Plants, flowers, fruits and vegetables: That’s the sum total of what was offered at the Dupont Circle FreshFarm Market in 1997, says its co-founder and co-executive director, Ann Yonkers.
Fifteen years later, she and Bernadine Prince run an outfit that sets up 11 markets in the Washington area each week, featuring goods from more than 150 farmers and producers.
The women have made history. Their efforts have earned honors and accolades. In a statement posted on the organization’s freshly redesigned site, they offer lots of thanks and acknowledgments, but here at the Food section, we’d like to post our gratitude for making real food matter here in the nation’s capital. (And for never failing to locate the ingredients we need for testing, and for connecting us with so many of the people who grow and sell at the markets. They’ve had great stories to tell.)
Related anniversary celebrations have been ongoing at area restaurants throughout the month, and Sunday’s bash at Dupont Circle promises to be merry. We asked Yonkers to come up with a list of market items that weren’t around at the start but are thriving and sought-after now. As usual, she delivered. You can peruse her top 15 after the jump:
1. Artisanal cheeses. There are eight new regional cheeses and cheesemakers using goat’s, cow’s and sheep’s milk.
2. Breads and pastries. The markets have fostered a generation of talented bakers and discerning customers whose appetite for European-style breads and pastries is ever-expanding.
3. Grains. Farmers are now growing barley, wheat, rice and rye for cooks, distillers and bakers, making this one of the newest frontiers in local agriculture.
4. Milk and yogurt. From Jersey cows grazing on Maryland pastures.
5. Meat. From animals that are humanely raised and out on pasture. There has been a return to heritage breeds animals prized for flavor and adaptability such as Berkshire pork and Devon cattle.
6. Cured meats. The growing supply of sustainably raised meats is now being transformed by local butchers and chefs into unique cured products such as honey- and hickory-smoked bacons, pancetta, characuterie and salumi.
7. Seafood. Crab cakes and crab-themed delicacies are made with our own Chesapeake Bay Atlantic Blue Crab.
8. Stone and field fruits. The growing diversity stretches from May through September, in addition to a year-round supply of apples and pears.
9. Heirloom vegetables. A beautiful bonanza of varieties is offered alongside common varieties.
10. Valued-added products. Small-batch, preserved pantry items include jams, jellies, sauces, salsas, pickles, honeys, hot sauces, pastas and more.
11. Prepared foods. They represent the next frontier in market growth, Yonkers says. Ready-to-eat local foods such as soups, grilled sausages and meats, fish cakes, pulled pork, popcorns, fruit smoothies are becoming increasingly popular.
12. Gelati and sorbets.. The flavors mirror the seasons of the Chesapeake Bay region; a current survey finds lemon opal basil; blackberries and cream; blueberry lemon thyme.
13. Eggs. From hens, ducks and quail who are raised on pasture and whose pens are moved regularly to fresh grass.
14. Fresh ginger. This is a unique seasonal item grown by a few talented and experimental farmers in the FreshFarm Market system
15. Figs. Three or four varieties are grown by FreshFarm Market farmers.