Chips Trips at the farmers market

Nov. 12, 2009, midnight | By Tasnia Habib Samantha Lint | 11 years, 2 months ago

Everyone knows the stereotypes of farmers markets: aging hippies, obscure organic fruit, hybrid cars and Free Tibet tee-shirts. But as more mainstream people, including teenagers, have been drawn into the local eating movement, farmers markets are not just for the elderly anymore. Whether they fit the stereotype or not, farmers' markets in the area are not only vibrant and fun to attend, but also provide a way for concerned Blazers to support local farmers in the struggling economy.

Dutch County Farmers Market

When you first walk into the Dutch County Farmers Market, it's as if you have forgotten to dress up for a theme party. But actually, for the Amish, homemade clothes are a way of life. An Amish run business, it is run by men dressed in straw hats and women in long cotton dresses. The market has savory homemade pretzel sticks, creamy cakes and a large variety of homegrown fruits and vegetables.

The crowd at the market is testament to its popularity, which has continued through the recession. Even early in the morning, a large crowd of customers stormed the market restaurant for breakfast. The Dutch Market's homemade foods are the focus of the market. The warm pretzel sticks are a must-have. They may not be the healthiest choice, as they are oozing with butter and generously sprinkled with salt, but they are tastier and fresher than the mall's artificially preserved variety.

In addition to pretzels, the Dutch Market has an eye-popping selection of produce. The vast size of the market makes it different than most farmers' markets, which are often confined to one street block. Almost everything is available from cabbage and olives, to oranges and steak. The candy stand includes an assortment of treats, you can even fill your own piñata.

The Dutch County Farmers Market is a great place to find many everyday household foods such as vegetables, as well as some more exotic treats, like the collection of different flavored honey. The home baked goodies are the highlight of the market, as they are much more flavorful than any store bought, frosting smothered cake. Best of all, The Dutch Market is only a few minutes' drive for most Blazers — you don't have to go to Lancaster County for a taste of the Amish.

The Dutch County Farmers Market is located on 9701 Fort Meade Rd, Laurel. It is open on Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Fridays 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturdays 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Olney Farmers and Artists Market

Olney is a bit far out there for most Blazers, but this market offers more than just your average vegetables and fruits. Along with local area businesses and farms who sell their produce, local artists also have booths showcasing their work. Their stands are filled with colorful jewelry made with different gems, carefully hand crafted stone mirrors and funky headbands. It's a perfect place to pick up some new looks for the new season.

The Olney Market is also great place to find some cheap afternoon snacks. One of the delicious discounts is the Vietnamese spring rolls on sale for only a $1.50. A local bakery sells many different kind of pastries, including some zesty empanadas. If you want to take some vegetables home to cook for yourselves, there are many different ones available, including a deal for fresh cauliflower at two for $5.

The market has activities for visitors of all ages. For Blazers with younger siblings, there is an area where young children can happily decorate pumpkins with finger paints. For older patrons, local bands perform at the market free of charge. Plus, you can enjoy a nice cup of warm cider or a meaty corn dog while listening.

The Olney Farmers and Artists Market is located at 18100 Town Center Dr., Olney

Takoma Park Farmers Market

Photo: Purchases from the Takoma Farmers Market are expensive yet high quality.

Just down Carroll Avenue in the heart of Takoma Park is the conveniently located Takoma Park Farmers Market, just 3 miles from Blair. Every Sunday morning, produce stands, dairy sellers, musicians and shoppers block off one block from the usual flow of traffic. Along with the people who visit, this market itself sets itself apart from the rest with its earthy, healthy and communal vibe. Patrons sporting floral leggings, hemp vests and Birkenstocks stroll around searching for the choicest organic head of lettuce or buying all-natural cat food for their pets.

In the fall, thought, it's the apples that fill the stands. Senior Gemma D'Eustachio, who works the Torgo Orchards stand, will tell you that the Honey Crisp apple is the best. At the stand next door, the vendor sells apple cider, an absolute must-have for a true taste of fall. Even the chocolate milk is home-made. This is the real thing, not Nesquik. In fact, any of the dairy products, including cheese curd, buttermilk and yogurt, are good options. If you're feeling adventurous, go for the pumpkin smoothie. It's thick like a smoothie but still refreshing and hard to find elsewhere. Ask for a tester and the venders will gladly let you have a taste before you chose whether or not to commit to a whole bottle.

Photo: Organic vegetables are available at the Takoma Park Farmers market, which is known for its communal atmosphere.

Although the produce is more expensive than what's found in average grocery stores, the farmers market offers greater selection. Fresh farm produce also comes with the assurance that it is organic and supports local farmers. Less conventional vegetables like mini eggplants and tatsoi (which looks like a dark green turnip leaf and can be boiled or stir fried) are readily available for experimenting with as well.

The Takoma Park Farmers Market, located at Carroll Ave. and Laurel Ave., is open Sundays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Silver Spring Freshfarm Market

Photo: Honey crisp apples are among a wide variety of fresh produce available at the Silver Spring Freshfarm Market.

The Silver Spring Freshfarm Market is a comparatively more suburban market, with a desire for a small town feeling. Most of the shoppers are parents with small children and older people trying to regain the wholesome and healthy feeling associated with farmers' markets, a feeling that's often lost when living outside a big city like Washington, D.C. The market is smaller and more healthy eating-oriented than traditional supermarkets. Like other markets, Silver Spring sells produce, honey, dairy, bread, preserves and more. More being salsas, which are organic, tasty and unique and perfect hostess gifts for the upcoming holiday season. The products are equally high quality and varied but the smaller number of stands means there is less price competition. It would be just as convenient and about the same price as going to Whole Foods. The market does meet its goal of providing a communal atmosphere, and the outdoor venue gives it a legitimate autumn harvest feeling.

Photo: Music and culture are integral parts of the Silver Spring Freshfarm Market environment. A cellist busker entertains passerby.

The Silver Spring Freshfarm Market is located on Ellsworth Drive between Fenton Street and Georgia Avenue and is open Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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Tasnia Habib. Tasnia Habib has nothing else to do but to write for the incredible Entertainment section of Silver Chips. More »

Samantha Lint. Samantha Lint is a managing entertainment editor and member of design team. More »

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