In the Northwest, vegetables always seem to run a few weeks behind, with produce lovers having to be content with lingering weeks of flowering kale and braising greens until we can buy our fill of asparagus and rhubarb.
Finally, though, spring has arrived. Farmers market tables are multiplying by the week, with new producers and fresh goods cropping up — and, the biggest sign of all, more markets opening for the 2013 season.
New seasonal markets this year include the Pike Place Market Express farmers market in Pioneer Square (10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesdays in Occidental Park, starting June 19).
The Lake City Farmers Market, one of my favorites for its relaxed feel by a library and playground, will have expanded hours, running from 2:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, starting June 20, as well as adding more prepared food vendors for picnicking in the park. The extended five-hour run — I’d like to see that become a trend! — was meant to capture “the local family and senior shoppers who enjoy showing up early and also capture the commuter crowd going home at the end of the workday,” said Chris Curtis, director of the Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance, in an email.
The most intoxicating news of the season: A pilot wine- and beer-tasting program tested at 10 farmers markets statewide last year was made permanent and expanded by the Legislature. Under the new bill, effective July 28, up to three wine or beer sellers per qualifying market will be allowed to offer samples.
Interesting new vendors abound at nearly every market, including Seattle Urban Honey and the delectable cheeses of Kurtwood Farms coming to the University District market in June (the year-round market, celebrating its 20th anniversary, is 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays.)
Likewise, the West Seattle market is year-round, and open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sundays.
Honest Biscuit and Rachel’s Ginger Beer will join vendors at the Columbia City market, San Juan Island Sea Salt is one of the new tables at the Broadway market, and Tabby Cat Pickling will come to the Lake City and Phinney markets, among a host of other new appearances.
There are at least six new farms at the Madrona market (3 to 7 p.m. Fridays), according to Zachary Lyons of the Seattle Farmers Market Association. Those will include two additional dairies, Seattle Tilth’s farm incubator program, and “a new farm project by Phong Cha, patriarch of the Hmong farming community, who is developing a farm that will focus on growing culturally relevant Asian varieties of vegetables and herbs,” Lyons said in an email.
The Wallingford market (3:30 to 7 p.m. Wednesdays, starting next Wednesday, with chefs allowed in at 3 p.m.) will also have two new dairies, Lyons said, plus “Seattle Tilth’s Youth Garden Project and Children’s Garden, a certified organic Hmong farm run by Chai Cha, Phong Cha’s son. Children’s raises a wide variety of vegetables, including the hard-to-find Chinese Spinach — the most beautiful vegetable on earth, for my money — and it has become one of the year-round anchor farms at Ballard Farmers Market.”
The Queen Anne market, starting June 6 from 3 to 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays, features a large rotating gathering of food trucks (organizers think it’s the largest weekly gathering in the city), notably scheduled to include Renee Erickson’s new Narwhal truck.
Columbia City’s popular market is operating Wednesdays from 3 to 7 p.m. (chefs can squeeze in early at 2 p.m.), while the Farmboat “floating farmers market” aboard the Virginia V at Lake Union Park will run 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursdays. Madrona operates from 3 to 7 p.m. Fridays, and the Broadway Farmers Market runs Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
For upcoming opening days, the Phinney market will run from 3 to 7 p.m. Fridays starting June 7, and the public is welcome at the farmers market at Virginia Mason Medical Center on First Hill, which runs 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Fridays starting May 31. The Magnolia market will follow from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays starting June 1. Pike Place Express will open its City Hall Plaza branch 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays starting June 18, and its South Lake Union branch 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursdays starting June 20. Granddaddy Pike Place Market itself has a seasonal farmers market from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fridays-Sundays starting June 21.
A good list of farmers markets throughout King County is online at Puget Sound Fresh.