Shuk: the Hebrew word for market conjures up an exotic bazaar with its dizzying selections, the cacophony of buyers and sellers negotiating, wafting aromas, and colorful merchandise. Perhaps Jerusalem’s Machneh Yehudah comes to mind.
With the High Holidays at hand, what could be more timely than a trip to the market to stock up for your holiday table?
The consumer movement for fresh, organic produce and direct farm-to-table consumption has revived and popularized farmers’ markets. In Bethesda, Maryland, you can visit such a market every Sunday. You needn’t be a shopper or pay a cent to enjoy the scene, sights, and scents. Feast your eyes — if not your stomachs — on the array of produce in nature’s magnificent color spectrum. Smell the fragrances of fresh flowers and food.
The Bethesda Central Farm Market began in 2008 with 17 vendors. It has since grown to over 150 participants, including artisans. The parking lot of Bethesda Elementary School is transformed into a playground for shoppers and sightseers on Sunday mornings.
Be sure to stop at the booths of these kosher vendors:
Chaim Silverberg of CWS Meats and Fine Kosher Provisions is a warm, outgoing personality whose enthusiasm is contagious. His specialty is local pasture-raised smoked meats, including kosher “baaacon” made from lamb breast. It is Star-K certified, as is everything for sale at his stall. The sandwiches are nonpareil — layers of smoked and cured meats, such as roast beef or chicken, with pickles, onions, tomatoes, sauces, and condiments on buns, wraps, or rolls — and check out the mouthwatering side dishes. The selections change weekly, so you’ll surely be coming back.
At the next booth you’ll find Atara Foods, a Baltimore-based meat processing plant, wholesaler, and retailer, selling freshly slaughtered beef, lamb, veal, and chicken. Binyomin Ansbacher, Atara’s Star-K mashgiach on weekdays, mans the booth on Sundays.
“We are here selling delicacies such as filet mignon, baby lamb chops, New York strip steak, fresh organic chicken and much more” says Ansbacher. The meat is vacuum packed without preservatives. The beef forequarters are processed under Star-K certification; the hindquarter meat is under the supervision of Rabbi Eliyahu Ben Haim of Badatz Mekor Chaim of Queens, New York. Shop at the booth and become a steady customer. Local delivery is free of charge.
Stroll down the center aisle to Tovavi Falafel and meet the gracious and vivacious owner/CEO Tova Chansky. Working alongside her is her son and business partner, Avi.Enjoy their fresh pareve vegan falafel pita sandwiches and fries. Also on her menu are Israeli salad, tahini, and falafel balls. The pita is from Israel’s renowned Angel’s Bakery, which first opened in 1927. Tovavi is under the supervision of the Rabbinical Council of Greater Washington. All ingredients are gluten-free and nut-free.
Chansky is a native Israeli from Ramat Hasharon who came to the United States 30 years ago for her graduate studies at George Washington University. She met and married an American and settled here, to our great benefit. She was a teacher for 25 years and made falafel only for family and friends until opening her business two years ago. Chansky has joined the ranks of full-time entrepreneurs, a true American success story.
In addition to produce from local farms in Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, check out the offerings of fresh eggs, beautiful cut flowers, hearty potted plants, aromatic ground coffee and tea, an array of juices, and savory pickles. Browse the colorful yarn, a great resource for knitting enthusiasts. It’s easier to find the exact shade of color you want in person rather than by shopping online. Pick up a free copy of Edible DC Magazine at the information booth. Take home the freebies and magnets from the Doctors To You corner stand.
Free entertainment begins at around 10:45 a.m. midway down the center aisle. There are also folding tables and chairs at the far end of the main aisle for those who can’t wait until they get home to taste their purchases. Children may enjoy the elementary school playground which is open for their use to the left on the school grounds.
In this week’s haftarah, the prophet Isaiah describes the blessings of the harvest when the Children of Israel return to Zion. “For those who have harvested it shall eat it and praise Hashem ... in My holy courtyards” (Isaiah 62:9). Let us pray that the farmers’ market we visit next year will be in the rebuilt city of Jerusalem. Amen!
In addition to Free to See, which has appeared in every issue of Kol HaBirah, Dinah Rokach writes “The Bibliophile” column in The Beacon. She is also the sister of Kol HaBirah contributor Joshua Rokach.
Bethesda Central Farm Market
7600 Arlington Road
at Old Georgetown Road
Open Sundays, April through December, 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.; Sundays, January through March,
10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Free parking in the school lot and across the street at the county garage.
Accessible by car, MetroRail (Bethesda stop on the red line), and bus (Montgomery County Ride-On route 34) stop number 24658 northbound or 24728 southbound).
Check for service advisories online before heading out.