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Learning to love a new home at the market: Crystal City Farmers Market in Washington DC

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By Sandra Ramos

My dear friend Sandra Ramos recently moved to Washington DC and has been visiting the local farmers markets to learn about her new community.  She has generously offered to write guest posts for Austin Farm to Table about her adventures.  Thanks Sandra!  I  miss you!
Moving to a new locale can be daunting for many reasons, not to mention learning about the local community. Fortunately, moving from Austin to Alexandria, Virginia has been an easy transition when it comes to local food. There are over 20 local markets in the Washington DC/Northern Virginia/Maryland area – the majority of which are easily accessible by local transit and Metro rail. FreshFarm Markets  is the umbrella organization that coordinates the majority of the markets, and so I decided to start there.

 

Braving the oppressive heat wave weʼve all been tackling (plus an unhealthy dose of humidity), I busted out the Metro card and headed a few stops over from our new apartment to my first of many weekly farmers markets around DC/Northern Virginia.

Todayʼs stop: Crystal City Farmers Market, Tuesdays 3-7pm, Crystal City Metro

Among the tall corporate and government buildings (think defense contractors) and high-end chain restaurants (notably Tedʼs Montana Grill and Legal Sea Foods,) is a lovely afternoon oasis – the Tuesday market. Just a block north of the Metro station, and super easy to find, this market was (surprisingly) teeming not only with lots of local freshness (with about 20 vendors), but lots of men in ties and polished shoes tasting wares and toting plastic bags of goodies!

Crystal City Farmers Market

I stopped in on the small tent run by the market organizers to find some very useful information beyond the recipes – a Mid-Atlantic seasonality calendar! A well-thought out 12”x12” 5-fold pocket calendar of local availability for fruits and vegetables, sponsored by local fave Jaleo, a tapas restaurant that often shops at the FreshFarm markets for its menu.

Planting guide

The 150-mile radius of this region encompasses West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and southern Pennsylvania. This allows for a staggering of climates and allows for longer growing seasons for particular fruits and veggies.

After noticing the beautiful array of colors of the cherry tomatoes, including a very juicy chocolate cherry tomato (which is a lovely eggplant purple), I knew just a pint wouldnʼt do!

Tomatoes and squash

Chatting with the guy at the OberGood goat cheese table, as I perused his photo album of billy goats and the farm, he informed me that their farm hails from Sharpsburg, MD, the site of the famous Civil War Battle of Sharpsburg (or Antietam, which I take is a sore subject.)  But I will tell you that his camembert-style cheese
smooth as silk and the goats are very cute.

Cheese

Live music filled the air and I continued tasting the peaches and apples and nectarines (oh my! the white nectarines were divine – sweet with what seemed like a hint of vanilla taste.) I dreamed of a luscious fruit
salad and creamy yogurt for my morning breakfast – could I wait that long?

My graphic design background kicked in as I wandered through the center of the market and noticed that the typeface Papyrus is a popular choice among the southern Pennsylvania crowd. Though not a fan of that
font, I didnʼt let it stop me from talking with the very nice Amish family selling lamb chops, fresh eggs, and honey. But my disappointment of the afternoon came when I was mesmerized by the fresh bakery cart with loads of loaves, only to have arrived too late for the last cinnamon raisin bread.

Apples

At the end of the market was a cute flower cart and a very nice woman, whom I found out, ended up in Virginia via Oregon and Los Angeles. We commiserated about the humidity and horrible drivers of the Mid-Atlantic and I bought a pretty bouquet of yellow and orange zinnias for my apartment.

At this point, the oppressive heat and humidity had taken its toll, as I wandered back toward the Metro. Goodies in hand, I was comforted and excited about my future farmers market adventures in my new home town.

Sunflowers

View the full photo set on Flickr:

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