9 Tips for Shopping the Dupont Circle Farmers Market
May 19, 2023 @ 10:00am
The FRESHFARM farmers market in Dupont offers all manners of delectable, high-quality produce and other products.
A farmers market is one of the more particular aspects of city life. With curated installments of greenery arriving from afar in the backs of trucks, the natural world seems further away than ever — yet a market’s floppy tents and active hands tend to mitigate the urgency of the District.
Shopping at a farmers market is, as rumored, exorbitantly expensive in D.C. — the monarchy of in-season fruit trumps affordability. The Dupont farmers market, hosted by FRESHFARM on Sundays from 8:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m., does little to disrupt this standard. However, its seemingly all-encompassing assemblage of vendors works hard to validate these prices via superior produce.
If I’m determined to buy the upcoming week’s groceries at the market, I will adhere to a temporary vegetarian diet. Growing up at my grandmother’s house meant duck from the farm down the road and eggs at the doorstep hardly packaged in recycled cartons. Neighbors left these gifts as a trade for her invaluable heirloom tomatoes — honestly priced by quality rather than pound. A D.C. farmer’s market meat purchase means $25+ for chicken thighs from EcoFriendly Foods, the best vendor in the city — a pleasure I save for special occasions.
Atwater’s cranberry-walnut sourdough is a non-negotiable farmers market investment. Though the bakery offers scones, preserves, rye, gluten-free hamburger buns and more, their dense, chewy sourdough is undoubtedly my favorite loaf of bread in the District. I miss workouts to ensure acquisition of that sourdough, and in past instances of failure, I’ve stood blankly for minutes on end amid hordes of market-scavengers before begrudgingly deciding on a plan B.
Two to three red tents mark the empire that is Spring Valley Farm and Orchard — a vendor advancing its status through quality and quantity of produce. You will always find the basics here — colorful mixed greens, squash, potatoes, berries and Brussels reliably sitting atop wooden crates each week, seemingly piled high in case of emergency. Though the stand emphasizes its selection of staples rather than fashionable in-season vegetables, it’s quite nice to leave with all the ingredients for a colorful salad or nutrient-dense soup.
While grocery stores typically offer one measly super-greens mix at best, the greens flavors at Metro Microgreens parallel the selection at a candy shop. This farmers market vendor cannot be faithfully replicated by a Whole Foods lettuce wall despite the chain’s persuasive advertising. In addition to its generous selection, the stand’s owners will repeatedly coach each shopper through microgreen-food pairings like sommeliers — handing over samples as the conversation oscillates. Metro Microgreens has leek micros for those who may crave shaved onions without the bite, broccoli micros for those who hate the vegetable but feel compelled by its benefits and spicy purple micros for those with an affinity for stimulating the palette at lunchtime.
The yellow-checkered tablecloths at Quaker Valley Orchards would be picturesque without rows and rows of delicious jam jars stacked on top, yet a combination of the two things is successful in attracting customers of all ages. These jams — lemon-blueberry, raspberry, tart cherry, apricot or whatever else you may wish for — sit in quaint manageable mason jars rather than seemingly gluttonous plastic tubs. They are delicious, not overly sweet and texturally distinguishable from any supermarket preserve. When I feel luxurious, I purchase jam plus an additional container of Quaker Valley’s applesauce. When I feel lazy yet pretentious, I purchase jam plus the vendor’s light, eight-ingredient tomato sauce, made from tomatoes, garlic, basil, oregano, oil, tomato paste and salt.
I routinely conclude my Dupont farmers market trips by acquiring some version of the aforementioned fashionable vegetable for the purpose of insufferably discussing its flavor profile for the coming weeks — last month it was sunchokes from Potomac Vegetable Farms, a stand with reliably niche and delicious produce. Then, I decide I must purchase something I don’t need but want badly, which may be handmade eucalyptus soap from Shepherds Manor Creamery, hot sauce from HEX Ferments or fresh strozzapreti from Cucina Al Volo. Though I tend to appreciate the variability of the vendors a little bit too much, the farmers market has brought me solace ever since I moved from tall-grass fields to cracked sidewalks, four years ago this fall.
When we were younger, my sister and I litigated the aspects of our personalities to determine if we were “country girls” or “city girls.” This game simply fueled the compulsion we had to define our characters — we both loved Brooklyn when our mother moved, yet the bucolic spirit of our grandmother’s town proved more important to us. There is something to be said for country girls turned country women who end up living in cities. As a 22-year-old bound to city life by my professional interests, sometimes I pay a little extra in order to play pretend.
Dupont Farmers Market: 1600 20th St. NW, DC; freshfarm.org/markets/dupont-circle // @freshfarmdc
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