Out and About: At market


From asparagus at a roadside farm stand to bright zinnias displayed at a farmers market, fresh local food is usually easy to find in the country.

When you live in the city it’s another matter. It can be a challenge to find a good variety of fresh fruit and vegetables in urban neighborhoods, and everyone knows that organic produce is just too expensive. Right?

Well, not exactly.

Several farmers markets have cropped up in West Philly over the last few years, making fresh fruits and veggies—as well as breads, cheese and honey—just another part of the diverse culinary landscape. And prices are absolutely affordable for those looking to stock up on green leafy things, homemade breads and fresh flowers for the dinner table.

Clark Park Farmers Market

Now in its eighth year, the Clark Park Farmers Market is hard to miss on a summer Saturday morning. Located at the busy corner of 43rd and Baltimore streets, in the biggest park in University City, this outdoor market offers the best of local produce, flowers and baked goods. Vendors line the sidewalk along 43rd Street from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and starting on June 2, on Thursdays from 3 to 7 p.m., packing their tables with fresh heirloom and organic products.

Fresh lettuce, radishes, potatoes, tomatoes, apples, plums, nectarines and carrots abound. Some vendors feature fresh dill, rosemary and other herbs, while one offers small baggies of dried spices and rubs for less than a dollar. A table from His Kids Dairy features creamy homemade cheese and a small selection of veggies. Pair that cheese with some fresh-baked wheat or white bread from the Amish vendors straight from Lancaster County and you’ve got a heavenly light lunch.

The table belonging to the pleasant Amish vendors also features baked goods that will easily put extra pounds around your middle: a variety of berry pies (in both large and small sizes) and delectable whoopee pies (sweet whipped cream pressed between two homemade cookies) at the bargain price of three for a dollar. Cookies range from chocolate chip to pumpkin. There are also fresh cut flowers, small plants perfect for transplanting into a porch container, maple syrup and locally raised beef.

On a summer’s day, you’ll find moms with strollers, students and older residents wandering beneath the tree branches, taking advantage of the diverse market in the neighborhood’s backyard.

Firehouse Farmers Market

This market—located in an old firehouse at 50th and Baltimore—features a small florist, fish and meat markets, a hot prepared food counter and a small baked goods coffeeshop. Fresh vegetables on sale range from a bag of string beans for $1.50 to conventionally grown asparagus from California. The friendly veggie vendor also offers bags of cashews, pistachios and sunflower and pumpkin seeds, as well as a few dry goods on the shelves, including gourmet salad dressing and brand-name paper goods.

After your weekly shopping is complete, stop by the coffee counter for a frosted donut or vegan treat, including a white chocolate “cakey thing” that’s fresh-tasting and not too sweet.

Powelton Village and Penn markets

The Lancaster Avenue Farmers Market, located at 37th and Lancaster in Powelton Village, runs on Saturdays from May 14 through Nov. 19 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and features many of the same foods found at the Clark Park market.

One of the highlights of this neighborhood market is the table manned by the skilled gardener-students of University City High School. With the help of the Urban Nutrition Initiative, a Penn and community partnership that promotes wellness and nutrition, students set up shop with organic vegetables straight from the school’s greenhouse garden.

The market will also host three festivals this summer—a strawberry fest in June, peach in late July and corn and tomato in late August—which will feature local bands and a tree planting.

There is also a small market at 36th and Walnut streets, convenient for Penn faculty and staff, on the plaza in front of the Penn Bookstore. This small market features fresh vegetables, organic eggs, natural yogurt and homemade chicken potpies all for bargain prices, and all to support local farmers and gardeners.

Originally published on May 12, 2005