It was June. I bit into a freshly picked strawberry and to my tongue it was declared: “Summer has arrived.”
I didn’t find such stirring, evocative pleasure in one of those mealy, genetically modified monsters at the grocery store, of course. Rather, this was the genuine article, grown from Oregon’s sun and soil. These strawberries came, of course, from a farmers market.
It feels like only last week when I popped into my mouth that first taste of summer. But, my goodness, summer has just been screaming along. And while I’m rabid in insisting there’s still plenty of time before the rains return and the sky turns gray, it’s worth mentioning: The days of the farmers markets are numbered. There are only a few weeks left.
So let this be your friendly (but urgent) reminder: Get out there while you still can!
Scattered across the region, you’ll find markets most days of the week. (See box for times and locations.)
A quick overview
Astoria’s Sunday Market is the largest, with by far the most vendors. It’s as much a street fair as farmers market, with a significant portion of vendors offering arts and crafts. Numerous others are extensions of existing brick-and-mortar businesses.
Cannon Beach’s market, conversely, is restricted to regionally produced foods (though they, too, host a few brick-mortar outposts as well).
Now in its fourth year, Seaside’s market continues to grow, thanks in large part to a relocation (to the parking lot of Broadway Middle School on U.S. Highway 101) that enhanced visibility and increased traffic.
Manzanita also found a new home this year, moving just a block south from Laneda Avenue. The new, more spacious location has elevated an already festive Friday evening atmosphere.
The River People Farmers Market in Astoria has contracted greatly, to one day per month.
Sadly, my schedule has precluded visits to the markets in Ilwaco and Long Beach. (But I can say, after perusing the vendor list, Long Beach’s offerings are robust; after all, there are plenty of farms on and near the peninsula.)
Now, on to a few of my favorite vendors.
As for strawberries — and blackberries and blueberries and marionberries — I first look for A & B Farms, whose tend to be the ripest and most vibrant. But just about any will hit the spot. From the numerous berry producers I’ve tried, I’ve never regretted a purchase. (You’ll find A & B in Cannon Beach, Manzanita and Astoria.)
As for produce, KingFisher Farms, is the place. (They’re not the longest-running farm on the North Coast for nothing.) They’re known primarily for salad mix (which is found at some of the best restaurants on the coast and in Portland), but just about everything on offer — from sweet bell peppers to hulking onions — is top notch. At their booth this year, I became familiar with purslane, a tart, tasty herb that’s teeming with vitamin-C, Omega-3s among other healthy benefits. It’s perfect for sautéing with meat and other veggies. (KingFisher are regulars at Cannon Beach, Manzanita and Astoria.)
When I get purslane I like to sauté it with either beef or lamb, which I get from Lance’s Farm Vittles, a ranch in Nehalem that sells at the Cannon Beach and Manzanita markets. The family farm’s humanely raised, grass-fed and grass-finished meats are at once clean and rich. Around this time of year, when the markets’ end is in sight, I start to stock up, filling my freezer to the brim for winter.
Regular readers of this column will recognize this next vendor name: Skamokawa Farmstead Creamery. Their light, easy and effortlessly delicious array of chèvre will make a fan out of anyone — even those who think they don’t like goat cheese. New flavors are added regularly, like the special garlic edition that was produced a few weeks ago for the Elephant Garlic festival in North Plains. It’s everything you want it to be. Last week’s addition was a crottin, a briefly aged blue cheese with lovely funk, somewhere close to Brie. Stop by Skamokawa’s booth in Cannon Beach, Astoria or Long Beach for a sample.
And while you can do just about anything with these cheeses, from salads to dinners to snacks and dessert (not too long ago I found it in ice cream at the Shelburne Inn), it’s hard to beat the simple pleasure of spreading it on some freshly baked bread, which you’ll find at most markets. At the moment, I’m partial to the baguettes from Sea Level, the French-inspired cafe and bakery in Tolovana that has a booth at the Cannon Beach market.
In Manzanita you’ll find another worthwhile cheesemaker, Black Sheep Creamery, that has come up with some delicate sheep’s cheese infusions — try the subtle rosemary and garlic, and the more intense cumin and orange.
Now you’re ready to get cooking. Indeed, with such astoundingly fresh, top-quality ingredients, you don’t have to have gone to culinary school to whip up something special.
Though, for that, too, the farmers markets have you covered. We’ll touch on the food courts next week. In the meantime, get to a market before it’s too late!
ASTORIA SUNDAY MARKET
12th Street, Astoria, OR 97103
Sundays 10 a.m.-3 p.m. through Oct. 8
ASTORIA RIVER PEOPLE FARMERS MARKET
577 18th St., Astoria, OR 97103
Third Thursday of the month through Oct. 19
163 E. Gower Ave., Cannon Beach, OR 97110
Tuesdays 1 p.m.-5 p.m. through Sept. 29
Laneda Avenue and Fifth Street S, Manzanita, OR 97130
Fridays 5 p.m.-8 p.m. through Sept. 1
Fridays 4 p.m.-7 p.m. Sept. 8 and 15
1120 Broadway, Seaside, OR 97138
Wednesday 3 p.m.-7 p.m. through Sept. 27
Port of Ilwaco, Wash.
Saturdays 10 a.m.-4 p.m. through Sept. 30
212 Pacific Ave., Long Beach, WA 98631
Fridays 3 p.m.-6 p.m. through Sept. 29