Friday, September 7, 2012

Getting Down & Dirty at the Farmers Market

The Union Square Greenmarket holds a special place in my heart. Back when we were just friends and Justin was still courting me, we spent an afternoon meandering around the market’s stalls packed with natural peanut butter, zucchini bread, beautiful flowers and so much more. Justin probably doesn’t remember that afternoon, but I can tell you what I was wearing. (I have a fickle memory; I remember specific outfits from especially enjoyable afternoons years ago, but I wouldn’t be able to tell you the names of any of my high school history teachers.) Anyway the USQ Greenmarket can get crowded, especially on weekends, but it’s worth the brief moments of claustrophobia. See below for a few pics I took on my iPhone while passing through the market a few weeks ago.

In the past I’ve liked to browse in the summertime but buy in the fall – when the merchants have in-season apples, along with apple cider, pumpkin bread, etc. But the market always has organic goodies and nutritional snacks like wheatgrass shots, and I’ve been reading that farm-to-table food in general has some surprising but incredibly beneficial qualities, all stemming from dirt. Apparently eating dirty Farmers Market food is really good for us. Yes – produce with a little soil on it. In Spontaneous Happiness Dr. Andrew Weil says there are benefits to exposing our hands and noses to dirt. Back in 2007 Discover magazine published an article titled “Is Dirt the New Prozac?” which reported on the results of a study of the “hygiene hypothesis.” This hypothesis, as summed up by Weil, said: 
The recently popular idea that living in environments that are too clean accounts for the sharp rise in the incidence of asthma and allergies in developed countries over the past century. Proponents of the hygiene hypothesis argue that excessive cleanliness deprives young people’s developing immune systems of routine exposure to harmless microorganisms in the environment, such as soil bacteria. Without this exposure, our immune systems might not learn to ignore such molecules as those in pollen or pet dander.
And there’s more useful info…
Pursuing this line of reasoning, some researchers have tried treating people with a common and benign soil bacterium called Mycobacterium vaccae. Preliminary results indicate that injections of a killed vaccine made from it can alleviate skin allergies. The vaccine has also been found to reduce nausea and pain in some lung cancer patients and, surprisingly, improve their general quality of life and mood…
The takeaway?
It can’t hurt to kick up some dirt and not be afraid to inhale a little dust when you’re digging in the garden. You can also expose yourself to beneficial mycobacteria by eating vegetables fresh from the garden—if you don’t scrub off every speck of dirt. 
For us city folk without gardens or even yards, growing veggies on our fire escapes is one option. The other option is to buy food from the local Farmers Market.


P.S. The Union Square Greenmarket is open:
Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday
8 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.

P.P.S. The New York Times recently published an article titled “Dirtying Up Our Diets” which makes the same argument as laid out above: 
Over 7,000 strong and growing, community farmers’ markets are being heralded as a panacea for what ails our sick nation. The smell of fresh, earthy goodness is the reason environmentalists approve of them, locavores can’t live without them, and the first lady has hitched her vegetable cart crusade to them. As health-giving as those bundles of mouthwatering leafy greens and crates of plump tomatoes are, the greatest social contribution of the farmers’ market may be its role as a delivery vehicle for putting dirt back into the American diet and in the process, reacquainting the human immune system with some "old friends."
Read on here.

P.P.P.S. I love visiting different city’s Farmers Markets when traveling in the States. It’s a great way to learn about each locale’s culture and of course find yummy snacks and even souvenirs. My friend Rachel and I brought home jam from the Santa Barbara Farmers Market. I’ve also perused the Boulder Farmers Market, which is really extensive and awesome. 


  1. Georgous photo,Amy! I'll be moving soon and I plan on copying,printing, and hanging that photo in my new kitchen!!

  2. Great article, exactly what I wanted to find.


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