Tuesday, May 19, 2009

In Season NW: Mid-May Markets

It was a quadruple header over the weekend with four markets to report on, and the summer temps and clear blue skies brought out near-record crowds for the middle of May.

Portland Farmers' Market: Rhubarb, fiddleheads, sea beans and spring onions were practically spilling into the aisles, but the big event today was a tour of the market's prepared food vendors with manager Ann Forsthoeful. Tastebud head honcho Mark Doxtader was chopping up the spring onions he'd bought that morning from the vendor across the aisle. He already had a big pan cooking in the brick oven, its smoke summoning early shoppers for a slice of breakfast pizza. The big guys at Northwest Heritage Pork (left) were fortifying themselves with plate-sized pancakes and rashers of bacon in anticipation of the crowds to come, and Ann and I got to sample their jaw-droppingly good (and loaded) carnitas tacos. Dave and Barb Barber's Picklopolis stopped us in our tracks with containers of crunchy pickled asparagus spears and bread-and-butter jalapenos glinting in the sunlight alongside giant jars of their signature sauerkraut and huge dill pickles. "People call them walking-around pickles," Dave noted, adding that customers often get some to take home and then one to walk around and munch on while they shop.
Saturdays from 8:30 am-2 pm at Portland State University in the South Park Blocks between SW Harrison and Montgomery.

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Beaverton Farmers' Market: The Oregonian's Kim Pokorny was just getting started on her presentation about growing vegetables in the Northwest, so I stopped and learned that with a little lime and bone meal in the hole that you've dug for your tomatoes will reap enormous rewards later in the season, and that snapping off the lower leaves and planting the tomato with only the top of the plant sticking out of the soil will cause roots to emerge from the buried stem, feed the plant. Filing away that information for later, I wandered through this incredible market, marveling at the aisles and aisles of seasonal produce that dwarfs even the PSU market for volume. My favorite produce stand, Spring Hill Organic Farm, had its usual stunning display of sorrel (photo, top), spring onions, vibrant heads of lettuce and purple flower buds popping from large bundles of chives, and the smell of fresh corn tortillas wafting from Canby Asparagus Farm made me almost wish I hadn't had that giant taco earlier.
Saturdays from 8 am-1:30 pm on SW Hall Blvd between 3rd and 5th Sts. in downtown Beaverton.

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Hillsdale Farmers' Market: At Jacobs Creamery, new GSNW contributor Lisa Jacobs was joking with her dad, Michael (right), who was handing out samples of his home-smoked salmon at The Smokery booth next door. Asked how he got into the business of smoking fish, Michael said his kids gave him a smoker one year and (are you listening, Dave?), after trying several recipes that produced inedibly dry or salty fish, he developed his own recipe that gave him the rich flavor and texture he remembered from his childhood in Ireland. From there it was only a matter of time before he was selling at the farmers' markets that were popping up around town. And Ken Harry of Chanka's Catering, with his lilting Caribbean accent, said that he began selling at the market because he just wanted to make food for his neighbors. He said that some people were initially cautious about trying it, but the mild, tropical flavors of the shrimp and chicken he features have made him a market favorite, and the habanero chile sauce he has in a little jar on the side can spike up the heat substantially.

Sundays from 10 am-2 pm at SW Capitol Hwy. and Sunset Blvd. in the Wilson High School parking lot.

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King Market: Nancy Chandler (left), artisan cheesemaker and fixture at several area markets, was doing a land office business in her signature chevre at her Alsea Acres table. She said she and the other vendors were floored by the overwhelmingly enthusiastic neighborhood response to this new market. Having started out in the business with two goats that a friend had given her son for a 4-H project, she now has a full line of plain and flavored chevre cheeses, including her newest, the cleverly named "Party in a Jar." Virgin olive oil, greek olives, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted red peppers, pine nuts, roasted garlic, rosemary and basil combine with a chunk of fresh chevre to make a perfect appetizer or hostess gift, she said, and it will last for several weeks in the fridge if you can keep away from it for that long. And it was all Kir Jensen could do to keep up with the stream of customers at Two Tarts Bakery who were clamoring for the diminishing stock of bite-sized cookies and bars.
Sundays from 10 am-2 pm on NE 7th at Wygant between NE Alberta and Prescott Sts.

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