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Farmers’ market returns to Jamaica

Manager Malini Rampersad shows off the wooden tokens shoppers get when they use their food stamp benefits at the Jamaica Farmers' Market. Photo by Rich Bockmann
TimesLedger Newspapers

Cookbook author Martha Rose Shulman contributed to a New York Times article in May touting garlic scapes — the green, curling tops of the garlic plant — but noted she would have to wait to provide any recipes because her local farmers market did not carry them.

“Next year, when I’m ready to write my now-annual green garlic column, I’ll look hard for scapes so I can include some recipes,” she wrote.

Fortunately for Jamaica shoppers, Alex’s Tomato Farm, out of Carlisle, N.Y., had a crate overflowing with scapes when the Jamaica Farmers’ Market opened for the summer on 160th Street last week.

“We have a lot of food you wouldn’t find at a supermarket,” said Miriam Haas, director of the for-profit Community Markets, which has been operating the annual market for about 10 years. Prior to that, she said, it had been run by the Greater Jamaica Development Corp. since 1976, making it one of the oldest in the city.

Haas said the Jamaica market has items that the city’s Greenmarkets generally do not allow, such as the imported nuts from Tierra Farm. In addition to flavored nuts, the farm also offered nut butters in flavors such as maple almond, chocolate hazelnut and maple cashew.

Nicole Felix stepped out from the Bethany French Baptist Church, just up the street from the market, around noon to do a little shopping.

“They’re unsalted, and they’re good for your blood pressure,” she said of the flavored nut butters. “They’re unique.”

Migliorelli Farm from Tivoli, N.Y., had crates of fresh greens for sale such as peas — both the shell and sugar-snap varieties — zucchini, bok choy and kale.

The market also accepts food stamp benefits from EBT cards, although in a way a bit different than shoppers may be used to.

Malini Rampersad, the market’s manager, is equipped with a card-scanning machine and a bagful of wooden tokens. Shoppers tell her how much money they would like to spend and she scans their cards in exchange for the corresponding amount of tokens, which they can spend with the farmers.

The market is open, rain or shine from 8:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. every Friday and Saturday through Aug. 18 on 160th Street, just north of Jamaica Avenue.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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