This blog has featured produce markets in the Philippines, Morocco, Mexico, Columbia, and other locations. Here's a market a little closer to home.
Rossman Farms is located on a gritty corner on the outskirts of Sunset Park in Brooklyn. "Brooklyn" is sometimes used as brand or a shorthand term for a certain kind of artisinal authenticity, but this patch of Brooklyn under the Brooklyn Queens Expressway overpass features porn shops and live poultry sales, along with schools, a church and an astonishing mix of residential and industrial uses. Rossman occupies the whole building, which enables them to buy in bulk and store their cheaply obtained produce.
Not everything is cheap, but sometimes the prices are jaw dropping.
Granted, I inadvertently stuck my finger in one pear's oozing wound and squealed as if I had been stuck myself. Yuck! I tossed the offending pear out and continued to fill my bag. Velvety roasted pears, the solution to When Bad Produce Happens to Good People/pear division, awaited. Roasting (the blemished and wizened) and freezing (the about-to-be-overripe) were the fates I had in mind for several specimens of Rossman's clearance sale area. I normally never bother with produce sale graveyards, since many vendors typically hold on to produce until the point of rot. I've bought only lightly from Rossman's sale bin, but I enjoy checking it out every time I'm in the store. I was pleasantly surprised to see some broccoli, baby arugula and mandarin oranges in the sale area that were in very good shape, requiring no ingenuity to make them palatable. Part of the game is guessing the outlandishly cheap price for the good stuff.
Most of my shopping at Rossman's is more mainstream, taking advantage of the store's appreciation of New York's glorious diversity. Eavesdrop on Rossman's owners, and hear them slip effortlessly between Hebrew, Spanish and English. Muslims in traditional garb make up a significant portion of their customer base, and Mexicans looking for nopales, tomatillos and poblano peppers are doted upon.
And of course I also take advantage of the regular crop of nice vegetables.
Did I mention that Rossman never closes? It's open 24 hours every day of the year. You never know when you need that parsnip.
I checked out the store's Yelp reviews to see if I was alone in my enchantment. There was some grumbling - this is New York, after all - but also paeans like these:
A fresh vegetable & fruit stand in the middle of factories and industrial buildings, Rossman offers a large array of fresh fruit and vegetables at a low cost. The fruit & vegetables outside is usually days away from going bad so that's where you'll find the cheapest prices. Thanks to Ross I've eaten fruit I never knew existed, I'm opening my horizons lol. -- Chica O
I finally discovered Rossman's (thanks, Yelp) and what a blissful discovery it has been. The location is certainly a bit peculiar-desolate 3rd Ave with its adult video and liquor stores -- but provides ample room for a really good selection of fruits and veggies. As others have noted, I was astonished by how far $20 went here. The 24 hour/all credit cards accepted bit is icing on the cake. -- Lydia N.
Mike Rossman is a Fruits & Vegetables Genius. He has built an empire that takes the best produce from all over the world. And the prices are surprisingly very low even if one compares them to Brighton Beach area or Ave U or Chinatown in Brooklyn. [Editorial note: We know Chinatown and Brighton Beach, but we obviously must check out Avenue U!] This is my new favorite one-stop shop for a great fruit - vegetable shopping. I highly recommend this place to everyone I know. Superb job, Mike! --Kosta R.I can't wait to go back.