Saturday Farmer’s Market in Berkeley, on Center Street at Martin Luther King (MLK) Way, is one of our two favorite local farmer’s markets; the other is the the Friday Old Oakland Farmer’s Market. Every Saturday when we’re at home in the Bay Area, rain or shine, we go to the Saturday Berkeley Farmer’s Market. Although the market is scheduled to open at 10:00 a.m., we usually get there somewhat early in order to get good parking and make sure we get some of our favorite items before they sell out.
Saturday Berkeley Farmer's Market
I love local farmer’s markets. They are as close as I can get to the street markets in Thailand. I love knowing who is growing my food and that the producer gets all the money from my purchase. By going weekly, I get to know what is in season and what is not: in California where the seasons are often similar, it’s a way to be in touch with the changing year.
Here are the stalls where we shop week after week at the Saturday morning Berkeley Farmer’s Market. We prefer the Saturday market (Berkeley also has markets on Tuesday and Thursday) because that’s the only day that all of our favorite vendors are there. You can get a full listing of all the vendors at the Berkeley Ecology Center website. One advantage to the Berkeley Farmer’s Market is that nearly every stall is organic and the few that are not are often pesticide-free or transitional.
Pictures for this blog are from both Michael and Kasma. They were all taken in July of this year (2010) and reflect what is available at this time of year. Click on an image to see a larger version.
Riverdog farm tomatoes
Kasma's dove likes Riverdog!
is one of the first places I look for produce at the Berkeley Farmer’s market. Everything always looks so fresh and eatable! Green beans, cherry tomatoes, asparagus (in season), snap peas, carrots (orange and red) are things I buy here. They also have delicious pastured chickens that are very tasty indeed. Their almond butter is absolutely fabulous!
Catalan Family Farm
Catalan market stall
Strawberries from Catalan Farm
I always check out the vegetables at Catalan Family Farms, often buying onions, green beans or cauliflower there. This year (2010) I think they’ve had the best strawberries at the Berkeley Farmer’s Market; week after week we tasted as many strawberries as we could (I love tasting fruit before I buy, a definite plus for farmer’s markets) and we usually bought them here.
Blue Heron Farms
Cilantro, roots attached
Flowers from Blue Heron
We are eternally grateful to Blue Heron for being the one place where, week after week, we can be certain of getting cilantro roots. Cilantro roots are a critical ingredient in many Thai curries, soups and stir-fries. In Kasma’s weeklong advanced classes, she may need a couple cups of cilantro roots for various dishes over the week: thankfully we can get them at Blue Heron. I’ve also bought their carrots and other greens. This summer they also have had a beautiful selection of flowers. Unfortunately, they take a break in the winter months: we miss them.
Vang Family Farm
Eggplants from Vang Family Farm
Vang Family Farm is the one Asian produce vendor at the Saturday Berkeley Farmer’s Market. He often has a variety of ingredients that we find useful: the Thai eggplants shown here, daikon, Asian greens such as Chinese broccoli (ka-nah
, in Thai). Lemongrass and Thai Basil (bai horapa)
are available sometimes. His prices are always a bit lower than the other stands.
Happy Boy Farms
Heirloom tomatoes from Happy Boy
Edible flowers from Happy Boy
Happy Boy Farms is another produce stand we like. This year (2010) they were the first to have heirloom tomatoes and they have been very, very good indeed. If I’m going to get a salad mix, I get it here.
Lucero Organic Farm
Lucero Farm summer squash
Lucero Organic Farms has excellent produce. Their summer squashes are great and they often have okra, including some varieties I never see elsewhere. Their heirloom tomatoes are also outstanding.
Brooks & Daughters
Sprouts from Brooks & Daughters
Brooks & Daughters sells sprouts of many different varieties. I’ll sometimes get the plain alfalfa, other times a clover mix and sometimes just plain broccoli sprouts. Sold by the handful, they are a great snack.
Mushrooms from Solano Mushrooms
It should come as no surprise that Solano Mushroom sells mushrooms; mushrooms of all kinds, in fact. Here we see Royal Trumpet (Eryngii) mushrooms, our favorite for a snap-pea with oyster sauce stir fry. They have many varieties such as chanterelle, porcini and oyster, all very fresh indeed.
Frog Hollow peaches for tasting
For stone fruits, it’s usually hard to beat Frog Hollow
. This is where I often buy my peaches, apricots, nectarines and pluots. Their Flavor King pluots are the best I’ve ever tasted. They are always very
generous with their tastings. This year we depended on them for cherries.
Woodleaf Farm peaches
Woodleaf Farm is the other stall that we depend on for peaches. They have some of the best peaches I’ve ever eaten. Like many other vendors, they are always willing to give you a sample. It’s smart marketing: often once I’ve tasted one of their peaches I’m hooked.
Fruit tasting at Kashiwase
I think Kashiwase has the best tasting at the market; they usually have eight to ten varieties of stone fruit (in season) and have a tasting table with samples of all of them. Nectarines are the one fruit I find myself buying over and over here.
is my go-to stall for Gala and Pink Lady apples, which become available in the fall. They are at the market year-round with other organic fruits, such as cherries and yummy grapes.
Meat & Fish
Highland Hills Farm
Highland Hills sign
Highland Hills Farm has the best pork I’ve ever tasted. We’ve especially enjoyed their pork belly, pork butt and ground pork. They also have wild boar. All their meats, beef, pork, lamb, goat and chickens, are pasture raised.
Fatted Calf market stall
The Fatted Calf
is one reason we come to the Saturday market: it’s the only market it visits in the East Bay. They specialize in local and sustainably raised meats transformed into meaty goods. It’s an unusual week when I don’t get at least one of my favorite products: liverwurst (with a delightful smoked flavor), Mexican Chorizo (see my blog on Bitter Melon, Chorizo and Egg
) or crepinettes (flavored meat patties – yummy!). I’ve enjoyed their sausages, duck liver mousse and sausages as well. And when they have leaf lard for sale, I jump all over it: lard is the best fat I’ve ever found for stir-frying.
Update, March 2011: Unfortunately, Fatted Calf no longer comes to the Berkeley Farmer’s market. They do have a store on Fell Street in San Francisco.
Hudson Fish black cod
Although everything here is fresh and wonderful looking, I rely on Hudson Fish
mainly for the black cod (AKA butterfish). Butterfish is a good name for it: it melts in your mouth like butter. For a drunken stir-fry or a pad gkaprow
(holy basil stir-fry), there is no better fish.
Raisin Rye Bread
Eduardo Morell’s breads are my favorite breads anywhere: they are true artisan breads. Naturally leavened by whole wheat starters (no commercial yeast or chemical leavening are used in any of the products), they are dense, chewy and full-flavored delicious. My favorite loaves are the Multigrain and the Raisin Rye bread. I’ll also get the 100% Spelt bread for variety and occasionally a loaf made with an heirloom variety of wheat from the local Full Belly Farm. Toasted and with butter, they are satisfying and filling. Eduardo also makes delicious scones, both multi-grain raisin scones and fruit scones using seasonal fruits from vendors in the market. Anything here is highly recommended! The only places these breads and scones are available anywhere are the Saturday and Thursday Berkeley Farmer’s Markets. (Morell’s Bread Website)
Seasonal specialties at Cultured
Naturally fermented foods are some of the healthiest foods you can eat: the natural fermentation creates beneficial gut bacteria that helps with digestion and helps boost the immune system. Cultured
is another reason to attend the Saturday market (they’re also at the Tuesday Berkeley market). In addition to sauerkraut (I like the Traditional, the Nutra Kraut and the Lemon Garlic Dill), Cultured offers seasonal specialties, which change from week to week. My absolute favorite product here is the Beets with Fennel. They also sell kombucha. (My favorite article on the importance of bacteria is Garry Hamilton’s Why We Need Germs.)
Bariani Olive Oil
Bariani Olive Oil
Although we eat mainly Thai food at home, when I make a salad I’ll often use olive oil from Bariani Olive Oil
. It’s a family-run operation that oversees every step of the process themselves. It’s organic and very tasty, with a slight grassy taste that I find enjoyable. They also make a very nice balsamic vinegar.
Big Paw Grub
Big Paw is the other olive oil I enjoy: it’s somewhat less grassy than Bariani. They also make balsamic vinegar here that, combined with olive oil, makes a very complete and tasty salad dressing. The Apricot Lavender is delicious but my favorite is the Mission Fig.