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15 of America's Most Incredible Farmers' Markets

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As the demand for fresh, local foods has grown, America’s farmers' markets have evolved from hay bales and apple barrels to full-blown culinary experiences. Here are some of the top destinations from across the country.

1. FERRY PLAZA FARMERS MARKET

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As if the picturesque location overlooking the San Francisco Bay weren’t enough, Ferry Plaza offers some of the boldest, freshest local products in the country, including a who’s who of brands that have gone on to wider fame, like Blue Bottle Coffee and Cowgirl Creamery. The market operates three days a week and sports a different theme each day. Tuesdays revolve around organic produce, while Thursdays focus on artisanal street fare. The sprawling Saturday market features a little bit of everything, and typically draws upwards of 25,000 visitors.

2. GREEN CITY MARKET

Chicago’s largest farmers' market is notable for its rigorous vetting process, which requires all producers be certified by a third-party organization proving their “green” credentials. Those that make the cut will delight casual shoppers and foodies alike with everything from organic lettuces and microgreens to artisan grilled cheese, hot sauce and smoked meats. In July, more than 100 local restaurants and breweries will descend on the market to offer tasting menus. Tickets for the special event are pricey ($125), but for true Windy City food fans, that may well be a bargain.

3. FARMERS' AND CRAFTS MARKET OF LAS CRUCES

In addition to the loads of fresh produce, this New Mexico market is famous for its wide array of Southwest-inspired arts and crafts. You’ll find turquoise necklaces, woven baskets, ceramics, desert-landscape watercolors, and a collection of Native American artwork. Grab a cup of pour-over coffee and enjoy the live music while you stroll around. If you’re feeling bold, sample some of the local hot peppers on display.

4. CRESCENT CITY FARMERS MARKET

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This four-day-a-week farmers market features all the local flavors that make New Orleans a top culinary destination. Louisiana peaches, pralines, sweet potatoes, and heirloom tomatoes are always in demand, along with quirky favorites like hot pepper jelly by Bonnecaze Farms, and breads from Challah At Me! Bread Company. And of course, there’s plenty of seafood, from Gulf shrimp to softshell crabs and crayfish. Stop by the Des Allemands Outlaw Katfish booth for some alligator and turtle meat.

5. DANE COUNTY FARMERS MARKET

This Madison, Wisconsin mainstay bills itself as the largest producers-only market in the country, which means everything is guaranteed to be sold by the folks who grew, raised, and crafted each product. Cheese lovers will rejoice at the selection of cheddars, goudas, chevres, and gorgonzolas, as well as Wisconsin specialties like Tilston Point blu cheese and cheese curds courtesy of Hook’s Cheese. Flowers are another specialty, from houseplants to perennials, as well as a garden’s variety of fresh produce. With 300 vendors every week, you’re sure to find something that strikes your fancy.

6. PORTLAND FARMERS MARKET AT PORTLAND STATE UNIVERSITY

In a city known for fussy foodies, this market upholds a high standard for quality and freshness. Come hungry and pick up a breakfast burrito from Enchanted Sun or a plate of biscuits and gravy from Pine State Biscuits, then get busy perusing the stalls. You’ll find a bounty of seasonal produce and humanely raised meats, along with pantry items like raw honey, hazelnuts, farm-fresh milk, and some of the best coffee Portland has to offer. The market runs every Saturday, and at various other locations throughout the city the rest of the week.

7. WOODMONT FARMERS MARKET

Although it only operates two months out of the year (June 29 to August 31 this year) and offers a smaller selection compared to other noteworthy markets, this one’s hard to beat on freshness and local values. Everything hails from tiny Connecticut, making the trip from farm (or ocean, or warehouse) to market a short one. Produce usually comes in straight from the field, while seafood arrives directly from trawlers in nearby Stonington. The curated selection also includes grass fed meats, personal care products, and even locally made treats for dogs and cats.

8. NASHVILLE FARMERS' MARKET

Covering 16 acres in the heart of the Music City, this indoor-outdoor market runs seven days a week and offers a little bit of everything. The outdoor farm sheds feature seasonal produce, meats, and baked goods, as well as Southern-fried specialties like Papa’s Old-Fashioned Fried Pies and Professor Bailey’s Spicy Pimento Cheese. The indoor Market House, meanwhile, is the place to go for a meal or a snack, with food stands like Bella Nashville pizzeria and Music City Crepes lining the space. There’s also a weekly flea market and an educational garden for kids.

9. UNION SQUARE GREENMARKET

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A green oasis in the middle of New York City, this bustling market—the flagship of GrowNYC’s Greenmarket system—showcases a constantly rotating selection of produce, meat, baked goods, beer, and wine. Education and outreach are also a major focus, with cooking classes and chef demonstrations taking place each week, along with donations to local food pantries. With more than 60,000 visitors each week, it can get crowded, but if you download the market’s app, you can cruise through like a pro.

10. LANCASTER CENTRAL MARKET

Located in the heart of Amish country, Lancaster Central Market in Lancaster, Pennsylvania has been in business since 1757, making it the oldest continuously run farmers' market in the country. Tradition runs deep here: Some stands have operated for generations, and quirky regional favorites like scrapple (pork scraps and cornmeal) and chowchow (preserves made with spicy mustard and pickled vegetables) have stood the test of time. Yet the market is decidedly modern, too, with its renovated indoor space and embrace of international cuisine, from Thai to Greek and Middle Eastern. It’s a blend of old-world and new that you won’t find at most markets.

11. SANTA MONICA FARMERS' MARKET

Los Angeles chefs have been frequenting this market for years. That’s due to the freshness and variety of the produce, including some of the country’s best citrus fruit as well as exotic choices like plumelos, pluots, guava, and papaya. It could also have something to do with the market’s stringent standards for vendors, which includes audits at the market as well as at the farm or production facility. SMFM runs every Saturday and Sunday, and also has a lively Wednesday market that spotlights a local restaurant each week.

12. ST. LOUIS METROMARKET

You won’t find this farmers market in the same location week in and week out. One of several nationwide efforts to deliver farm-fresh produce to underserved communities, the St. Louis MetroMarket operates out of a refitted city bus, where visitors can find bins of lettuce, squash, beans, tomatoes, mushrooms, and apples. Started by a St. Louis University med student, the market promotes its selection by offering discounts and special recipes like sweet potato chili.

13. UNIVERSITY DISTRICT FARMERS MARKET

Pike Place Market may be the most widely known Seattle market, but University District is the city’s oldest and largest, and it's an absolute hit with locals. Every Saturday you’ll find dozens of produce, meat, and seafood vendors hailing from the Puget Sound region. There are also plenty of specialty purveyors, like locally made Greek yogurt from Ellenos and CommuniTea Kombucha. Come early and work in a stroll around the University of Washington campus.

14. CHARLESTON FARMERS MARKET

Open every Saturday from April through November in the heart of Charleston’s historic district, this southern favorite is equal parts produce stand, flea market, and culinary carnival. Fresh berries and peaches are a specialty, and crafty visitors will enjoy all the jewelry, pottery and handmade furniture on display. The real draw, though, is the delicious (and cleverly named) food stands, including barbecue from Right on Que, locally made popsicles from King of Pops, and gyros courtesy of Alexandra the Greek. Stands also offer an ample selection of Lowcountry classics like shrimp and grits and boiled peanuts.

15. DOWNTOWN FARMERS' MARKET

Beginning every May and running through October, Des Moines's main outdoor market shows off the bounty of Iowa farm country. More than 300 vendors representing 58 counties are on display, offering everything from fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs to baked goods, meats, and even seafood. Interested to know what Iowa wine tastes like? You can find out. Street parking is free on market Saturdays, but with more than 20,000 visitors slated to show, you might consider biking it and using the bike valet at the corner of 2nd Avenue and Court Street.

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Food
Does More Fat Really Make Ice Cream Taste Better?
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Cholesterol. Sugar. Carbs. Fat. As diet-trend demons come and go, grocery store shelves fill with products catering to every type of restriction. But as any lifelong snacker knows, most of these low-sugar/carb/fat options can't hold a candle to the real thing when it comes to taste. Or can they? Scientists writing in the Journal of Dairy Science say fat may be less important to ice cream's deliciousness than we thought.

Food researchers at Penn State brought 292 ice cream fans into their Sensory Evaluation Center and served each person several small, identical, unlabeled bowls of vanilla ice cream made with a range of fat levels: 6 percent, 8 percent, 10 percent, 12 percent, or 14 percent. The participants were asked to taste and compare the samples.

The researchers had two questions: Could participants tell the difference between varying fat levels? And if so, did they care?

The answer to the first question is, "It depends." Taste-testers' tongues could spot the fat gap of 4 percent between dishes of 6 percent and 10 percent. But when that range moved to 8 percent and 12 percent, they no longer noticed. 

More interestingly, reducing fat levels didn't have much effect on their interest in eating that ice cream again. They were equally interested in having a bowl of ice cream that had 6 percent fat and one that had 14 percent.

It's a bit like plain and pink lemonade, co-author John Hayes said in a statement. "They can tell the difference when they taste the different lemonades, but still like them both. Differences in perception and differences in liking are not the same thing."

Co-author John Coupland notes that removing fat from ice cream doesn't necessarily make it better for you. For this study, the researchers used the common industry trick of replacing fat with a cheap, bulk-forming starch called maltodextrin.

"We don't want to give the impression that we were trying to create a healthier type of ice cream," Coupland said.

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CasusGrill
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Design
A Cardboard Grill You Don't Have to Feel Bad Throwing Away
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CasusGrill

Just because a product is built to last doesn't necessarily mean it's good for the environment. In the case of barbecuing, disposable can be a good thing—if it's designed right. The Danish CasusGrill is a cardboard grill made from ingredients that break down quickly without causing environmental damage, as opposed to the aluminum versions (both disposable and traditional) that take hundreds of years [PDF] to decompose, as Co.Design reports.

The exterior is fashioned out of recycled cardboard, with the bottom lined with lava rock to protect the box from burning—and to insulate your hands against the heat, should you want to pick up the grill. The gridiron is made of bamboo, which has a higher ignition point and thus is less likely to catch on fire while grilling than regular wood.

Steak, sausages, and bacon cook on top of the cardboard grill.
CasusGrill

The grill is fueled by bamboo charcoal that gets hot enough to use in five minutes. Traditional charcoal briquettes usually have additives like coal and borax that make grilling a smoggy affair, while bamboo charcoal is a little more human-friendly. (It's the same kind of charcoal that's used in beauty products and those striking black charcoal-flavored foods.)

Based on the instruction video, it seems like the grill is just about ready to use straight out of the box. If you've ever put together an IKEA coffee table, the CasusGrill will be a breeze. You just have to fit a few cardboard pieces together to make the base, attach it to the grill, and light it up. Give it a few minutes to heat up, put the grate on top, and it's ready to go, cooking for up to an hour. When you're done, you can toss it on your campfire, leaving no trace of your cooking process. (Except the full stomachs.)

It's not available on the market just yet, but should be out sometime in August 2017. Go ahead and add it to your summer camping must-have list. You can pre-order the CasusGrill for $8 from The Fowndry.

[h/t Co.Design]

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