Rutgers Gardens Farm Market ~ Something for Every Taste

Flowers from Chickadee Creek Farm of Pennington, NJ

Despite living here in New Jersey most of my life, as I travel through the state now, I’m finding places that I never visited (or even knew existed) before.  It’s very exciting!

A perfect example of this occurrence for me is the Rutgers Gardens Farm Market – it’s actually walking distance from where I grew up, but this week was the very first time that I’ve been there.

“The mission of the Rutgers Gardens Farmers Market is to provide the local community, including residents, students, university faculty and staff, University Dining, and restaurants the opportunity to experience and purchase fresh, locally grown and/or prepared food products.”

The Rutgers Gardens Farm Market is conveniently located just a few yards off of Ryders Lane in New Brunswick, NJ and is open on Fridays from noon to 5pm during May through October.    There’s plenty of parking available – and something fresh and fantastic for every taste…

Amy Giovanelli from Stults Farm

Stults Farm – This is the first year that Stults Farm, a family operated farm that began back in 1915, is participating in the Rutgers Gardens Farm Market.  They bring plenty of fresh produce including blueberries, raspberries, basil, and honey from their Cranbury, NJ farm.

Daughter, Amy Giovanelli enjoys working at the farm market on Fridays.  She says, “I think it is great.  It’s very popular.  There are people constantly coming in.”

Cooperative Kitchen – At the tent for the Cooperative Kitchen (5 independent businesses sharing kitchen space in Princeton, NJ), you’ll find a number of different tasty treats.

  • From Ladydbug Luggage Gourmet Cookies & Cakes, owned by Annette Villaverde, I picked up a couple of buckles.  These small, moist cakes with a sugary crumb topping (just in case you don’t know what a buckle is – because I sure didn’t!) are a fabulous companion to a morning cup of coffee.  I tried both the cherry (which offers a tangy contrast to the sweetness of the cake) and the apricot (which provides a fun, chewy texture).  Ladybug Luggage provides custom cookies for any occasion and also specializes in decadent wedding cakes.
  • From Jen’s Cakes & Pastries, I tried a granola bar.  It doesn’t sound too exotic, but it wasn’t your average granola bar!  The granola mixed with dried fruits, puffed cereal, and seeds covered delicately in a sweet glaze makes for a delightful afternoon snack!  Owner of Jen’s Cakes & Pastries, Jen Carson, understands that quality ingredients are important and uses organic and locally grown ingredients whenever possible.  They will bake-to-order and deliver their personalized treats and beautiful cupcake towers (a fun alternative to a traditional cake) free of charge to the greater Princeton, NJ area.

    Annette Villaverde and Jen Carson, representing two of the Princeton, NJ Cooperative Kitchen businesses

  • Other Cooperative Kitchen companies include Wooden Spoon Catering Company, The Moonlight Bakers, and Simply Nic’s Specialty Foods.  From Nic’s Specialty Foods, I tried the Espresso-Cacao Nib.  This artisanal shortbread is cool and refreshing, just like a cold espresso drink, but subtle and sweet at the same time.  (The shortbread come two in a package, so make sure you share; it’s very tempting to eat them both at once!)

Enjoying the scented soaps from WoodsEdge Wools Farm (photo by Joan Morris)

WoodsEdge Wools Farm, LLC – Since 1976, Alpacas and Llamas are the stars of the show over at WoodsEdge Farm.  Representing the farm’s dedication to both beauty and value, manager, Brent Walker, brought beautiful scarves (which you know I love and had to try on despite the summer heat!), shawls, socks, and yarn to use for your own creations.  This tent is probably the most luxurious at the farm market and smells that way due to handmade, scented soaps for sale – soap scents include Rosemary Mint, and Oatmeal Lavender.  (Scented soaps are another weakness of mine!)

Varun and Naveen Jayaraman of Grab 'Em Snacks

Grab ‘Em Snacks – Mom and CEO of Grab ‘Em Snacks, Geetha Jayaraman, has done a great job with her business and raising her sons Varun and Naveen.  These polite and friendly salesmen really know the Hillborough, NJ company’s line of gourmet plantain chips!  The chips (that are gluten-free, rich in potassium and beta carotene, and contain no preservatives or artificial colors) come in flavors such as Salt Goodness, Cinful Cinnamon, and Fire-Me-Up Red Chili.  (By the way, when you visit the farm market and get to sample the chips for yourself and the guys warn you that a chip is going to be spicy, they’re really not kidding!)

Jonathan Lea having some Good Times with his kettle corn.

Good Times Kettle Corn – Summer is a great time for kettle corn.  (Actually, so is fall, winter, and spring when you think about it!)  Owner of Good Times Kettle Corn and Princeton University graduate, Jonathan Lea, couldn’t agree more.  The new business owner enjoys coming to the Rutgers Gardens Farm Market and enjoys working alongside the other regular venders.  “I do several markets with several of the other venders.  It’s a cohesive group of people,” Lea says.

When I first saw the tent for the kettle corn, I’ll be honest, my teeth began to hurt in anticipation of the sugar.  But since Lea was so friendly, and seemed to really enjoy himself as he bagged the kettle corn, I tasted some when he offered a sample…and I was delightfully surprised!  This corn was light, and fluffy and the sweetness was very subtle.  The coating is a nice balance of salty and sweet and covers the popcorn just enough so that it stays fluffy.  The bag that I took home with me (and shared just a little bit) was completely gone the next day!  Right now, Good Times is only available at on-site events and markets.  Keep an eye out though, because Lea is looking to branch out into local stores in the near future.

Benjamin Schellack, owner of OQ Coffee Co.

OQ Coffee – The New Brunswick, NJ based coffee company, founded by Evan Gentry and Benjamin Schellack, emphasizes quality and sustainability.  Coffee connoisseurs will appreciate that they use micro-lots, new crop, and specialty coffees (scoring 82+ on the international scale).  Eco-friendly consumers will appreciate that they meet or exceed Fair Trade standards, support shade-grown, organic, and bird-friendly coffees, and are always looking for ways to be more sustainable.  After speaking with Schellack, you’ll want to try some OQ coffee for yourself to see if it has anything to do with his lively and energetic personality.

FunniBonz getting us all ready for some serious summer BBQs!

Additional venders for the 2010 season include: Fruitwood Farms, Inc. from Monroeville, NJ, FunniBonz Barbeque Sauce from West Windsor, NJ, Picklelicious from Teaneck, NJ, Valley Shepherd Creamery from Long Valley, NJ, Chicakdee Creek Farm from Pennington, NJ, Ducky Life Tea from Asbury Park, NJ, Davidson Exotic Mushrooms, Stephan and Son’s Meat Store, The Village Bakery, and Yona’s Delights.

Mike from Picklelicious sets out some samples.

Rutgers Gardens – Volunteers from the gardens are at the farm market each Friday selling beautiful plants.  The day I was there, the lovely volunteers were also handing out red, white, or blue plants to celebrate the 4th of July holiday.

Beginning in August, they sell cut flower arrangements as well – the arrangements are usually around $5 each.  Plant sales are the majority of the Rutgers Gardens’ income, so the next time you are near New Brunswick on a Friday, take a drive down Ryders Lane, pick up some beautiful plants, and support the Rutgers Gardens.

The Jersey Girl

You have to begin somewhere…

It’s always interesting to me to learn what people think about my home state when I tell them I’m from New Jersey.  People from the eastern region of the U.S.  tend to think of us in terms of our dreary Turnpike (which, of course, we only use to get to get out of our dreadful state and go to New York) and will jokingly ask me, “What’s your exit?”  Or, I get comments like, “Isn’t that SUPPOSED to be the Garden State?  What happened to all the gardens?”  People who are not from the U. S., say Italy for example (I choose Italy as an example because that is actually where I am as I type this entry), know New Jersey (if at all) only because it is near New York and Philadelphia.  But as a state we are so much more than a Turnpike…with a stench…near two major cities.

We have character, and charm, a lot of history, and we actually do still have farmland in the Garden State.  We have a lot to offer anyone who would be lucky enough to come visit.  But, as a native Jersey Girl, I am sad to say I couldn’t begin to tell you the half of it.  I grew up in central New Jersey, have spent a lot of time down the shore, and worked in northern New Jersey for a while, but I know I’ve missed a lot of the unique sites and restaurants and other cultural aspects in the state because, like so many people, I live within my comfort zone and take a lot of what we have to offer for granted.

I have decided to explore my home state with new eyes and hopefully in the process, be able to defend its honor!  I am determined to uncover the rich culture and creativity within the state.  I’m hoping that I will discover treasures to share with all of you and eventually help my home state develop a more accurate reputation than the one it seems to have now.

Along my journey, if you have any suggestions for me as far as sites to see or restaurants to try, please email me or post them to this blog.

I’m looking forward to the challenge!

The Jersey Girl 🙂