My Favorite Weekend Pastime – Visiting Fresh Market at Wiregrass
What was paradise, but a garden full of vegetables and herbs and pleasure? Nothing there but delights.
Agriculture is our wisest pursuit, because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals, and happiness.
Letter from Thomas Jefferson to George Washington in 1787.
Food is one few things that people cannot do without. Debates about food have probably existed for thousands of years. What should be eaten, how much and how often, – these are all choices each individual is making for himself or herself. However, no one is going to argue that whatever you eat should be of premium quality. It does not matter what god we believe (if we believe at all), but we definitely left the garden full of tasty healthy fruits and vegetables behind us and we are racing towards artificially created or modified food at full throttle.
I believe we need to continue using our technical progress for anything but changing the food we eat. These changes are not necessary, despite frightening economists’ forecasts that food is scarce on earth and we will all die starving. I also believe that the food on your plate should look as close as possible to its original ripe condition, and the ingredients should be recognizable and natural. Processed food became our addiction, convenience and… our death. The medical industry is thriving, not because it is inventing and producing immortality pills but because it can hardly maintain our lives, with lots of crutches in a form of pills, devices and surgeries. Well, it is high time we returned to our garden.
Everyone should pursue their own happiness, careers and goals… We cannot all become farmers and literally return to gardens. What we can do and might have to do is to support our ‘local gardens’, from where our food should come.
‘What we eat has changed more in the last 40 years than in the previous 40,000. The survival of the current food system depends upon widespread ignorance of how it really operates.’ Eric Schlosser, author of “Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal”
Whatever we eat, should be our individual choice. However, when food becomes poison, it is our common problem and we all suffer the consequences. So much money invested into maintaining unhealthy nation instead of investing into developing great nation… It is hard to deny the convenience of supermarkets, but they should be our last resort when it comes to fresh vegetables and fruits. For many people availability and quantity became more important than quality.
My search for fresh vegetables and fruits brought me to several open markets within Tampa Bay Ara depending where I was driving. I would like to tell you more about an open fresh market, that became my destination in search of fresh vegetables. I like the prices, the quality and it does taste better! It is also a fun place to hang out and meet nice people. The event is known as Fresh Market at Wiregrass. It is normally held on the 1st and 3rd Saturday of each month. The next market will be on January 5, 10 am to 3 pm. Please check the events calendar for up-to-date information on the website:
The address of the market is 28211 Paseo Drive, Suite 100 Wesley Chapel, FL 33543
This market, as well as some other open markets in the bay area, is organized by Tampa Bay Markets Inc., www.tampabaymarkets.com:
‘The Fresh Market at Wiregrass features 50+ vendors located in the heart of the shopping center on Paseo Drive. Expect to find a variety of Local, Certified Organic, Hydroponic and Conventional Produce, Florida Grown Plants, Herbs and Flowers, Organic Garden Food/Supplies, Locally Made Take-Home Foods such as Jams, Jellies, Salsa, Dips, Seasonings, Sauces and Oils, Local artists showcasing their creative efforts and Eco-Friendly products.’
I have been going there for about 2 years. While there are more and more vendors to explore, I am regularly shopping from the following vendors that I would like to feature today:
Parke Family HydroFarms: http://parkehydro.com.
I was introduced to their produce by my friend, who was very picky about choosing her veggies. Parke Family uses hydroponic, pesticide- and insecticide-free methods to grow their vegetables. Parke’s vegetables are GMO free. I personally witnessed them eating their unwashed veggies right from the baskets. I have been their loyal customer and ‘converted’ my friends to buying from them. Their cucumber (pickling type) is so sweet! I constantly buy sweet corn, green (french) beans, tomatoes, sweet peppers and zucchini from them. The farmers Gary and Terri Parke are sweet hard-working people, helped by their 4 kids, Amanda, Devon, Jordan and Joshua. I asked Terri to tell me more about their farm.
It is in Dover, FL. The family lives and works on the farm, so it is a 100% family business.
The farmers use a vertical hydroponic system without recycling water, which makes it easier to control contamination if any. They use no pesticides/insecticides.
What vegetables/berries do they sell?
They sell basic staples like tomatoes (grape, Better boy, yellow), cucumbers, sweet peppers (green, red and Cubanelle), green (French) beans, corn, zucchinis and yellow squash all year round. They are famous for strawberries, which are in season December through May with peak in March and April. Eggplants are often for sale, too, depending on weather conditions. Blueberries are offered when in season, April to May.
Where can they be found?
They can be found at Farmer’s Markets:
Wiregrass Fresh Market (1st and 3rd Saturday each month. Next is on January 5, 2013)
Hyde Park Market (1st Sunday each month)
Ybor City (Gary is there every Saturday)
Gulf Port Market (every Tuesday)
Franklin St Market, Tampa (every Friday).
You can arrange picking up vegetables from the farm by contacting them through their website. All visits are BY APPOINTMENT ONLY. There is no u-pick option available at the moment. The Parke farmers plan to grow more vegetables for sale, like spinach, kale, collards, carrots, lettuce, radish, beets and potatoes.
What makes them special.
They grow pesticide free and insecticide free vegetables. They are local, seasonal, fresh, tasty and healthy. This means no travel miles on veggies (veggies do not spend time in the containers to be delivered to the destination subject to change of temperatures, shaking/cracking, contamination and gas emissions).
Their prices are very competitive. They offer a system of discounts if you buy more. Please check their website and contact them if you have any questions. I recommend you trying their vegetables and support the local farmers. Even that the Parke farmers are sold out every time at the end of the market day, they do need more customers. Here are some photos of the their produce.
Another station I love to shop from is Olive Girl Cuisine.
The owner’s website is www.olivegirlcuisine.com
Maria Mogyorossy is generously offering samples of her signature olive salads.
Where can she be found?
All farmers markets: Wiregrass, Hyde Park, Ybor City, Seminole Heights and Westchase. Please check her website above to track her next destination.
What does she sell?
She sells three types of salads and is planning to launch the fourth one. These are Zesty, Mild and Spicy. Zesty is a mixture of pitted green olives, carrots, oils and Italian spices. Mild salad has some black olives, carrots, oils and spices. Spicy is actually a famous Jardinera salad, in ‘an olive girl’ version. The most popular is Zesty, but all three are good for a variety of dishes.
Can her products be ordered online?
There is no option to order online yet, but you can email Maria and she would bring it to the next scheduled market event from where you can pick it up. These salads are very popular and they can get sold out quickly. (While I was taking photos, Zesty got sold out and I had to nibble on samples…)
How long can the salads be stored?
There is a date printed on each jar. Normally black olive salads (Mild) and Jardinera (Spicy) can be stored in the fridge 6 to 8 weeks. Green olive salads (Zesty) can last longer, up to 3+ months as it has some more acidity.
What is special about her salads.
They are gluten free, made fresh every week, vegetarian. Very versatile, healthy, tasty… Kids love it, too! You can cook them, sauté them, sprinkle them on top of pasta, potato or salad. They are great for snack options (breads, toasts, crackers) for parties and holidays.
16 oz can (small) $11 and 32 oz can (big) $20. You save $2 by buying a big one. They last long as you use only this little to add to your regular dishes.
I use her green olive salad in my ‘Russian simple salad’, which consists of cucumbers (you know from where:-), tomatoes, avocado, scallions and sweet pepper. I do not need any dressing as the olive mixture gives the right combination of spices and oils to my salad. I should add this recipe separately. Please stay tuned. Here are some photos of this booth:
One of my biggest legal addictions is TEA. I cannot imagine life without hot calming tea with honey. Tea contains anti-oxidants (flavonoids) that are beneficial to our health in many ways. Interestingly, some Asian and European countries prefer hot teas even in hot weather. I will let you search the answer for yourselves, while I reassure you I always drink hot tea, even on a hot Florida day.
When at Wiregrass Fresh Market, I cannot resist aromatic teas from Te Bella.
The company’s website is www.tebellatea.com. Abigail and Hunter StClair offer finest quality loose leaf teas, from traditional like oolong, rooibos and jasmine green to some fun fruity flavored and blooming teas.
Where can they be found?
They have 2 stores. Their original one is on Davis Island at 227 East Davis Blvd., Tampa, FL 33606, where they have 120 various teas to choose from. The second location is called “TeBella Tea at the Oxford Exchange” at 420 West Kennedy Blvd., Tampa, Fl 33606. The location incorporates a few businesses: a tea shop, a coffee bar, a restaurant, a bookstore and a home decor boutique. They can also be spotted at Wiregrass Fresh Market (1st Saturday of each month) and Hyde Park Village Fresh Market (1st Sunday of each month). Te Bella Tea offers a pick up service at our fresh markets, so you can order online and pick it up at the booth.
Origin and quality of their tea.
Their teas originate from China, India, Africa and Taiwan. They offer a large selection of USDA certified organic loose leaf teas and teas from small artisan gardens that engage in organic farming practices.
Prices are lower than those of major competitors. Most popular: Blueberry Pomegranate (green with goji berries) $6/2 oz. and Strawberry Mango (black) $5/ 2 oz.
What is special about their teas.
Their teas are aromatic, healthy and natural. Te Bella offers a lot of certified organic teas. They are locally based. Being a small business, they sell out all their teas at the end of tea harvest. This is different from big chains that order full containers and what was not sold out, gets blended with new harvest tea. They offer free samples, hot or iced, at Wiregrass Market. Or you can buy a full cup of freshly brewed tea and enjoy it while exploring the market. Their teas and accessories make great affordable gifts.
Along the market’s busy road, it is hard not to notice the longest tables overloaded with fruits and vegetables, and sometimes lines to the cashiers.
This is USA Produce & Organics, which recently opened its affiliate, Branchton Farms South on Morris Bridge off of Cross Creek (New Tampa/Wesley Chapel).
USA Produce & Organics.
Where can you find them:
Wiregrass 1st and 3rd Saturday 10 am to 3 pm
Westchase Town Center 2nd Saturday 10 am to 2 pm
Downtown Tampa – every Sunday 10 am to 3 pm
16320 Morris Bridge Rd- open 7 days a week 9 am to 7 pm.
I had a brief conversation with the owner, Page Wyffels, who told me about his approach of making local groceries available to the public. Two years in business, the farmer and the entrepreneur is very picky when it comes to selecting what to bring to the market. He assures me that they are using the best growing practices, so people get the premium product for the best price. It is the end of business and I see some veggies left unsold. So, I ask Page what they do with unsold veggies, and he tells me, they donate the remaining produce. I believe we should support local farmers more – it looks like there is enough food available at affordable prices thanks to farmers like Page Wyffels.
At Wiregrass Fresh Market you can find several stations with prepared food. One of my favorite is Italian Fresh Pasta Market. I love their gourmet baked empanadas with roasted vegetables.
This time there were two vendors missing that I normally shop from. I recommend trying their products, you are destined to like it.
One is Artisan Pappardelle’s pasta, http://www.pappardellesonline.com, which offers a variety of dried pasta blends. I tried their cubano orzo and basil garlic fetuccine. It was beyond real. I love experimenting with pasta and roasted vegetables. Here is how I cooked their basil garlic fetuccine:
There are a lot to explore at Wiregrass Fresh Market and I would assume no better weekend morning pastime than going there. There are plenty free samples to try, unobtrusive sellers, fresh air, great selection of vegetables, fruits and herbs (including organic and pesticide-free) and talented craftsmen offering their unique creations. There are also frequent musicians, some fun entertainment for kids, yummy pop corn and an overall festive atmosphere. Enjoy more photos from the market that speak for themselves…
Things you need to know before you go:
– It is an open-air market. Use a sunscreen/hat if you intend to walk without a hurry.
– It covers a large area, so you might have to walk a lot.
– If you plan to buy a lot of vegetables you might need some carriage (something on the wheels). Or do some weightlifting:-)
– It is a dog friendly environment as long as they are on a leash. There are always plenty happy ‘petable’ dogs irrespectively of their size:-)
– Most places accept cash and Credit Cards. I remember only few vendors accepting cash only. There is an ATM next to Express Store/Christmas Tree for your convenience.
I hope you enjoy this review on my favorite market. I would like to thank Tampa Bay Markets, in particular, Greg Barnhill, whom I was honored to meet in person, for arranging this wonderful event. We need more events like this as they bring us all closer together. This is natural to buy food from your local farmers. It is our right to know where the food comes from. Additionally, you can find a full list of vendors participating in fresh markets in Tampa Bay Area at http://www.tampabaymarkets.com.
Here are some other resources to look for a fresh market near you:
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