When it comes to deciding whether a market is good, I look at how close it allows me to get to actual producers. In this regard, Newcastle City Farmers Market was one of the best markets I’ve visited, with very clear labeling of stalls that identified the ones that were run by genuine growers.
I’m also keen when I’m in a regional area to buy locally produced fruit and vegetables, so I particularly appreciated labeling that showed me either with words, or maps, where things came from.
While the market normally takes place in Newcastle Showground, I was lucky enough to visit on a Sunday when an event at the showgrounds kicked the market to the beautiful waterfront surrounds of Speers Point Park.
For city slickers like myself, I cannot overstate the importance of being able to walk on grass under the shade of beautiful old trees and vividly blue skies whilst selecting our greens. The whole experience helps us reconnect to the land, and inclines us to better understand the passage our food takes to get to our table.
Talking to farmers like John Lee, is another way to reconnect to how food is produced. Using chemical-free methods, John grows a wide range of vegetables on his farm in Upper Chichester, including greens you won’t find in a supermarket. He’s also a wealth of information on how you best use them. We followed his instructions and are now big fans of tatsoi (a Chinese cabbage, sometimes called spoon mustard or rosette bok choy) that’s nutty with a mineral finish. We also picked up beautiful cos lettuce, black radishes and rappi (rapini), relishing the opportunity to diversify our diet.
I always keep my eye peeled for locally grown garlic - not only does it avoid the bleaching process, it's usually much less aggressive. Eggs are another category I'm always exploring - I'm keen to understand the relationship that freshness, diet and farming techniques play on making the perfect egg.
If you arrive hungry, you'll find plenty of ready-to-eat options, running from bacon and egg rolls, to more exotic goulash pies.
Your inner child will be kept entertained with everything from corn on the cob to decorated maple-bacon doughnuts, great for eating one fisted as you weigh up organic meat options for dinner (there's great variety to be found here).
I also like to look for small producers – ideally ones too small to have a physical store. My favourite finds on this market visit all came via an Iranian couple, who were making a Persian liteh pickle (pickled eggplant, vegetables and herbs), and some excellent jams. I’ve been using their saffron apple jam, and their carrot, orange peel and almond jam as cheese condiments, as well as on Shepherd’s Artisan Bakehouse toast that I conveniently picked up at the market as well.
Put Newcastle City Farmers Market in your diary for the next time you're on the way back to Sydney from somewhere North - it's on every Sunday.
Newcastle City Farmers Market
Griffiths Road, Banksmeadow
Ph: (02) 4934 3013