Saturday Farmer’s Market in Berkeley, on Center Street at Martin Luther King (MLK) Way, is one of our two favorite local farmer’s markets; the other is the the Friday Old Oakland Farmer’s Market. We are frequent visitors to this Saturday Berkeley Farmer’s Market. Although the market is scheduled to open at 10:00 a.m., we usually get there somewhat early in order to get good parking and make sure we get some of our favorite items before they sell out.
I love local farmer’s markets. They are as close as I can get to the street markets in Thailand. I love knowing who is growing my food and that the producer gets all the money from my purchase. By going weekly, I get to know what is in season and what is not: in California where the seasons are often similar, it’s a way to be in touch with the changing year.
Here are the stalls where we shop at the Saturday morning Berkeley Farmer’s Market. We prefer the Saturday market (Berkeley also has markets on Tuesday and Thursday) because that’s the only day that all of our favorite vendors are there. You can get a full listing of all the vendors at the Berkeley Ecology Center website (opens in new window). One advantage to the Berkeley Farmer’s Market is that nearly every stall is organic and the few that are not are often pesticide-free or transitional.
Pictures for this blog are from both Michael and Kasma. They were all taken in July of 2010 and reflect what is available at this time of year. I have updated the blog in May of 2020, mainly to remove several vendors no longer at the market.
Click on an image to see a larger version.
Riverdog Farms (opens in new window) is one of the first places I look for produce at the Berkeley Farmer’s market. Everything always looks so fresh and eatable! Green beans, cherry tomatoes, asparagus (in season), snap peas, carrots (orange and red) are things I buy here. They also have delicious pastured chickens that are very tasty indeed and their pork is fabulous. Their almond butter is absolutely fabulous! Don’t overlook their eggs.
Catalan Family Farm
I always check out the vegetables at Catalan Family Farms, often buying onions, green beans or cauliflower there. This year (2010) I think they’ve had the best strawberries at the Berkeley Farmer’s Market; week after week we tasted as many strawberries as we could (I love tasting fruit before I buy, a definite plus for farmer’s markets) and we usually bought them here.
Blue Heron Farms
We are eternally grateful to Blue Heron for being the one place where, week after week, we can be certain of getting cilantro roots. Cilantro roots are a critical ingredient in many Thai curries, soups and stir-fries. In Kasma’s advanced classes she often needs cilantro roots for various dishes: thankfully we can get them at Blue Heron. I’ve also bought their carrots and other greens. This summer they also have had a beautiful selection of flowers. Unfortunately, they take a break in the winter months: we miss them.
Happy Boy Farms
Happy Boy Farms (opens in new window) is another produce stand we like. This year (2010) they were the first to have heirloom tomatoes and they have been very, very good indeed. If I’m going to get a salad mix, I get it here.
Lucero Organic Farm
Lucero Organic Farms has excellent produce. Their summer squashes are great and they often have okra, including some varieties I never see elsewhere. Their heirloom tomatoes are also outstanding.
It should come as no surprise that Solano Mushroom sells mushrooms; mushrooms of all kinds, in fact. Here we see Royal Trumpet (Eryngii) mushrooms, our favorite for a snap-pea with oyster sauce stir fry. They have many varieties such as chanterelle, porcini and oyster, all very fresh indeed.
For stone fruits, it’s usually hard to beat Frog Hollow (opens in new window). This is where I often buy my peaches, apricots, nectarines and pluots. Their Flavor King pluots are the best I’ve ever tasted. They are always very generous with their tastings. This year we depended on them for cherries.
I think Kashiwase has the best tasting at the market; they usually have eight to ten varieties of stone fruit (in season) and have a tasting table with samples of all of them. Nectarines are the one fruit I find myself buying over and over here. They also have excellent raw organic almonds at a reasonable price.
Smit Farms (opens in new window) is my go-to stall for Gala and Pink Lady apples, which become available in the fall. They are at the market year-round with other organic fruits, such as cherries and yummy grapes.
Meat & Fish
Although everything here is fresh and wonderful looking, I rely on Hudson Fish (opens in new window) mainly for the black cod (AKA butterfish). Butterfish is a good name for it: it melts in your mouth like butter. For a drunken stir-fry or a pad gkaprow (holy basil stir-fry), there is no better fish.
Eduardo Morell’s breads are my favorite breads anywhere: they are true artisan breads. Naturally leavened by whole wheat starters (no commercial yeast or chemical leavening are used in any of the products), they are dense, chewy and full-flavored delicious. My favorite loaves are the Multigrain and the Raisin Rye bread. I’ll also get the 100% Spelt bread for variety and occasionally a loaf made with an heirloom variety of wheat from the local Full Belly Farm. Toasted and with butter, they are satisfying and filling. Eduardo also makes delicious scones, both multi-grain raisin scones and fruit scones using seasonal fruits from vendors in the market. Anything here is highly recommended! The only places these breads and scones are available anywhere are the Saturday and Thursday Berkeley Farmer’s Markets. (Morell’s Bread Website (opens in new window))
Naturally fermented foods are some of the healthiest foods you can eat: the natural fermentation creates beneficial gut bacteria that helps with digestion and helps boost the immune system. Cultured (opens in new window) is another reason to attend the Saturday market (they’re also at the Tuesday Berkeley market). In addition to sauerkraut (I like the Traditional, the Nutra Kraut and the Lemon Garlic Dill), Cultured offers seasonal specialties, which change from week to week. My absolute favorite product here is the Beets with Fennel. They also sell kombucha. (My favorite article on the importance of bacteria is Garry Hamilton’s Why We Need Germs.)
Bariani Olive Oil
Although we eat mainly Thai food at home, when I make a salad I’ll often use olive oil from Bariani Olive Oil (opens in new window). It’s a family-run operation that oversees every step of the process themselves. It’s organic and very tasty, with a slight grassy taste that I find enjoyable. They also make a very nice balsamic vinegar.
Written by Michael Babcock, August 2010 & May 2020.