How to visit the Union Square Greenmarket as a tourist, from a former local and tourist.
Updated: Apr 26, 2019
With spring finally making its arrival, I find myself eager to get All Of The Spring Produce, like rhubarb and ramps and sweet spring onions. When we lived in New York, we knew that spring was in full swing when we’d make our way downtown to the Union Square greenmarket and there would be at least one tent with its tables brimming with bunches of the elusive ramp. (For those unfamiliar, ramps are wild leeks that are available for a few weeks a year, and everything but the roots themselves are edible.) I could usually depend on my nose to point us in the proper direction in order to stock up.
Spring also meant that the market was going to start getting crowded again, as it’s not nearly as much fun visiting it in the drab wintertime when it seems that the only produce available are root vegetables and cabbages. This influx would inevitably irritate Michael when we’d visit, especially if he ran the risk of walking into someone’s telephoto lens while trying to browse a grower’s selection and find some goodies for our dinner
Those memories got me thinking recently of how to be a respectful tourist while touring the market, and here’s what I came up with:
How to visit the Union Square Greenmarket as a tourist:
If you can, go during a weekday market rather than the one on Saturdays. One thing I absolutely wish I had the opportunity to do more often when we lived in the city was to go to Union Square for one of the weekday markets because they are SO LESS CROWDED than the one on Saturdays. If you’re in the city on a Monday, Wednesday, or Friday, head down there then and you’ll enjoy yourself much more.
Take a lap around the park rather than running to the first tent that catches your eye. The Union Square Greenmarket takes up a good chunk of the perimeter of the park, so take your time and let it all soak in before picking out specific tents to visit.
Be respectful with regards to photography. If you want a picture of yourself posing in front of the tents, go early before there are tons of people to get in your way. Additionally, if you’re trying to get a shot of a sign or produce or similar, don’t try to get in the way of someone who is actually trying to buy something (unless you too are buying something), because the primary reason why all of these farmers are here is to sell their goods and not be fodder for someone’s social media feed.
Buy something. Unless you’re staying somewhere that gives you access to a kitchen, it’s pretty likely that you’re not going to be buying much in the realm of raw ingredients. But many of these producers have other products to sell, whether it’s fresh juice and cider, or artisan soaps and other bath products, or even gourmet cheeses. (Ask for a knife and plate to be sent to your room when you get back to your hotel in order to enjoy properly.) Even getting some fresh fruit is a great idea, though be sure to wash it before you chow down. Either way, you’re helping the local economy in a tangible way and you potentially have a great souvenir to bring home from your trip!