The Eastern end of Long Island is a magical place, particularly for those who know it, for those of us who grew up heading out there with family and friends during summers and for special weekends. It's a wonderful place for "newbies" too, though I often feel they lack a clear picture of how the Hamptons has evolved over time. A lot of people see the Hamptons as Manhattan and Brooklyn East, a place where you lounge at the beach or by the pool by day, and head out to eat at trendy, expensive restaurants at night followed by the thump-thump of the Hamptons post-prandial club scene. And of course, the Showtime series The Affair has certainly brought attention -- desirable and undesirable -- to Montauk and the Hamptons in general.
But sadly, many don't know about The Hamptons of years ago: this part of New York was farm country surrounded by gorgeous beaches, clean Atlantic tides. Montauk was a fishing village, not a hipsters' paradise, and before 18-room monstrosities were constructed in Sagaponack, that land was one sprawling beachside garden, filled with potato fields and flowers, tomato plots and pumpkin patches.
Some of that has remained, thankfully. And one Hamptons staple that I hope will never get "gentrified out" is the omnipresence of the Hamptons farm stand. Every Hampton (town) has at least one, and often they have several. These stands offer seasonal snapshots of the fruits (sometimes literally) of the farmland out east, and they reach their peak, in my humble opinion, in late summer. Now. Because in the northeast, your shoulder seasons can be questionable. Perhaps spring came late, and the farm stands won't have strawberries and fresh peas until June.
This can push everything back -- or forward, depending -- and so peaches may come in June or may not really come in until mid-July. But late August is undeniably the time, for me, when stands are at their most beautiful, overflowing with lingering stone fruit, gorgeous crimson tomatoes, summer corn, squash, berries, eggplant, those famous Long Island fingerling potatoes...really, an abundance of everything. Some pumpkins may even start coming in this early, but we still have several weeks left of summer, technically, so everything is at its peak. I don't need to mention that by purchasing at local farm stands, you're supporting local agriculture and farmers, and of course everything just tastes better when you're close to the hands that harvested that food. Period.
Below is a list of some of my favorite farm stands, as well as a photo montage that makes the term *food porn* seem like an understatement. Enjoy! It's the best time of the year for produce out east. Perhaps I'll see you on Sagg Main...
Green Thumb Organic Farm
829 Montauk Highway, Watermill
Amazing selection of heirloom veg and fruit, herbs and edible flowers.
Babinski's Farm Stand
160 Newlight Lane, Watermill
Good quality, plus some great baked goods.
82 Sagg Main, Sagaponack
Great stand in front of their fields, so couldn't be fresher!
Round Swamp Farm
184 Three Mile Harbor Road, East Hampton
If there is a Bulgari of farm stands, this is it. Prices are head-spinning, but great prepared foods and baked goods.
Amber Waves Farmer's Market
367 Main Street, Amagansett
All-around great Hamptons farm stand with a wide selection.
Schmidt Brothers Produce
120 North Sea Road, Southampton
Though not technically an outdoor farm stand, they source some amazing, impossible-to-find greens, sprouts, herbs, and international produce that can be hard to find out east.
And for a P.S., here are some resulting dishes from Hamptons Farmers Market hauls...