Friday, July 10, 2009

Word On The Street: City's Short On Produce

This little headline in the Huffington Post caught my attention today: "How Hard Is It To Get Fruits and Vegetables In the City?" It's so true. New Yorkers don't know how bad they have it. Anytime I visit a produce department in a supermarket (much less a Walmart) in another state, it's like stepping into Eden, with all that bounty.

When I moved to NYC from California, I used to go to this little bodega across the street from my Upper East Side apartment. They charged a ransom for the mealiest produce you'd ever seen. In the summer, the place would be swarming with fruit flies - unappetizing to begin with - and whatever produce I bought would be rotten or moldy within 48 hours.

There was a Gristedes a couple blocks away, but I swear their produce department is just for the truly desperate--"Yikes, I have a recipe that calls for onions and I'm fresh out. Thank god there's a Gristedes selling really expensive, sickly produce around the corner." I have been this desperate on occasion, but I've learned to plan better

I made these produce blunders when I was a grad student and low on funds. Not only did I lose my California tan, but I'm sure my sickly pallor was due to my inability to find tasty, affordable produce in my neighborhood.

Now that I have a little more cash flow, the only two places I'll buy produce are Whole Foods and the produce markets on Mott St. in Chinatown. At the former, you're paying a little more, but you know you're geting quality stuff. At the latter, you know the stuff is fresh b/c of the rapid turnover, and it's cheap. I also frequent my neighborhood Zeytuna, which is like a mini-Whole Foods and has a cheaper and better herb section.

I'll occasionally stop at fruit stands on the corner from time to time to grab a bunch of grapes or an avocado, but you have to be careful. I always ask the stand keeper if I can sample the grapes before I buy them, and I inspect my produce before forking over the cash. These guys will pick the produce for you if you stand back and mumble "I'd like to get a few apples, please," but when you get home, you'll find your apples are as mushy as your commitment to good produce.


Cents in the City said...

Have you tried Agata & Valentina? It can be a bit pricey for most items, but it is a quality market. I find their fruits and veggies to be in good shape and reasonably priced. Unfortunately in NYC you just need to know what markets to go to for the best quality/price. It would be nice if we get everything in one place, but it never seems to work that way!

Alison said...

SO TRUE!! I am from CA and there would be a little "farmer's market" twice a week near my dorm on the UWS when I went to school. The produce was just awful!!! When my dad came to visit (he picked fruit in central CA when he was young), he would joke that the fruit that was being sold in NY was the fruit they would throw away in CA!!! The fruit is always so small, damaged and just doesn't look fresh or appetizing. I would totally buy my produce from Whole Foods!

Suzee said...

I'm not even anywhere from CA (I'm originally from NH) and I hear you - I finally found a great bodega near my apt in the UES that put Food Emporium and Gristedes to shame for quality, and the gourmet shops to shame for price - the selection unfortunately was not wide, but the items were fresh. Now I'm in Murray Hill its like I've died and gone to the compost pile...

The Girl Next Door said...

Thanks for the suggestion, Cents in the City. I'll try Agata & Valentina. I forgot to mention another great place for produce (and hard to find produce) is the Manhattan Fruit Exchange in Chelsea Markets. It's nice to know we're equally produced challenged in this city!