San Francisco's Can't-Miss Farmers' Markets
Farmers’ Markets are great places to visit any time of year. But they are at their most appealing in summer as the individual stalls literally overflow with produce. Tasting bright red strawberries, fragrant white nectarines and vine ripened ambrosia melons heavy with nectar is a great way to introduce children to the pleasures of eating seasonally. These market visits with you will connect them to a rhythm that is as old as man: plant, harvest, cook/preserve, eat.
Most San Francisco guidebooks will only send you to the most obvious choice: the Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market on Saturday (and Tuesday) mornings. Yes, it is lovely, all certified organic and quite civilized but it has none of the grit that I personally associate with and crave from a traditional farmers' market. If you do choose to check it out, be sure to get there around 7:45 am. The market opens officially at 8:00 am but it will be too crowded to walk through comfortably by 10:00 am. When I go to the Ferry Building I grab a cup of coffee from Peet’s, a granola/yogurt/fresh fruit parfait from Frog Hollow Farm then I find a bench facing the bay where I sit to people watch and contemplate the week ahead.
The Saturday Alemany Farmers' Market is California’s first farmers’ market. It was established in 1943 and moved to its permanent home in 1947. If you have ever wondered what is meant when a place is described as ‘holding memory’ (see Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris) you will understand the moment you start to wander through this market. I always feels like I am shopping with generations of real San Franciscans. Part of this comes from the cultural and economic diversity of both vendors and shoppers. It is a rich shopping experience and a good way to expose children to what makes our city great. Not all the vendors are certified organic but they will be happy to tell you if they use organic farming methods.
A few things to remember to help you enjoy your day at the market:
- Have lots of small bills. $1’s and $5’s are best.
- Hats for everyone. Wide brims in summer, warm knitted caps in winter.
- Drink lots of water.
- Walk the entire market sampling but without making a purchase (if you can resist). Stop for something to eat and talk about what your favorites were. Then circle around the second time and make your purchases. Also, remember that the closer to closing time the better the prices will be.
- Bring your own bags. I like a large canvas bag to carry everything in, lots of smaller plastic bags to bag my own produce and a middle sized plastic bag to put the roast chicken in. A cooler is a good idea if you are not going right home.