Tastemaking: Out in the Cold

The wait for a winter farmers’ market may soon be over.

winter farmer's market


For Boston locavores, fall’s bounty is bittersweet. Our farmers’ markets may overflow with apples and pumpkins now, but with the teeming baskets comes the realization that market season will shortly be ending — most seasonal stands close after Thanksgiving. Unless you’ve canned fruit and stashed a season’s worth of potatoes and carrots in a root cellar, you’re in for six months of bland supermarket produce.

The problem isn’t just New England’s short growing season; it’s that there just aren’t many places to shop for regionally produced foodstuffs come winter. In other cities, cooks can get their December or February fix at enormous covered markets like Seattle’s Pike Place, Philly’s Reading Terminal, and Cleveland’s West Side Market; no comparable options exist here.

The recently announced Boston Public Market, however, seems poised to change that. In July the state pledged $10 million for the development of a year-round market across from Haymarket station, in a building owned by the Department of Transportation. In addition to produce, it will stock artisanal cheeses, fresh-baked breads, and local meat and seafood. Early reports indicated it might be running within 12 to 18 months, but it’s likely to be much longer — this is Big Dig territory, after all. “It’s still a way off,” admits Massachusetts Agricultural Resources Commissioner Scott Soares, who has been working with the Boston Public Market Association and other groups on the proposal. It’s still undecided who will develop and manage the facility, he says. And the market’s advisory board, which will vet potential vendors, has yet to be selected.

But the idea of being able to buy local food year-round has chefs salivating, including Chris Douglass, owner of Ashmont Grill and Tavolo in Dorchester and a Boston Public Market Association board member. In winter, he says, the market will likely offer cold-storage crops like cabbage, carrots, squash, pears, and apples — and that’s good for chefs, home cooks, and farmers alike. “Not only will there be this place to get great stuff in winter, but it will also encourage growers to extend their seasons, build greenhouses, and cellar their produce.”

Personal chef J. J. Gonson of Cuisine en Locale couldn’t be more thrilled. “The appeal of a year-round market is not about summer. It’s those winter months when I wish I had access to fresh, local food. I can order it, but it’s not the same. I want to see it in person and interact with my farmers.”

While there’s little hope of seeing a downtown market this winter (or even next), there is one bright spot in our near future: Somerville’s first winter public market will open in January, with items like beets, kale, and parsnips from vendors such as Enterprise and Winter Moon farms, as well as meats from Stillman’s Farm. According to Jaime Corliss of Shape Up Somerville, the lead coordinating agency for the market, it’s likely to be open on Saturday mornings. Its tentative location, the Center for the Arts in the Armory building, has parking and is accessible by bus. Its best asset, however, may be its setting: indoors.