Even though the University District Farmers Market gets so many national raves, I tend to think of it as just a bigger version of the other neighborhood markets. When I ran through the other day, though, for the first time this season, I was reminded how remarkable it really is. Mair Farm-Taki from Wapato had sweet grape-size plums (above) in varieties we rarely see: Yellow Shiro and Mirabelles, blue-purple Damsons, and more. Katsumi Taki told me today he’d probably have them for another 2-3 weeks. (How should you use them? I think the tiny ones are mostly for eating out of hand; with the more sizable plums, Taki has seen customers making jams and jellies, sauces, and even plum liqueur. If you’ve got a backyard tree or friends who let you forage, Nancy Leson suggests slicing big ones in half, laying the pitted halves on a sheetpan, freezing them, then bagging in Ziplocs to store.) But plums were hardly all: I bought four perfect Rama Farm peaches, flawlessly ripe and sweet, and Blenheim apricots from Grouse Mountain Farm, which also had baskets of striking late-season pie cherries (I’ve been turning those into jam with this recipe. [Editor’s note: Be sure to follow USDA jam making and canning guidelines.]) I kept seeing vendors I don’t see at other regional markets — not necessarily better ones, because I have favorites at all the markets where I shop, but a welcome variety and change of pace.
I get a similar thrill when I visit the big Ballard Farmers Market (which got some brag-worthy recognition itself recently), and I’ve been hearing that the Everett Farmers Market is worth a drive. And I’ve been meaning all summer to make it to the Virginia Mason Farmers Market, which I hadn’t realized was open to the public.
Where are some of your favorite farmers markets this season, and why? Fill us in, while we still have a little time to check them out and enjoy them.
I’ll be gone for the next week, by the way, for my annual trip to the Oregon coast (which always includes a pilgrimage to the Tillamook Cheese Factory and to the little Manzanita Farmers Market). Hopefully, the plums will still be in season by my return. Have a great Labor Day weekend, and see you in September.
Plum photo by David Dickey