of the people whose sweat went into growing it to those who will prepare it—whether it’s a fresh marinara sauce in Italy or a pinã colada in Costa Rica.

And in Richmond, if you don’t want to go to Kroger or Ukr…Martin’s to get your tomatoes from Florida and your clementines from Spain, where can you go for local produce at a great price?  We have several options depending on where you live.

Probably the best-known farmers’ market is at 17th and Main Street in Shockoe bottom.  The 17th Street Market has been in the same location since 1737.  The Richmond city website includes a full history with some historical deletions like the fact that the location of the market was probably the location of a slave market.

Embarrassing history aside, the 17th Street Market is a great place to get fresh, local produce, meat and crafts often for much cheaper than in the produce section at the supermarket.

If you’re on the Northside and you don’t feel like trekking downtown there is the market at Bryan Park.  Run by the Market Umbrella, the market in Bryan Park feels less formal and more festival-esc than the downtown market but rivals the more historic market in selection of local produce, plants and meats.

Also run by the Market Umbrella is the South of the James Market at Forest Hill Park.  The shady Southside market fills in the gap and gives a fresh local option to those in the Forest Hill neighborhood.

We have options here in town.  It is possible to get fresh local produce in a market setting from discerning farmers instead of minimum wage grocery store employees who don’t know where their peaches come from in the winter.

Let’s join the rest of the world in caring about our food.  In Richmond, we have no excuse for paying more for lower quality imported produce and meat.

By David Mattera

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