Streets where the riches of ages are stowed

Sep. 05, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

Usually I do the majority of my food and floral shopping at the grocery store.

But every so often I enjoy exploring and perusing the local street and farmers' markets in search of home-grown produce and fresh flowers.

One of the most alluring features of these marketplaces is meeting the farmers, artisans and entrepreneurs who are eager to share their knowledge and who grow foods that end up on my dinner plate.

From tips about food preparation and recipes, details on how to care for plants and flowers and stories of the latest gadgets and trinkets, I always leave markets with helpful bits of information.

By supporting these local vendors I know I help make a positive contribution to the community and receive a higher quality product for a better value than I might find elsewhere.

In fact, I have wandered through plenty of street and farmers' markets, from the bustling Washington, D.C. vendors to the large London, England market to the local Rutherford County offerings.

Reflecting on each of these experiences I have found that all marketplaces share a common trait — they celebrate the character of the neighborhood and all the people who live in the community.

Eastern Market in Washington, D.C.

Located in the heart of the historic Capitol Hill neighborhood, Eastern Market is Washington, D.C.'s oldest continually operated fresh food public market. But it is more than just a market — it serves as a community hub, connecting neighbors, families and visitors alike.

Eastern Market consists of four unique areas including the South Hall market, the North Hall events space, the weekend farmers' line and the weekend outdoor market.

The South Hall market hosts indoor merchants selling fresh produce and products including delicatessen, bakery, meat, poultry, cheese and dairy. During one weekend visit to the market, my friend and I stopped in the South Hall to look at the flowers and buy various treats to create a potluck picnic lunch.

Just outside is the weekend farmers' line, an open-air venue where local farmers sell fresh local produce year-round. Here I purchased fresh baby red potatoes and French string beans that we cooked later for dinner.

Nearby the farmers' line is the weekend outdoor market where local artists sell antiques and handmade arts and crafts. We took our time browsing the knick-knacks and trinkets and even tried on a few pretty, flowing dresses.

Lastly, we visited the North Hall events space to rest our feet and pause in the shade. The North Hall is normally where locals hold meetings, classes, and events.

After more than 135 years, Eastern Market continues to be a highlight and must-do of any visit to Washington, D.C.

Portobello Market in London

Portobello Road runs straight through the heart of Notting Hill in England and on Saturdays it is home to one of London's notable street markets.

Portobello Market is one of the most famous street markets in the world, with more than 1,000 dealers selling every kind of antique and collectible. It began as a fresh-food market in the nineteenth century and antiques dealers arrived in the 1960s.

The market takes up the majority of Portobello Road, stretching for nearly two miles. It is a popular destination for Londoners and tourists alike and on a crowded Saturday afternoon, it takes quite a while to walk from end to end. Trust me, I speak from experience.

During my visit to Portobello Market I noticed several distinct sections including antiques, new goods, fashion, second-hand goods and produce. Known for its myriad of products, the market's vendors sell anything and everything including Venetian masks, silk scarves and jewelry; Matryoshka dolls, wood carvings and nutcrackers; China dinnerware, silver settings and porcelain tea sets; bike horns, bugles and trumpets; old football, golf and cricket gear; leather journals, belts and satchels; and even old military uniforms and gas masks.

There are also fruit and vegetable stalls at the end of Portobello Market that trade throughout the week and are located further north than the antiques. I even saw a butcher's shop with racks of ribs and legs of lamb hanging in the windows.

There were several trinkets that I found myself wanting to purchase, some which I bought as gifts for my family. However, there was one item I purchased for myself — ceramic Beefeater (a London guard) salt and pepper shakers!

Farmers' Market in Rutherford County

But today I do not even have to travel out of the country or even the state to find a flourishing marketplace.

The farmers' market right here in Rutherford County offers a wide variety of produce during the growing season as well as baked goods and handcrafted items available for purchase.

The county market opened in 1975 as a marketing vehicle for the local agricultural producers, providing them with a place to display and sell locally-grown products.

From sweet corn, hot peppers, Irish potatoes, fresh herbs, pasteurized pork, local honey and cut flowers, the Rutherford County Farmers' Market has something for just about every visitor.

Some of my favorite items are the fresh-baked zucchini and pumpkin breads as well as the heirloom tomatoes plucked right out of area gardens.

So if you are ever near any of these three neighborhood marketplaces, I highly recommend stopping by to smell the blooming flowers, taste the fresh produce and discover a few streets where the riches of ages are stowed.