We don’t have farmers markets in Singapore. Mostly because Singapore is so tiny there isn’t space for big farms. Most of our fruits and vegetables and meat comes from neighbouring countries – Malaysia, Thailand, Australia. So visiting farmers markets here in the US was quite a discovery for me. They remind me a little of Singapore’s wet markets which are, unlike most farmers markets here, permanent structures, where fruits, vegetables, meat and fish are sold. I remember going to the wet market at Farrer Court with my mum when I was a kid. I loved when she bought freshly grated coconut. The man would use a machine that spun the coconut and whee the grated coconut would whizz out into a bag. There are stalls that sell spices, live chickens (or at least when I was a kid, live chickens were allowed), fish of different species, and even a dedicated tofu stall where you can buy soy bean products of all kinds – soft tofu, firm tofu, tofu skin, soy bean milk etc. Commercially made tofu cannot compare!
While I’ve been going to the farmers markets sporadically since I’ve lived here, it’s only been since last year that we make it a point to go every Sunday, or at least as many Sundays as we can, especially during summer. And we go as a family. It’s become part of our Sunday routine, something that the kids look forward to. Because going to the farmers market can be fun (and educational, just don’t tell them that).
Learning that produce is seasonal
This is something that I wasn’t fully aware of in Singapore. Perhaps it’s because we get our produce from overseas, both Northern and Southern Hemispheres?
At the farmers market, I try to show the kids how fruits and vegetables ‘appear’ and ‘disappear’ from the stalls we visit. The stall selling cherries is only there for a few weeks. Peaches and plums and nectarines in summer. Then as we approach autumn, we begin to see apples and grapes.
It’s also thanks to the farmers market that I finally learnt to appreciate cherry tomatoes and tomatoes. I just couldn’t stop eating them this summer! Cherry tomatoes at the supermarket are never tasty, never sweet. So to discover the natural sweetness of a seasonal, ripe tomato has been a sort of revelation for me. I can never buy a supermarket tomato again!
I usually shop at several supermarkets throughout the month. Trader Joe’s is nearby and that’s where I pick up dairy products and some packaged foods. Costco for meats (and of course other household items). The Chinese supermarket is a slightly longer drive so that’s a once in a fortnight trip, mostly to pick up fish (there’s a better variety of fish there) and some different cuts of meat not usually found in non-Asian supermarkets. But the vegetables tend to be the same year-round. I rarely see things like black-eyed peas, different varieties of chili peppers, fava beans, zucchini flowers, lotus leaves at the supermarkets. I love coming across new-to-me items like pink daikon (see above) and purple cauliflower, as well as plenty of leafy ‘Asian’ vegetables that I’ve never seen before. And the variety of eggplants! Definitely not something you’ll see in a supermarket.
I am just so glad we have this wonderful and diverse produce at our nearby farmers market. It has opened my eyes to so many possibilities.
I try to show the boys some of the different vegetables. Of course they’re never really very interested. But who knows, one day perhaps.
Who doesn’t love a free sample? I’ve bought many a new item from Costco after a sample! And so with all the different fruit samples to try, the kids get a healthy snack! (Just don’t let them see the kettle corn). If you’re looking for something more substantial there are food stalls! Corn on the cob, barbecued things on sticks, baked potatoes, pastries and breads, kebabs, naans, and because this is the Bay Area, all kinds of treats from Thai food to Filipino delights.
The kids have fun listening to the various musicians playing each week. One day it is a Chinese flute. Another day a rock band. Another, a solo guitarist. They especially loved the taiko drums that turned up one day – and spent all their time watching the drummers instead of wandering the market that day.
And, well, there’s always kettle corn. So conveniently placed, so tantalizing a smell.
Do you visit farmers markets?
Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, beer, wine, photographs