Consumer demand usually dictates what produce is available in farmers' markets. So it seemed logical that sooner or later a market catering to Central American tastes would open alongside all the others that flourish in the Washington area from May through November.
After all, there are some 20,000 Central Americans living downtown in Adams Morgan, Mount Pleasant and Columbia Heights, said Leo Cruz, director of La Casa del Pueblo, a Washington, D.C., Christian-based community group. Most of them are uprooted peasant farmers from Salvador and Guatemala who raised tiny ears of Central American corn, wing beans and rice as their basic diet before fleeing their homelands for a new life here in the city, he said.
The shortage of usable farmland in the city, combined with the fact that "life is 180 degrees different here than it was in Central America," presents adjustment problems for many of the refugees, Cruz said. One solution was to find land in the city where they could raise the fresh fruits and vegetables of their homelands and then sell the produce in markets that cater to the Central American population, Cruz said. The first year's crop, they estimate, will bring in over $35,000 for the group to use in community projects. The produce is being sold at Calvary United Methodist Church in Adams Morgan starting in early July.
"It the garden seemed like a good opportunity for the community to express its cultural identity," Cruz said, while at the same time help the refugees adjust to their new lifestyles.
But the fact that Washington weather is much more temperate than that of Central America presented a problem in raising this tropical produce which requires longer, hotter days than we see in the average summer. So the garden has become experimental, utilizing similar seeds developed at the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center. Their experimental varieties of winged bean and chayote (a pear-shaped vegetable from the cucumber family), for example, require shorter day lengths than the varieties used in Central America.
The seeds are being tested around the United States to see just how much cool weather the crops can stand, said Tricia Gabany, former director of Garden Resources of Washington (GROW) and a La Casa del Pueblo board member. "We don't know how anything will do in the long run at this point," Gabany said about the project, "but we are enthusiastic about the prospects."
The garden -- the efforts of a diverse group of religious organizations -- is located on an acre of land that is rented for $1 a year on the campus of St. Paul's College in northeast. In addition, Rabbi Eugene Lippman of Temple Sinai in northwest supplied funding for the tools that would be needed to work in the garden, and the offices of La Casa del Pueblo are located in the aging Calvary United Methodist Church in Adams Morgan. Incidental costs, such as insurance and transportation, on the other hand, are covered by a grant from GROW.
Right now the garden is flourishing, Cruz said. While there will be a good supply of tomatoes, green peppers, cabbages and radishes, as the summer goes along there will also be a healthy supply of locally grown ji'cama, yucca, tomatillos, chayote, epazote (an aromatic herb), cilantro, tiny central American corn, passion fruit and much more of the produce that is native to this large Central American community. If all goes well, by the fall there will be a La Casa del Pueblo co-operative market specializing in Central American products operating out of Calvary United Methodist Church.
Until then, here is a listing of many of the farmers' markets that are open now and will continue to operate throughout the summer. It is accompanied by a calendar of when to expect other locally grown fruits and vegetables to be widely available in this area. Farmer's Markets THE DISTRICT
All-Souls Episcopal Church, 2300 Cathedral Ave., NW., (corner of Connecticut and Cathedral), Sat., 10 a.m.-noon.
Anacostia Open-Air Farmer's Market, 2041 Martin Luther King Ave., Sun. 8 a.m.-2 p.m.
Congress Heights Open Air Farmer's Market, 4001 South Capitol St. (South Capitol and Brandywine), Wed. and Fri., noon-dusk.
D.C. Open-Air Farmer's Market, Parking Lot 7, RFK Stadium (Oklahoma and Benning Rd.), Tues. and Thurs., noon-dusk; Sat., 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
Farmer's Market, corner 18th and Columbia Rd. NW, plaza of Perpetual American Bank, Sat., 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Georgetown Burleith Open-Air Market, 35th & T St. NW (Gordon School), Wed. noon-5 p.m.; Sat. 9 a.m.-2 p.m.
La Casa del Pueblo, Calvary United Methodist Church, 1459 Columbia Rd. NW., Sat. and Sun., 9 am. to noon.
Malcolm X Elementary School, Congress Pl. and Alabama Ave., SE, Thurs., 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sat. 8 a.m.-3 p.m. MARYLAND
Montgomery County Markets:
Armory Place, Silver Spring, Sat., 7 a.m.-1 p.m.
Bureau of Standards, Gaithersburg, Lot 235, Thurs., 3:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m.
Dayspring Church Farm Market, 11301 Neelsville Church Rd. (follow signs to market), Germantown, Tues.-Sat., 9 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sun. noon-5 p.m.
Montgomery Farm Women's Market, 7155 Wisconsin Ave., Bethesda, Wed. and Sat., 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
NIH, Bethesda, Lot 41B, Tues., 3:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m. VIRGINIA
Market Square, 301 King St., Sat., 5 a.m. to 9 a.m.
Arlington Count House, North 14th Street side, Sat., 7 a.m.-noon.
Fairfax City, 4100 Chain Bridge Rd., Intersection of Rts. 236 and 123, Wed., 9:30 a.m.-2 p.m.
McLean Farmers Market, McLean Baptist Church, Chain Bridge and Churchhill Roads (in the center of town), Fri., 8:30 a.m.-2 p.m.
Reston Farm Market, 10800 Baron Cameron Ave., seven days, 9 a.m.-dusk. Fruits
Apples: Aug. 15-Nov. 5
Blackberries: July 5-Aug. 1
Blackberries (thornless): July 10-Sept. 10
Blueberries: June 20-Aug. 1
Cherries, sour: June 15-July 15
Cherries, sweet: June 10-July 10
Cider: July 21-Sept. 20
Grapes, table: Aug. 15-Sept. 20
Grapes, wine: Aug 15-Sept. 20
Nectarines: July 25-Aug. 25
Peaches: July 5-Sept. 20
Pears: Aug. 15-Oct. 15
Plums: July 15-Sept. 15
Raspberries, black: June 15-July 10
Raspberries, red: June 15-July 10
Strawberries: May 15-June 20 Vegetables
Beans, snap: June 10-Sept. 15
Beans, lima: July 20-Sept. 1
Beans, pole: June 24-Aug. 30
Beets: July 4-Sept. 1
Broccoli: July 10-Nov. 1
Cabbage: June 1-Sept. 15
Cantaloupes: July 15-Sept. 15
Carrots, baby: June through first frost
Carrots: July 10-Sept. 15
Corn, yellow: June 25-Sept. 15
Corn, white: June 25-Sept. 15
Corn, Indian: October and November
Cucumbers: July 1-Sept. 1
Cucumbers, pickles: July 1-Aug. 1
Eggplant: July 25-Sept. 10
Herbs: May through October
Okra: July 15-Aug. 30
Peas, green: June 10-July 1
Peas, blackeye: July 20-Aug. 30
Peppers: July 25-Sept. 15
Potatoes: July 1-Sept. 30
Potatoes, sweet: Sept. 5-Dec. 15
Pumpkins: Sept. 10-Nov. 30
Spinach, spring: May to November
Spinach, fall: October and November
Squash, summer: June 25-Sept. 1
Squash, winter: Aug. 1-Sept. 30
Tomatoes: July 4-Sept. 15
Turnips: Aug 15-Nov. 1
Watermelon: Aug. 1-Oct. 1