Produce at the Riverside Arts Market

by Erin Thursby
I came to the first Riverside Arts Market with one goal: to buy produce. Knowing that I would be tempted by other wares, I carried only $10. Once in the market I wandered around a bit before finding the produce area.
The placement of the produce section was puzzling to me. One of the worst things you can do is to put fresh produce directly in the sun. And yet, that’s exactly where it was for the hottest part of the day. It would be better for the buyers and the vendors if the produce was on one of the inner lanes instead of an outer lane exposed to the hot sun. But the spot is great for veggie dealers who can unload their trucks right there.
I like sandy, unwashed produce. Not for eating, but for buying. Most of the time if it’s sandy then it just came out of the ground. I don’t mind washing my produce a couple of times if it’s fresh. When I saw the handfuls of sandy spring greens from Magnolia Farms, I knew I had to have a bag. For just $2 (which is cheaper than the washed bags in the supermarket), I came away with a full bag. Because it’s so fresh and unwashed, it’s held up a lot better than the stuff I can get at the supermarket.
While not everything had a Florida or Georgia farm label, most of the produce did come from one of those. If you’re aiming to be a locavore, the Riverside Arts Market produce section is a good place to start. Vendors can tell you the history of a box of veggies if they aren’t labeled.
I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised at the amount of organically grown fruits and vegetables the booths had to offer. Most of the people who buy at a farmer’s market or a weekend market do so because they want fresh, naturally grown produce.
Jars of preserved veggies and fruits were available from Jane’s Kountry Kitchen and I would have gone home with a bottle of honey if I didn’t have a whole jar of local stuff at home.
If I had brought a little extra cash, I surely would have purchased some chesses from Sweet Grass Dairy out of Thomasville, GA.
At the last booth on the row, strawberries sat glistening in the sun. “Try one,” the vendor said seductively “They’re like candy.” I’m easily seduced by strawberries.
After trying one, I splurged on the organic strawberries at $5 for a pound from Clear Choice Greenhouses, out of Thonotosassa, FL.
It wasn’t yet noon, but I was getting hungry. And I had $3 left. I ended up spending it on a large slice of Pizza Palace pizza, which, I have to say I did regret. I wanted to eat at the Native Sun booth, but nothing substantial there was $3 or under. The Proper Pie Company booth, which sold British pot pies and meat pies, had a long line and I just didn’t have the patience to wait.
Post pizza, I was fortified by a delish coffee sample from the locally roasted Growers Alliance. I’d tried their Kenyan coffee in the past, but not their Ethiopian, which was a bit earthier.
As someone who enjoys food, I’m glad to have another resource at my disposal in the Riverside Arts Market. Next time I think I’ll pack a picnic lunch and enjoy it by the river view, or else I’ll budget better for lunch!