Farmers Market Update: Marin County

by | Oct 20, 2013
Fall Harvest

Fall Harvest

Leanne Battelle lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and with her blog The Real Deal Marin reports on food system reform efforts and shares flavorful recipes prepared with seasonal ingredients. The blog serves as a link to The Whole Pantry, a service that simplifies and inspires home cooking by improving efficiency in the kitchen. You can subscribe to the blog or follow on Facebook and Pinterest.

Farmers Market Update: Marin County

by Leanne Battelle

 

Hot Peppers and Sweet Melons

Hot Peppers and Sweet Melons

Buying, preparing and eating produce from the farmers market is nutritious, supports local growers and is good for the environment. But it is also more convenient and economical than you might think. As a bonus, it lifts the mundane drudgery of food shopping to a level where it’s not just a chore, but an experience that blends sensory enjoyment, social connection and new discoveries.

Persimmons

Persimmons

Broccoli Trees

Broccoli Trees

A farmers market visit can be looked at in a number of different ways. For some, it’s an add-on to the grocery store rounds, as a quick in-and-out to fill the crisper and fruit bowl. For others, it’s an occasional gourmet meandering for specialties.

Piles of Sweet Peppers

Piles of Sweet Peppers

But too often it challenges time, effort and/or income limitations, creating a perceived barrier between what might be lovely but isn’t necessarily feasible.

Rosy Radishes

Rosy Radishes

Cauliflower Heads

Cauliflower Heads

In reality, the farmers market is a great way to get affordable, delicious, wholesome food on the table with little effort. And when it becomes part of your routine, the shopping process gets easier as you learn to visit only those booths that meet your quality, price and selection criteria. While you’re at it, you can even pick up a pre-cooked portion of dinner.

Roti Chicken

Roti Chicken

Farmers Market Bounty & Quick Dinner

Farmers Market Bounty & Quick Dinner

In Marin County, outside of San Francisco, we are fortunate to have at least one farmers market a day, with the exception of Mondays. The two largest take place at the Civic Center in San Rafael on Thursdays and Sundays. The Sunday market is the largest with close to 250 vendors and a typical attendance of approximately 10,000 to 12,000. See this link to Edible Marin and Wine Country’s full list of local markets.

Lettuce

Lettuce

Bright Beets

Bright Beets

With so many options, those of us who live in this region can’t easily fall back on the time and effort excuse.

Eggplant Variety

Eggplant Variety

It’s true you may be waylaid by this fall season’s unusual eggplant varieties from the impressive Full Belly Farm including globe, Rosa Bianca, Thai, Chinese and Japanese. Check out the Full Belly Farm website where you can check out a broad selection of produce, information and recipes.

Or you might briefly debate whether you should target items whose seasonal lifespan is winding down––like orchid and crimson sweet melons––or instead gravitate to the newly-arrived-but-not-going-anywhere-soon winter squashes like butternut, sugar pie, spaghetti and kabocha.

Rows of Mushrooms

Rows of Mushrooms

Maybe it’s a day to stick with the standard white and crimini mushrooms, or you might prefer to branch out with a wild variety like shortcake, port, oyster, maitake, chanterelle or royal trumpet, which the growers at Solano Mushroom Farm say taste a bit like abalone.

Either way, a farmers market trip, whether it’s a requisite or an elective, never lacks the enjoyment factor.

Cherry Color

Cherry Color

Zucchini Stacks

Zucchini Stacks

Beyond time and effort, another common hindrance challenging farmers market attendance is the perceived high price. Certainly they vary greatly, especially between conventional and organic fair. But, if you whittle the stops down to just those vendors who can provide you with your week’s worth of preferred produce and you learn proper storage techniques, you will save yourself a bundle.

Creamy Avocado

Creamy Avocado

Yellow Onions

Yellow Onions

As an aside, a personal analysis of prices among our local farmers markets, Whole Foods and Safeway consistently show a cost variance between 10-40%, with the farmers market being the least expensive and Safeway being the most. Not what you’d expect.

Strawberry Field

Strawberry Field

Tip: Buy in bulk and save significantly. A full flat of organic strawberries can be found for $20 in the summer and early fall. That’s a little more than $1.50 a basket which can go for up to $4 at the grocery store. Here are some more tips for strawberry storage and recipes.

All Variety of Bread

All Variety of Bread

Tip: Buy bread for the week and beyond. As soon as you get home, cut it into the proper usage size and freeze in a Ziplock bag. When ready to eat, take what portion you need and slowly defrost on the lowest setting of a toaster or regular oven, or take out an hour before needed and leave on the counter.

Beets Overflowing

Beets Overflowing

Overall, the most rewarding reason for visiting a farmers market is the pleasure of discovering foods at their freshest––they don’t take much effort to prepare, because they are inherently delicious.

Heirloom Tomatoes

Heirloom Tomatoes

A quick meal can be pulled together without much more than a sprinkle of a good seasoning salt and fresh or dried herbs. Once you become accustomed to this way of shopping and cooking, it’s difficult to look at the travel-weary, taste-challenged, out of season fruits and vegetables from the grocery store the same way again.

Enjoy the delicious bounty of the fall season!

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3 Responses to “Farmers Market Update: Marin County”

  1. Shari M says:

    Thanks for the beautiful pictures and great tips. You might want to check out this San Francisco Farmer’s Market Guide:
    http://www.dealtrackersf.com/2013/06/03/the-ultimate-san-francsico-farmers-market-guide/

  2. Joe Garma says:

    Those pics are outstanding!

    And there’s no better non-verbal argument for eating fresh, whole, out of the dirt (vs out of the box), real food.

    As a long-time Marinite, I revel in the various farmer’s markets hereabout, and am pleased that this post so well captures the bounty in this county (ha!).

    -Joe

  3. Craig F says:

    Agree with the other comments about the pictures, look great. In Arizona we have our fair share of farmers markets, but nothing like in San Fran.

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