Flickr © Jay Phagan
With warm weather here to stay, towns all across the US are opening up their farmers markets for the season. Even if you don’t include these havens of local goods in your grocery shopping back home, visiting a market while traveling can be a great introduction to a community and its regional produce. You can find unique souvenirs for friends and family, or if you’re staying in accommodations with a kitchen, you can pick up ingredients to cook with and save some money on eating out. Every corner of the United States has a local market, but these are some of the best.
Pike Place Market
Dominating the end of a cobblestone street in rainy Seattle, Pike Place may just be the Big Kahuna of market tourist attractions. With over 80 vendors from across Washington State, you’re sure to find something special. If you’ve got access to a kitchen and the baking bug, you can’t miss picking up a pint of huckleberries, a quintessential flavor of the Pacific Northwest, to star in a batch of muffins or pancakes. Souvenir shoppers won’t be left out of the fun. A wide variety of farm-style crafts, like body butters and beeswax candles, are also on sale. Keep your eyes peeled for live cooking demonstrations by local chefs for a real Seattle treat.
Union Square Greenmarket
Manhattan may not seem the place you’d go to get close to the earth, but it is a culinary mecca and hundreds of professional and home chefs have been picking up fresh regional produce at Union Square Greenmarket since 1976. Upstate New York is packed with farms like Lucky Dog Farm and Breezy Hill Orchards, who are just two of the market’s 140-plus vendors. If you can stand the crowds – Union Square sees as many as 60,000 visitors each day – catch a live cooking demonstration, and if you plan on cooking you might purchase ingredients as unique as wild caught bluefish, quince, emu and ostrich eggs, locally grown and milled rye flour, or one of 88 apple varieties.
Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market
If nothing else, San Francisco’s seminal market will draw your attention for its bayside location in and around the city’s iconic Ferry Building. Time your visit wisely though. The market is open three days a week with special themes for each day. Tuesdays are filled with organic produce, Thursdays highlight artisanal street fare, and on Saturdays, local restaurants take center stage. Run by the Center for Urban Education About Sustainable Agriculture, Ferry Plaza is on the front lines of the farm-to-table movement. You might find permissions or Mission figs, squash blossoms or locally foraged mushrooms, or even Tahitian pomelos among its 80 to 100 vendors. Not cooking and just here to browse? Snack on a little Korean style street food while you wander.
Charleston Farmers’ Market
As one of the hottest towns on the foodie map, it’s impossible to go to Charleston and skip out on its traditional Lowcountry cuisine. If your visit happens to fall on a Saturday between April and December, you can get closer to the local food and drink scene with a trip to the city’s downtown farmers’ market on Marion Square. Load up on fresh-caught shrimp, locally grown pecans, ripe blueberries, or handmade pasta. If you’re just here to browse, enjoy an artisanal ice cream cone or a steaming bowl of the ultimate South Carolina meal, shrimp and grits. Produce doesn’t hold a monopoly on the market’s booths, and you might stumble across an irresistible piece of vintage jewelry while you’re here.