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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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11 of the Most Extreme Junk Foods Ever Created
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It should come as no surprise that National Junk Food Day is traditionally celebrated on July 21—smack dab in the middle of the dog days of summer, when the streets run thick with ice cream trucks and county fairs boast the kind of fried treats that can only be described as “awesome” (both in the modern sense and the more dated, whoa, we are in awe of that usage). But National Junk Food Day shouldn’t be celebrated with commonplace junk food; oh, no, it deserves something far bigger and better. So save your potato chips and chocolate bars for another day, and get ready to try some truly wild treats.

1. THE KFC DOUBLE DOWN


KFC

Perhaps the most unexpectedly clever way to create a new extreme junk food item is to turn a non-junky foodstuff into something that just oozes calories and decadence. Fried chicken giant KFC knew that—and played it up to major effect—when they introduced the KFC Double Down to America back in 2010. The sandwich foregoes the most traditional aspect of any sandwich (the bread!) and substitutes two fried chicken filets. In between the two pieces of chicken? Bacon, two different kinds of cheese, and the Colonel’s “secret sauce.” There’s no room for a bun here, folks.

2. PIZZA HUT'S HOT DOG STUFFED CRUST PIZZA

We may associate items like fast food pizza and hot dog-stuffed anything with all-American palates, but cheesy juggernaut Pizza Hut saw things a bit differently. In 2012, the chain introduced a pizza with a hot dog-stuffed crust to our neighbors across the pond, treating their UK customers to the kind of taste sensation some people might have had literal nightmares about. Is it a pizza? Is it a hot dog? Somehow, it’s both—and yet something much more.

3. FRIENDLY'S GRILLED CHEESE BURGERMELT


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Once again, a wily restaurant chain took a normal food item—in this case, a hamburger—and amped up its junk factor by doing away with something as commonplace as buns, in favor of an entirely different (and, yes, very junky) item. In 2010, Friendly’s rolled out its very own spin on the Double Down, slamming a regular old burger between not one, but two grilled cheese sandwiches. Who needs buns when you can have four pieces of bread, gooey cheese, and unfathomable amounts of butter?

4. GUY FIERI'S CHEESECAKE CHALLENGE

Whiz-bang chef Guy Fieri has long drawn ire for his more wild culinary creations, but what sets his cuisine apart from that of other junk food aficionados is his steadfast dedication to the key elements of any extreme item: size and odd combinations. Fieri’s “Guy's Cheesecake Challenge” is currently on the menu of his Vegas Kitchen and Bar, but it’s easy enough to replicate at home: Just halve a cheesecake, throw it on a plate, and douse liberally with hot fudge, pretzels, and potato chips. (What, no bacon?)

5. DENNY'S FRIED CHEESE MELT


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In August 2010, Denny’s introduced the Fried Cheese Melt, a grilled cheese sandwich stuffed with fried mozzarella sticks. Yes, it was served with both French fries and a side of marinara sauce, because it’s important to eat vegetables with every meal.

6. DUNKIN' DONUTS'S GLAZED DONUT BREAKFAST SANDWICH


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If you’ve ever hit up your local Dunkin' Donuts for breakfast and found yourself stumped when it came time to decide if you wanted a donut or a breakfast sandwich to get your morning motor revving, Dunkin' Donuts came up with a brilliant culinary brainstorm in 2013: the fast food favorite unveiled a breakfast sandwich that used glazed donuts as “bread,” wrapped around bacon and peppered egg.

7. JACK IN THE BOX MUNCHIE MEAL

What Jack’s Munchie Meals lack in creativity, they more than make up for in pure, unadulterated size and content. Each Munchie Meal—there are four total—features a massive sandwich (from the Stacked Grilled Cheese Burger to the Spicy Nacho Chicken Sandwich, and all sorts of wild fried things in between) accompanied with two beef tacos, “Halfsies” (a combo of fries and curly fries), and a 20-ounce fountain drink. These intense snack boxes are still available at most Jack in the Box locations, but you’ll have to wait until after 9 p.m. to procure your very own.

8. PIZZA HUT CHEESY BITES REMIX PIZZA

Apparently, there’s nothing that Pizza Hut loves more than using its crust as a delivery system for other junk food items. The hut that pizza built may have crammed hot dogs and hamburgers on to their pie sides, but there was something special about the Cheesy Bites Remix pizza. It featured fried cheese pockets stuffed with three different varieties of extra junk, from spicy seasoning to cream cheese and sesame to mozzarella and parmesan.

9. DEEP FRIED BUTTER

County and state fairs have long been hotbeds (sizzling, oily hotbeds) of wild, deep-frying invention. Dunking things in batter and then tossing them into a vat of oil is a nifty way to turn almost anything into a delicious crisp pocket of junky decadence, perfect for utensil-free eating—but that doesn’t mean that everything needs to get the deep-fried treatment. While deep-fried Oreos may be a stroke of brilliance, deep fried butter is just plain madness. Here’s a quick test: If you wouldn’t eat something if it weren’t deep-fried, don’t eat it if it is deep-fried. When was the last time you ate an entire stick of butter? See? Point proven.

10. THE BACON BUN BURGER

Not content to have a bacon sandwich between two chicken filets? Is a grilled cheese bun replacement not for you? Then try making your very own hamburger buns out of bacon. Carbs are bad for you, right?

11. FRIED ICE CREAM SANDWICH

The Florida State Fair is the proud home of the first fried ice cream sandwich, a junky treat that bears a name that doesn’t even begin to explain what it holds between its buns. It’s not a fried ice cream sandwich so much as a bacon cheeseburger (technically a sandwich) topped with a ball of fried ice cream. It might be a good meal for multi-taskers—no need to worry about dessert—but it doesn’t sound like the kind of thing good for anything else.

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Scientists Find a Possible Link Between Beef Jerky and Mania
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Scientist have discovered a surprising new factor that may contribute to mania: meat sticks. As NBC News reports, processed meats containing nitrates, like jerky and some cold cuts, may provoke symptoms of mental illness.

For a new study, published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, scientists surveyed roughly 1100 people with psychiatric disorders who were admitted into the Sheppard Pratt Health System in Baltimore between 2007 and 2017. They had initially set out to find whether there was any connection between certain infectious diseases and mania, a common symptom of bipolar disorder that can include racing thoughts, intense euphoria, and irritability.

While questioning participants about their diet, the researchers discovered that a significant number of them had eaten cured meats before their manic episodes. Patients who had recently consumed products like salami, jerky, and dried meat sticks were more likely to be hospitalized for mania than subjects in the control group.

The link can be narrowed down to nitrates, which are preservatives added to many types of cured meats. In a later part of the study, rats that were fed nitrate-free jerky acted less hyperactive than those who were given meat with nitrates.

Numerous studies have been published on the risks of consuming foods pumped full of nitrates: The ingredient can lead to the formation of carcinogens, and it can react in the gut in a way that promotes inflammation. It's possible that inflammation from nitrates can trigger mania in people who are already susceptible to it, but scientists aren't sure how this process might work. More research still needs to be done on the relationship between gut health and mental health before people with psychiatric disorders are told to avoid beef jerky altogether.

[h/t NBC News]

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