Now that we’re into the month of May, farmers markets that shut down over the winter months or were operating with a reduced number of vendors and products are opening up.
Last Saturday was the first full Beaverton Farmers’ Market of the summer season, and my husband and I were delighted that we had the chance to go. We were visiting my daughter’s family in the Portland, Oregon, area and decided to take our 16-month-old granddaughter along and expose her to all the sights, sounds and smells of this premier outdoor market.
The market has been operating since 1988 in a city block-sized parking lot across from the city’s library and a park in the suburban city of Beaverton (home to Nike’s World Headquarters). Initially it operated on Saturdays just from May to the end of October, but now it also offers a winter and a fall season with reduced hours and mostly artisan food product vendors. We’ve been shopping there for virtually its entire lifetime, making the effort to shop when we’re visiting family nearby.
Last week we lucked out on finding a parking spot just a block from the market, put June in her stroller, donned our masks, grabbed our shopping bags and plunged in. Market organizers have instituted a few changes to make the experience safer for buyers and sellers alike, particularly spacing out the booths and delineating one-way “traffic lanes” for pedestrians to help maintain social distancing. Customers are encouraged to contact vendors (with help from the market’s vendor list) in order to pre-order items so there’s no chance of going to the market only to learn the item you wanted is sold out. There’s even the option of picking up your prepaid orders from one of two pick-up zones at the edge of the market, so you don’t even have to leave your car!
However, at least half of the fun of visiting the market is checking out the amazing variety of products, discovering all kinds of things you didn’t know you wanted until you see them. The market’s website lists over 150 vendors, not all of whom are present on any particular Saturday; and while you can find out exactly which vendors will be there (and where), we always stroll up and down each aisle to take it all in. Of course, there’s always plenty of locally grown fruits and vegetables. This Saturday was a little early for all the delicious berries Oregon is famous for, but we did see one stand offering strawberries (at a shocking $5.50 for a pint box). Other tables were heaped with spinach, lettuce and other greens, leeks and other winter veggies. It was the perfect time to snap up tender asparagus spears (we got a purple variety)
and ruby-red stalks of rhubarb.
There are also plenty of growers selling plants so you can grow your own veggies or liven up your landscape. It’s so hard for me to pass up some of the really unique perennials, shrubs and vines, but my yard just doesn’t have room for anything else. We did pick up some small tomato plants, though, finding varieties you can’t get at just any garden center.
Then there’s a whole host of food products one can buy, from honeys and cheeses to breads and cookies and pizza dough (regular and gluten-free). Pick up made-from-scratch sausages; organically raised beef, lamb or pork; fresh-from-the-Pacific seafood; and then grab a bouquet or two of cut flowers (the tulips and peonies were gorgeous on this visit) to adorn your table. And if all that strolling and shopping leaves you with an appetite (or you don’t want to cook), you can pick up made-to-order food from around the world and wash it down with the output from local breweries, distilleries and wineries.
After an hour of taking it all in (and limiting my sweet indulgence to a couple of mini cheesecakes from Zoe Ann), we carried our treasures back to the car. June seemed to enjoy her excursion out into the wide world, and we were certainly pleased to be back in market season once again.
— Patty Vanikiotis, associate editor/copy editor
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