Local Exotics

IMG_3744Maybe it’s that there are more Asian and Middle Eastern farmers in the North East or maybe it’s just that New Yorker’s love to try new things, whatever the reason over the years I have been going to the Union Square Market it has evolved from being a place to get apples, potatoes and honey to being a place to get…a lot more than that.

Mache, Mizuna and Mustard Greens are standard fare now along with vast selections of Heirloom apples and Tomatoes, over the last couple of years Peanuts, Ginseng and Ginger have started to become more common.  I remember when I first saw Ginger, there were a meager few pieces of ginger root on a cloth laid out on a table at one farm stand.  I remember being very excited: OMG local ginger!  It was very expensive: more a novelty item then staple.

Not so anymore, this season at the market I saw a huge table of beautiful young ginger piled high for sale.  Still not cheap at $16 a pound and only available locally for about a month it is, to me at least, very thrilling to have the option to buy local Ginger. Something that if you were keen you could put up in syrup, freeze, make chili paste with or make a few very tasty Ginger cakes out of. IMG_3747Peanuts may not be so exotic, but they never were something you’d see at the market, I always associated them as something grown in the South – they are a favored crop to grow in rotation with cotton.  Indeed 41% of all Peanuts grown in the US are grown in Georgia followed by Texas and North carolina so it’s no wonder I associate them with the South, until now that is.  Apparently due to global climate change or maybe just clever farmer this popular legume grows just fine in southern New Jersey.IMG_1569Finally there is Ginseng which does grow wild in the hardwood forests of the North East, but has never much been visible at the market…until recently.  In truth I haven’t given it much thought because you don’t cook with it (I don’t consider making tea cooking) so it is way less interesting to me than ginger or peanuts.

Sorry for the blurry picture.IMG_3730I would be remiss if I also didn’t mention that our livestock has gotten a little more exotic as well, most notably Ostrich eggs meat and dog treats are for sale along with Bison (don’t they need cowboys and distant Rockie mountains?) have become have become available weekly thanks to intrepid local farmers.

In the end tho it is the Ginger that most captures my imagination probably because I love the flavor of it so much and put it in whatever I am making whenever I can.  Share your favorite Ginger recipe in the comments – I’m always looking for new ways to use it.  I’ll share first: my recipe for Ginger Peach Upside Down CakeIMG_3746

About urbanfoodguy

I'm a self taught cook with a dedication to buying and eating food that is as humanely and sustainably raised as possible. Which is why in addition to recipes you will see a lot of environmental/political reporting here. I started cooking when I was about 6, it's something I always loved to do. Watching Graham Kerr - aka "The Galloping Gourmet" - was what got me started and I have never really looked back. Over the years I've been a private chef, a caterer, and a food stylist for magazines such as Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, Real Simple, Oprah, Martha Stewart's Everyday Food and many more. I've also worked in the prep kitchen for the Food Network on the Bobby Flay and Paula Deen shows. Now I work at home in my kitchen sharing with you here recipes that I create or that other people have created that inspire me and I think you will like. I love my neighborhood (the Lower East Side of Manhattan) and I love to travel. Because NYC is such a big place I tend to focus mostly on my 'hood and the ones that are close by: The East Village, Bowery, Chinatown and Williamsburg. My love of travel has no limits really, I'm always ready to get on a plane. I was lucky enough to have a business for many years that allowed me to spend a lot of time in South East Asia. These days I've been spending time in Mexico, Germany, Canada and the West Coast of the U.S., but check back you never know where I might end up. I do consulting, cooking classes, and freelance lifestyle writing so if you are interested please send me a note: urbanfoodguy@gmail.com
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