In honor of Farm to Fork month, I want to feature my latest trip to the farmers market. Admittedly, I do not shop at farmers markets as often as I would like- which would be at least once a week if I did. It is something I love to do when I can, and having previously worked at a farmers market for several years, there is a personal connection for me. The idealist side of me also gets to check the “eating local box” when I shop at farmers markets. There is also the fact that farmers markets offer such a wide selection of high quality and delicious fruits and vegetables. Plus it’s fun!
Last Sunday, my boyfriend and I shopped at the market under the freeway at 8th and W streets in downtown Sacramento. The market is open year round on Sundays from 8am-noon. We were shopping for our weekly groceries as well as for some dinner guests we were having over later that night. We were a bit pressed for time, but I insisted on starting at the farmers market because it has been on my to-do list to go back to this market for awhile. I say “go back” because I had only been to this particular market one other time. It had been winter on that first visit, and we hadn’t yet seen the market in its full summer glory.
To be as efficient as possible, we made a list of what we would ideally like to purchase beforehand. There were several items like citrus that were highly unlikely to find since citrus is out of season in the summer. Tomatoes and peaches are peak summer produce, and we knew those would be easy to find. Items like garlic and cauliflower were a toss up because they seem to be out of season, but garlic stores well and cauliflower can be grown in some of the more mild climates of the area even during summer.
Pro tip: cash is king at farmers markets. These days many vendors do accept credit and debit cards. Powerful technologies such as square, venmo, and others have made this possible for vendors through their smartphones or tablets. It is still a great idea to have some cash on you though for those vendors who are cash only or that have minimum spending limits for card transactions. Using electronic payment technology may also cost the vendor a usage fee, so when possible, cash is best for market transactions. Confession: being a little underprepared, we used a combination of cash and card.
Our first stop was at the Cloverleaf Farm stand from Davis, CA. They grow a variety of organic fruits and vegetables, and they are known especially for their fruit. They even have a fruit CSA. Most of the fruit was nearly sold out by the time my we arrived at the market around 11 am. We skipped the fruit this time, but we were drawn to their baskets of mixed hot peppers. We bought a batch of them. The hot peppers were on our list, and we figured we could dry any extra peppers we didn’t use up (see my previous blog post about Preserving the Summer Bounty!).
Our next stop was at J&J Ramos Farm. J&J sells a variety of fruits including tomatoes, stone fruits, grapes, and citrus. They usually have ample samples of fruit available at their stand, and I have been consistently happy with their produce. We bought some large red slicer tomatoes for burger toppings and yellow peaches.
For our cherry tomatoes, we went to the next farmstand over (I forget the name). We actually ran into the credit card minimum payment issue at the cherry tomato stand. The basket we were buying was an affordable $3/basket and the credit card minimum was $5. We were able to find enough cash to cover it, but otherwise we might have had to leave the tomatoes behind or buy something else to get us up to the minimum.
The bargain of the day probably had to be the cauliflower we got from Patrick’s Garden. Growing up in the Apple Hill area, they are able to keep cauliflower in stock even in late August. We ended up getting a 2-3lb organic cauliflower for just $5. Compared to what we had spent the week before on cauliflower at the grocery store, this seemed like an absolute steal!
We made our rounds through all of the stands at the market, and we were able to score a few more items on our list. We found garlic, amazingly, but as predicted there were no lemons or limes available. All in all, it was a great farmers market visit! Not everything on our list had been available; however, we were still able to get most of the produce we needed and for way less than we would have spent on it elsewhere!
I highly recommend this market if you are in the area and have some free time on a Sunday morning! There is more produce available the earlier in the day that you shop, but if you shop towards the end of the market, you may find some discounted prices. Most carry foods other than fruits and veggies such as honey, cheese, meat, eggs, bread, etc. Non-food items such as houseplants are also a staple at many markets. Plus, the farmers market vendors have more free samples than Costco! What more of a reason do you need?