Spring is here, and that means vacation is calling. If your plans call for domestic travel, you'll want to take notes: These five farmers' markets around the U.S. are gorgeous, colorful, tasty — and sceney — enough to merit a trip all on their own. Of course, many cooks will also tell you that spring is the absolute best time to shop at a farmers' market — since it's the season where you'll see a beautiful bounty of items like ramps, morels, and spring garlic, if only for just a few months... or even weeks. So now's the perfect time to include these markets in your seasonal travel plans. Bon voyage... and bon appetit!
1. Portland Farmers Market
When It Takes Place: Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Why It's So Fabulous: Portland Farmers Market at Portland State University is considered by many to be the mother of all farmers markets thanks to its sheer size and varied offerings. And with Portland becoming one of the greatest culinary destinations in the nation now, it's only getting better. There are 140 stalls set up each week, and there's often live entertainment and weekly cooking demos.
Vendors to Check Out: Rose City Pepperheads makes small-batch pepper jellies blending locally grown berries blended with their homegrown hot peppers like the habanero and ghost chile; Strata Farms is a Portland-based indoor vertical farm that produces an impressive variety of microgreens from mizuna to pea shoots to kohlrabi.
Spring Produce to Jump On: Rhubarb, stinging nettles
Where to Go for a Mid-Shop Snack: These days Pine State Biscuits has three brick and mortar locations with full breakfast menus and gets national coverage, but its humble beginnings were with a stall here at the market that gained local following for its now-famous fried-chicken-and-biscuit sandwich. Market-goers are still lining up for them today. (And so should you.)
2. Union Square Green Market
When It Takes Place: Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Why It's So Fabulous: While New York City has dozens of greenmarkets throughout the five boroughs, Union Square Green Market is the flagship with a slew of offerings from produce to pickles to fish to flowers. They've also got some progressive stuff going on, including a compost collection and a regional grains pop-up shop, part of a larger project to create a marketplace for grains grown and milled in the Northeast.
Vendors to Check Out: Cato Corner Farm hawks handmade raw milk cheeses from their 45 (mostly) Jersey cows. Roxbury Mountain Maple makes its own pure maple syrup along with maple-spiked goodies like popcorn and cotton candy.
Spring Produce to Jump On: Spring garlic, ramps
Where to Go for a Mid-Shop Snack: Pick up a bag of crazy-good handmade pretzels from Martin's Pretzels, which also offers pretzel bits in flavors like ranch and honey mustard.
3. Santa Monica Farmers Market
When It Takes Place: Wednesday from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Why It's So Fabulous: The fabled Santa Monica Farmers Market is often full of well-known chefs picking up produce for the evening's dinner service and the larger Wednesday version is SoCal's largest grower-only Certified Farmers Market.
Vendors to Check Out: Forbidden Fruit Orchards sells hard-to-find berries like mulberries, pink currants and gooseberries; Valdivia Farms focuses on baby vegetables, heirloom tomatoes, and stunning squash blossoms.
Spring Produce to Jump On: Spring garlic, ramps
Where to Go for a Mid-Shop Snack: A rotating restaurant of the week — from sushi to artisan pizza— sets up a stand every week to serve shoppers. Check out the roster here.
4. Santa Fe Farmers Market
When It Takes Place: Saturday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Why It's So Fabulous: Santa Fe Farmers Market in the Railyard may be small, but it's got many mighty offerings you've probably never tried before, from chile mustards to heirloom peppers to pumpkin pinon flatbread.
Vendors to Check Out: Romero Farms grows a specialty hybrid chile called the Alcade Improved chile along with a variety of other produce, including something called lizard tongue kale; Trujillo Family Farms sells pure chile powder, chile dips, salsas, and red chile pinon fudge.
Spring Produce to Jump On: Asparagus, pardon peppers
Where to Go for a Mid-Shop Snack: Mi Young's Farm makes a killer kimchi, but if that's old hat to you, then try their kimchi pancakes (yes, pancakes).
5. Atlanta's Freedom Farmers Market at the Carter Center
When It Takes Place: Saturday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Why It's So Fabulous: The wide variety of homemade foods with a Southern flair, organic produce, and more unique items like nut milks and organic grains, make Atlanta's Freedom Farmers Market at the Carter Center a one-stop shop for lots of interesting items. Market management is big on trying to convert one-time shoppers to regulars with live music, branded bags, and rewards for new customers.
Vendors to Check Out: Storico Fresco Pasta offers a lineup of handmade pastas stuffed with unusual combos of with farm-fresh ingredients and imported cheeses like smoked ricotta and guanciale stuffed in a squid ink pasta; Doux South Organic Pickles sells, yes, pickles, but also stocks a homemade relish of peppers, black-eyed, and hot sauce dubbed "Little Rock Caviar."
Spring Produce to Jump On: Radishes, pea pods
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