The Best Thing at the Greenmarkets Today Isn’t Edible…Yet

Trina Pilonero and her fantastic seedlings.

These days, everyone’s abuzz over the arrival of spring at the Greenmarket. I’ve seen triumphant tweets about asparagus and fiddleheads and obsessive instagramming of duck eggs and ramps (and Edible recently posted our own market watch with produce-minded insider tips). But my personal favorite Greenmarket goods, which returned to Union Square last week, aren’t actually ready to eat. Rather they’re seedlings—specifically the spectacular, city-friendly heirloom seedlings found at Silver Heights Farm (which we featured here in the magazine) each Wednesday and Saturday.

Farmer Trina Pilonero—a master gardener and seed saver extraordinaire with whom I once journeyed to Slow Food’s annual Terra Madre congress in Turin, Italy—offers baby plants ready to thrive in Manhattan’s microclimate, be that your rooftop farm, community garden plot, or sunny windowsill. Sure, plenty of Greenmarket stands sell plants in spring, but Trina’s are seriously special and staggeringly biodiverse: no “early girl” tomato plants here.  Instead she’ll offer over 300 heirloom tomato varieties from Mayona to Valencia. But it’s still too chilly for those, and Trina refuses to sell them before their time. Right now she’s ready with the likes of lettuces and leeks, pak choi and peas.

Last year the heirloom cucumber seedling I bought for a few bucks climbed straight up my fence, city-style, and yielded dozens of killer crunchy cukes, while the rhubarb I bought from her two years back is going strong.  Last week I could almost sit there and watch it grow. But while Trina’s seedlings will pay for themselves many times over, something else at her stand is an even better deal: Trina’s masterful gardening advice, which she dispenses free of charge. See you there.


Betsy Bradley

Elizabeth L. Bradley writes about New York City history and culture. She hopes to find Tiffany blue dragees in her Christmas stocking this year.

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