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All You Can Eat

Trend-setting restaurants, Northwest cookbooks, local food news and the people who make them happen.

February 6, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Winter tips for finding your favorite farmers market vendors

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There’s no way to replicate the sun-ripened peach, the heaps of heirloom tomatoes, the harvest-time feeling of strolling through the booths at the summer farmers markets.

But there is some hope for those missing their favorite vendors and even some of their favorite farmers. With a little diligence, beloved jams, sauces, meats, chocolates — and even some fruits and vegetables — can be found despite our generally fallow winter fields.

For instance, when it’s warm outside, I stock up on my favorite smoky-sweet barbecue sauce from the Bluesman BBQ table at the Lake Forest Park farmers market, which runs May through October. But proprietor Mike Mallams now distributes his sauces to the Made In Washington stores, to Double DD Meats in Mountlake Terrace, to some Ace Hardware locations, and a handful of other retail outlets. Mallams, who makes the sauce from a recipe handed down from his dad, expects to be in more grocery stores later this year, though he still has a day job and is keeping the expansion “relatively small on purpose.”

At Picnic, a specialty shop on Phinney Ridge, co-owners Jenny and Anson Klock’s stock includes an ever-growing array of local market favorites, from Rachel’s Ginger Beer and Bluebird Grain Farms to Holmquist Hazelnuts and McSweet pickles to Fishing Vessel St. Jude tuna. Specialty shops are generally good bets for finding local producers, though the Picnic proprietors have a closer connection to the markets than most: Popular jam-maker Rebecca Staffel of Deluxe Foods — who produces flavors like Pear Cabernet and Blackberry Tarragon using local ingredients — originally made her jams in the Picnic kitchen, and the shop still carries her jars. “Most of our relationships with vendors are just that, relationships — friends, friends of friends, cooks we know working on a product line,” Jenny Klock said.

Here are a few other ways to search out your favorite farmers-market flavors in the offseason:

Peach Pit: The Martin Family Orchards sign is a familiar sight under market tents, but now it’s also prominently displayed at the Peach Pit Produce Market, 12230 Aurora Ave. N., which the Orondo-based orchard owners opened seven months ago. “All of our apples are still here, the Fuji’s and Red Delicious. Our d’Anjou pears are still here,” as well as produce from neighboring Eastern Washington farms, said the market’s Michael Nelson. Being winter, plenty of the other produce comes from farther afield, but the market also sells cider pressed from its own apples, local products like CB’s Nuts and Middle Fork Roasters coffee and — an import from Kitsap County farmers markets — small-batch Hummingbird Hill sodas. With three truck loading bays, Nelson said the shop’s also a good home base for the orchard’s sales to local Thriftway and Red Apple markets.

Home Delivery: Tiny’s Organics and Full Circle Farm are both ubiquitous at area farmers markets — but both also offer doorstep delivery. Wenatchee-based Tiny’s, which supplies dried as well as fresh fruits, supplies produce either as one-time orders through Amazon Fresh, or through a weekly CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) delivery. Full Circle, with a 450-acre farm in Carnation, offers a weekly CSA box mixing its own harvest with that of small organic farmers as far south as California. Now, in the dead of winter, local produce makes up just 10-15 percent of its offerings, but this week’s options still included Carnation-grown carrots and parsnips. Full Circle also allows subscribers to add on local groceries like Bluebird Farms grains and Link Lab sausages and Hot Cakes chocolate goodies.

The farm shop: Several market vendors operate their own retail shops. For instance, meats from Sea Breeze Farm can be purchased at La Boucherie, the farm’s Vashon Island retail butcher shop and restaurant, at 17635 100th Ave. S.W. The nonprofit 21 Acres farm and sustainable living organization in Woodinville has a market open Fridays and Saturdays offering local produce, grains, milk, and other products. (Hours are subject to change, check the website for details.)

The brick-and-mortar market: The famous carrots from Sequim-based Nash’s Organic Produce thrived in part through a partnership with the Farmland Trust founded through PCC Natural Markets. PCC still carries the sweet Nantes carrots and other produce from Nash’s, as well as fruits and vegetables from other local farmers, meats from Skagit River Ranch, fermented goods from Firefly Kitchens, “Hummless” white-bean dip from Skip’s Dips, and goods from many other farmers market vendors. Whole Foods stocks farmers-market specialties from Whidbey Island Ice Cream bars and Willapa Hills cheese to JonBoy caramels and vegetables from market mainstay Willie Greens Organic Farm. (Most area markets, including Thriftway and Metropolitan Markets, also highlight local farmers to some degree, though not all specify the farm.)

The winter farmers market: While the majority of markets shut down until late spring, the Ballard, University District and West Seattle farmers markets do operate year-round. While you won’t find nectarines and pluots, the latest fresh sheet from the University District market featured beets, chard, parsnips, turnips, dried beans, dairy products, grains, eggs — as well as the first blooming hyacinths and tulips that will herald spring. Look also for an informal group of market farmers, including Tonnemaker and Local Roots, who are congregating at the summer Broadway Market site in front of Seattle Central Community College from 11 a.m. to noon every other Sunday (they’re next expecting to gather Feb. 17).

File photo of Andrew Stout, owner of Full Circle Farm in Carnation, by Ken Lambert/The Seattle Times

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