Portland Farmers' Markets Two Times the Fun
With so many farms in the area, summer eating is all about what’s fresh. While I am all for the concept of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) where you purchase a share of a harvest, I can’t quite commit to the weekly variations. You pay the farm before the growing season begins and then, for about four months, you get a portion of what comes out of the ground. Some weeks you get five pounds of parsnips, another week it is three clusters of cauliflower. Which is fine if you are a fan of parsnips and cauliflower. I like the ability to choose my fresh foods which is why I am a farmer’s market kind of girl. Plus, the socializing is better. There are friends that I only ever get to see on market days.
In Portland, we have two farmers' markets, one on Wednesdays in Monument Square in the heart of the downtown and then again on Saturdays in Deering Oaks Park.
The midweek market gets all the office workers out during the lunch hour, myself included. I spend about fifty minutes schmoozing and then hit the stands only to find out that I am on the loser end of the rush for cilantro.
Now that the Public Market House is also operating in Monument Square, the midweek market there is noticeably improved. The Public Market House is a group of vendors who made the exodus from the failed Public Market around the corner. With Horton’s Cheese shop, Big Sky Bakery and the Maine Beer and Beverage Company, it is a great place for takeout lunches. The Market House also rents outdoor day tables for $25 where food entrepreneurs, artists and crafters can test their wares. Particularly on market days, you see tables with painters, jewelers, knitters, and bakers and jam makers.
I think this new Wednesday groove is infecting the Saturday vibe. While only open until noon on Saturdays, the Deering Oaks market commands more real estate and more shoppers.
Recently, more buskers have been making an appearance. Sometimes it is bluesman Samuel James (who also does Wednesdays) but others take advantage of the expansive location. Like tweens playing cello, acrobats amongst the pines and a fire juggler on the edge of the pond.
Another bonus to the Saturday market is the wading pool built directly into the ravine, which offers squirting fountains and relief to small children, beleaguered parents and not so bright dogs who think they can bite cascading water.
I find it helpful to have a shopping strategy when I go to the market or else I wind up making insane compulsive purchases of vegetable s that I cannot pronounce.
This week I was on the hunt for kale, having heard about a recipe that makes it tastes like potato chips. I knew I could count on the guys from Fishbowl Farm.
They look like the farming equivalent of gutter punks – smeared with dirt, tattooed, gnarly. Not from living on the streets but from living off the land. Indeed, they had my kale. They are hardcore on the greens.
While the Wednesday and Saturday markets are comprised of many of the same farmers, they each have their own personality. They are both good friends. At least as long as the growing weather lasts.
Farmer’s Markets in Maine
New York Time article on Public Market House
Community Supported Agriculture in Maine