May 2020 Update: This post is still relevant today. The Old Oakland Farmer’s Market is still alive and thriving. (Or was, before Coronavirus.)
One of our favorite markets anywhere is the Old Oakland Farmer’s Market held at 9th Street between Broadway and Clay in Oakland, California on Friday mornings from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. (Google Map of market) The market actually takes place in the shape of a “t”, with 9th Street being the longer stem and Washington Street (from 8th to 10th Streets) the cross.
It seems appropriate to have an entry on one of the Oakland / Berkeley Farmer’s Markets that we frequent, since we’ve blogged a couple times about one of our favorite markets in Thailand (Or Tor Kor Market in Bangkok and Pad Thai at Or Tor Kor Market), blogged about the Bangkok Chinatown Market as well as given some advice on Shopping at Asian Markets For Thai Ingredients.
(Click on an image to see a larger version.)
The starting time of 8:00 a.m. is pretty flexible. For us, the main attraction of the market comes from the large number of ethnic Asian and hilltribe produce vendors selling various and interesting Asian produce. One would, however, expect certain specialty items to be available in season (things such as pea eggplants) and often they are not. The reason is that the market is a favorite shopping stop for Asian restaurants and markets. There’s one vendor who in September always brings a box of pea eggplants to the market. One Friday Kasma asked him how early they were sold: a market owner out in San Pablo had come by and bought everything he had at 5:00 a.m. in the morning!
Among the various items that you can find here (remember: all of the produce is seasonal) are live catfish, large bunches of holy or Thai basil for $1.00 a bunch [possibly higher these days], various and exotic Asian greens, boiled and raw peanuts, several kinds of chile peppers, Thai eggplants, long eggplants, two or three different varieties of bitter melon and more. There’s one vendor on Washington Street (between 8th and 9th Streets) who sells fresh duck eggs, quail eggs, and chicken and duck balut. Balut are eggs that have a partially formed chick inside, and these balut are so fresh that you could take them home and hatch them. There are various fruit vendors and two flower vendors with bunches of flowers at very reasonable prices. There are a few organic vendors but most of the produce is not organic. One of our favorite fruit vendors is Twin Girls Farms, whose fruit is priced very reasonably for organic fruit. When available, try their organic pomegranate juice – it’s really tasty.
When we go, we usually get there by 8:00 a.m. and even earlier if there’s something (such as lemon basil) that we want to make sure hasn’t been all sold by the time we arrive. We’ll take care of the bulk of our shopping and then breakfast on a red pork or green pork Tamale from All Star Tamales, sold from a truck on 9th between Washington and Clay; that block of the market consists largely of prepared food vendors and jewelry stalls. Tamales are 2 for $5.00; make sure you open it at the stall and squeeze on plenty of hot sauce. There are tables set up at the intersection of 9th and Washington, where there’s always live music, for the most part guitar and vocal.
By the time we’re done with breakfast, it’s 9:00 a.m. and the markets in Chinatown are open so we can complete our shopping there.
The market is well worth a visit on a Friday morning.
Written by Michael Babcock, October 2009 & May 2020.