Plenty of food enthusiasts around the country prefer to spend Saturday morning browsing at the local farmers market. These casual events draw home cooks and even world-class chefs seeking ingredients for their next flavor-filled creation, and the odds are good that whatever is for sale will meet even the most stringent freshness and flavor requirements.
For most people, the best farmers market in the world is the one they return to week after week. However, some markets stand out because of their size, diversity or the overall quality of their products. Here’s a selection of farmers markets around the U.S. that true aficionados need to visit.
Santa Fe Farmers Market
The Santa Fe Farmers Market is one of the main events in this popular tourist town in New Mexico. The thriving arts and culture scene here sets the market apart from many of its larger Southwestern peers. Every Tuesday and Saturday morning at the Santa Fe Railyard, artists set up shop alongside vendors selling locally grown produce and artisanal products such as jams, soaps and bakery goods. Musical performances, special events and kid-centered attractions lend the market a festival-like atmosphere. On Sundays the focus is on art during the Railyard Artisans Market, which takes place on the same grounds as the Farmers Market.
Des Moines Farmers Market
The Des Moines Farmers Market is a major event that is held each Saturday in Des Moines, Iowa. This is a great place to find some of the best direct-from-the-producer goods in the Midwest. In addition to a rich array of fruits and vegetables, there are flowers, wines, cheeses, baked goods and dairy products. Special programs, kids events and concerts are also a part of the Saturday morning festivities in downtown Des Moines.
Minneapolis Farmers Market
The Minneapolis Farmers Market sits just outside of the downtown section of this large Minnesota city. Some of the produce and goods sold here are seldom seen in smaller markets (or in any other markets in the Upper Midwest, for that matter), a product of Minneapolis' diverse population. Another unique aspect of this market is its dedicated space that is open every day of the week. A satellite market takes place downtown on Thursdays, and special events, including cooking classes and concerts, happen on the weekends.
Portland Farmers Market
Portland has one of the most organized and well-attended collections of farmers markets in the U.S. Something is going on every Tuesday through Sunday, meaning that residents of this Oregon metropolis can have fresh food on their table daily. The <a href="http://www.portlandfarmersmarket.org/markets/psu/" target="_hplink">Saturday market, at Portland State University</a>, is the main event. A majority of the vendors and customers are very knowledgeable about the produce and are active participants in the city's lively organic scene. Samples and cooking information are available and provide visitors with a hands-on experience.
Union Square Greenmarket
The Union Square Greenmarket proves that farmers markets can thrive anywhere, even in a big concrete jungle like New York City. This Manhattan institution serves up locally grown produce, baked goods and even less common market items like fish and fresh cut flowers. Specialty items like pickles, cheeses, jams, wines and ciders are also on the menu, as are seasonal items like freshly made maple syrup. As many as 60,000 people come to Union Square on market days (Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday of each week). This makes for a crowded but festive scene with many of the customers as knowledgeable about the products as the vendors themselves. Cooking demonstrations and gardening education are also part of the offerings at Union Square.
Dane County Farmers Market
The Dane County Farmers Market in Madison, Wis., claims to be the largest producers-only farmers market in the U.S. Throughout the year, more than 300 growers/vendors sell their goods at the market (when their products are in season). On market days, which are Wednesday and Saturday, as many as 160 vendors set up stalls in central Madison, selling produce, artisanal goods, flowers, meats, cheeses, wines, jams and honey, and an assortment of baked goods. A nearby cluster of arts and crafts vendors and an assortment of street performers and musicians add to the exciting ambiance.
Crescent City Farmers Market
The Crescent City Farmers Market in New Orleans is home to some of the most unusual produce and the best artisanal products in the Gulf Coast region. Held in three locations on three days, the market is a great place to introduce yourself to the foods of this flavor-filled city. The market is held Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, with the Saturday version in the centrally located Warehouse District. In addition to fruits and vegetables, Crescent City features freshly caught fish, artisanal foods and farm-raised meats.
Green City Market
Chicago's Green City Market is another prime example of a farmers market thriving in a big-city setting. This hot spot for fresh food is open year round on Saturdays and is also open on Wednesdays during the summer and fall. In addition to a huge array of food and locally made products, this market has cooking demonstrations by some of the most famous chefs in the city and other cooking and gardening classes taught by local experts and enthusiasts.
Hilo Farmers Market
The Hilo Farmers Market is not quite as large as some others on our list. However, it is arguably one of the most unusual in the entire U.S., featuring tropical fruit and vegetables not seen in the farmers markets in the Lower 48. Located in the city of Hilo on Hawaii's Big Island, the market runs all day on Wednesday and Saturday, with over 200 vendors taking part on the busiest days. In addition to the produce, vendors also offer crafts, artwork, artisanal food products and tropical flowers. Since the Big Island gets fewer tourists than Oahu or Maui, the Hilo market is a good place to enjoy an authentic, non-touristy taste of Hawaii.
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