Winter at the farmers' market is a luxury that I take for granted until I remember that so many portions of the country do not have year-round markets. California has a climate that allows many markets to remain plentiful year-round.
Farmers' markets in the summertime are full of life and wonderful places to meet up with friends, eat summer fruit, and take home bags of tomatoes. A typical summertime trip for me usually involves getting to the market bright and early to fight the crowds and a quick hello to busy farmers.
Wintertime markets are a different proposition. They are usually more quiet, not as crowded, and are lovely places to pick up winter vegetables and fruits. The farmers in the wintertime usually have more time to chat, as their attention isn't being pulled in a thousand different directions. I can sleep in, bundle up, and head out to the market at around 10 or 11 and still not have to fight too many crowds. There are fewer vendors at the winter markets, but every winter market I have been to in the area provides a sufficient amount of produce for my household.
This weekend, I attended the Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market - it was a shortened market due to the holiday, and that combined with rain and wind meant that there was only a fraction of the regular farmers in attendance. Still, a greatly reduced Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market is larger than many markets I have attended in other parts of the country in the middle of summer. We didn't get a CSA box last week, and our refrigerator was empty and I was yearning for greens.
First stop was Heirloom Organics for salad greens, radishes, fennel, and spinach. Heirloom's wintertime booth is every bit as plentiful as we see in the summer, and it is always a fun stop for me. Eatwell Farms small booth this week provided a lovely butternut squash which we will be eating for dinner tonight. "The mud is free," the vendor told me as he handed over a dirty squash.
Hamada Farms' booth shines in the winter, as they have many varieties of citrus, including the beautiful Buddha's Hand which was getting quite a bit of attention from customers. The Mariquita Farm booth was full of fun veggies and farmer Andy Griffin was out chatting with customers. From Mariquita, I picked up wonderful fat carrots, broccoli romanesco, and some herbs.
Our bags were full as we stopped at one more vendor: Ports Seafood. We had a couple of seafood dinners planned over the weekend and I wanted to see what they had in stock. We bought a whole dorado, and talked with the vendor about the shortage of crabs: Because of the storms this week, the number of crabs in the city for New Years' was small.
So, this January how about making a resolution to attend one of our local wintertime markets? I am sure that you will find the experience to be fun and worthwhile.
My favorite wintertime farmers' markets:
Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market
When to go: When it's rainy and you don't mind braving the wet -- not many people will be there, and the vendors will love you for attending.
What not to miss: Hamada Farms citrus, Della Fattoria's addictive Peanut Butter Creme cookies, Happy Girl prepared foods - a part of Happy Boy Farms, Heirloom Organics black Spanish radishes.
Berkeley Farmers' Market
When to go: When it's sunny and you know that the Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market will be busy. When you are in the mood for a friendly, good-sized market with easy access to parking.
What not to miss: Eduardo Morrel's delicious breads, Happy Boy Farms' beautiful greens, Fatted Calf's pancetta.
Marin Civic Center Farmers' Market
When to go: Any Thursday you can. Any weekend when you have missed a Saturday market and still want to pick up veggies for the week.
What not to miss: Full Belly Farms on Thursdays, spice mixes from The Occasional Gourmet, pistachios from the pistachio man, citrus from De Santis farms.
photo credit: flourphoto