In preparation for traveling to any city in which I intend to spend an extended period of time, I create three detailed lists: veg-friendly restaurants to visit, yoga studios to try out, and farmers markets to patronize. The planning for my summer move to DC proved no differently. While I’ve already introduced you to the compilation of DC restaurants that excite my gastronomic curiosity, and intend to profile the activist-oriented Yoga District at which I’ve become a summer member, today’s post regales the vibrant array of local, seasonal produce featured at three of the DC farmers markets nearest to my apartment.
In the above handy-dandy map, the blue pin represents the Aya Community Market, the yellow represents the well-known Eastern Market, and the green represents the H Street Freshfarm Market. Below, you’ll find a detailed description of each market.
Aya Community Market
Though the smallest of the three markets I’ve explored with only two booths set up on the day I visited, the Aya Community Market aspires to hugely noble goals. Founded by the nonprofit Dreaming Out Loud, the Aya Community Market seeks to further the organization’s mission to “empower the potential in under-served communities” by providing fresh produce, creating sustainable employment, and introducing resources promoting a healthy lifestyle to those living in food deserts and low-access neighborhoods. Indeed, in addition to functioning as a farmers market, Aya also provides a venue for eco-friendly living workshops, cooking demonstrations, health screenings, and live music and poetry.
Regrettably, I missed the pleasure of experiencing any of the latter few exciting activities during my jaunt to the market, and none seem scheduled on Aya’s online calendar before I leave DC. I can only hope that Aya continues to serve the community in the manner it intends, and grow beyond its current humble size. Regardless of Aya’s questionable success, one of the two vendors with whom I interacted at the market provided me with two gorgeous bunches of Red Russian kale, a quart of fragrant strawberries, a box each of pastel green beans and squeaky sugar snap peas, and a bunch of beets complete with their greens.
As DC’s oldest continually operated fresh food public market, the Eastern Market attracts a huge crowd of produce-admiring customers every weekend to its open-air farmers market. The outdoor market, open on Saturday and Sunday, boasts over twenty vendors selling fresh produce, prepared edibles such as hummus and barrel-brined pickles, and homemade body care products. Alongside these so-called “Farmers Line” vendors, a variety of arts-and-crafts merchants display their handcrafted jewelry, screen-printed t-shirts, painted ceramics, and more.
Though its’ farmers market takes place only on the weekends, the Eastern Market houses indoor vendors every day. Some of them sell fresh fruit and veggies, but most of them sell the butchered flesh of various animals, creating a stomach-churning odor that dissuaded me from reentering the building anytime soon. Thus, I happily remained at the outdoor portion of the market, eagerly purchasing the last asparagus and strawberries of the season, a fragrant bunch of lavender that I proceeded to dry in my apartment, and one of the most beautiful bags of mixed greens upon which I’ve ever laid eyes.
Unfortunately, judging by the cantaloupe and sweet corn available at the Eastern Market in late May—much too early for either of the crops’ seasons in this region—I would presume that not all of the market’s vendors source their produce entirely locally. Because I much prefer to eat exactly following the seasons, support a local economy as much as possible, and experience the intimate food-grower relationship of a true farmers market, I decided to visit a market slightly farther from my apartment than the Eastern Market in order to satisfy my three aforementioned criteria.
H Street Freshfarm Market
After four weeks of my residency in DC, I finally paid a visit to what I’d consider the most ideal farmers market in close proximity to my apartment (though none can even hope to rival the absolutely impeccable Dane County Farmers Market that I’ve adored since childhood). Part of DC’s 11 producer-only Freshfarm Markets—”the leading voice[s] for farmers markets in the Washington, DC, metropolitan region, and a national leader in the local food movement”—the 9-year-old H Street Freshfarm Market operates every Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to noon. The H Street Freshfarm Market also functions as a partner of the H Street Main Street Program, which works to foster the revitalization of the historic, yet currently rather downtrodden, H Street Corridor.
I had the pleasure of biking to the H Street Freshfarm Market on a gorgeously sunny morning, discovering a farmers market modest in size yet bountiful in high-quality produce. Two rows of about five vendors each lined the 13th & H Street block, offering peak spring goods from black mulberries to squash blossoms to microgreens to loaves of artisanal bread.
Expectedly, I filled my tote bag to the brim, particularly excited about a box of fresh young fava beans that I later transformed into the Fava Bean Cakes pictured below—crisp patties of mashed potato, fava beans, carrot greens, and Middle Eastern spices, inspired by a (not originally vegan) recipe in Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty. I eagerly await my next jaunt to the H Street Freshfarm Market.
If any of you, dear readers, reside in the DC area, I’d greatly appreciate if you’d inform me as to your favorite nearby farmers markets.
Until next time, Ali.