Jersey Fresh was on full display in Hoboken on Thursday, when the first of three farmer’s markets in town opened its sidewalk for the first time this season. The unofficially-dubbed “Uptown Market,” located on Hudson Street between Thirteenth and Fourteenth Streets, sported a bevy of fruits, vegetables, baked goods, frozen entrees, cheeses, jams, and even an entire booth devoted strictly to pickled items.
The market, which operates on a different day of the week than its downtown counterpart, is open every Thursday from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m until Oct. 31.
A similar downtown market at Washington and Newark streets will be open every Tuesday, starting the third week in June, from 3 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., until the middle of November.
“Our markets offer Hoboken an interesting extension of what’s already here.” - Julie Harari
The city’s markets have existed in different capacities over 15 years. According to Julie Harari, one of the four residents who has spearheaded the markets’ recent management and development, the goal of the markets is not to “cannibalize what’s already available in Hoboken, but to complement it.”
“I think there are lots of unique things about our markets,” she said. “They’re focused on nutrition education and freshness, like any market, but I think they offer Hoboken an interesting extension of what’s already here.”
Everything sold at the markets is grown in New Jersey. Because the markets operate in the afternoon, nearly everything that’s sold is picked that day. The farmers can prove it, too.
“If you take a bite out of one of these strawberries, you’ll see that it’s red inside,” said a farmer from Stony Hill Gardens, in Chester. “That means it was picked when it was ripe, like this morning. The reason store-bought strawberries are white inside is because they were picked when they were still green.”
And though not everything sold at the market is organic, Dale Davis, Stony Hill’s owner, says that’s not a bad thing.
“People think organic means nothing gets sprayed with pesticides ever, but it’s almost the opposite,” said Davis. “We do a thing called integrated pest management, with Rutgers, where we count our pests per acre and when we reach a designated threshold, we spray only to kill the one pest. Organic growers will spray their entire crops with an ‘organic’ pesticide, but it kills everything and is far more toxic.”
Margaret Mallon, one of Harari’s colleagues (along with John Branciforte and Nora Martinez DiBenedetto), said she thought the markets’ greatest strength lies in the diversity of the vendors and their products.
“I’m getting educated to how many types of apples there are, to be honest,” she said, though her favorite items are the strawberries, which she looks forward to every year.
There is great variety, especially at the uptown market, where the famed Pickle King of Paterson pickles everything from, well, pickles, to salad dressings, fish, vegetables and shrimp salads. Gina’s Bakery from Montclair sells a wide range of breads, pizzas, and pastries.
And then, of course, there is Hoboken Farms, a company that’s actually located in the suburbs. The name was inspired by owner Brad Finkle’s grandmother telling him as a child to go to the “Hoboken farms,” meaning the produce carts that frequent Washington Street in the late 20th century. The traveling farm has since created a marinara sauce ranked the tastiest in the country by The Wall Street Journal. They sell a number of other items, including fresh mozzarella, breads, and frozen chicken pot pies, crab cakes, and sweet and hot sausages.
Mallon noted that one of the best things about the markets’ diversity is the anticipation of not knowing exactly what’s for dinner, but only that it will be fresh and delicious.
“It’s nice going to the market, talking to the farmers, asking what’s good today, what can I make with what’s here, things like that,” she said.
Harari called the market experience “pleasant living” and something that fits in well with Hoboken’s culture.
“It’s a big city convenience with a small town feel,” she said.
Dean DeChiaro may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org