Merced dowtown farmers market
Merced has a Saturday morning farmers market (18 & Nst) that has been going on in dowtnown for years.
It had been several years since I last went to market, and I just happened to be downtown getting coffee when I decided to stop by. Although the market is small, about 10 vendors, I was pleasantly surprised to find a few high quality and unique items available there.
The best vendor was Marchini farms, which is a well known local specialty grower that focuses on items like radicchio, basil, arugula, kale, and other seasonal produce including tomatoes in the summer.
It is absurdly ironic that some of the best seasonal produce in world is grown around Merced then shipped to the Bay Area, while locals can only find mediocre produce in Save Mart that may have come as far as Chile ....
The radicchio Marchini farms was selling were amazing, they had two different types of the chicory, the classic round head, and a slendor romaine shaped head called 'treviso'.
The quality and freshness of the radicchios and other produce they had was impressive.
The Marchini salesperson told me they come every Saturday until the middle of December when all of their winter crops are finished, and then they go on hiatus until May when the summer crops are ready, although the other vendors stay year round.
The other vendors had some excellent produce too, but Marchini was in a class of their own.
I was also impressed with a vendor that was selling some nice almonds and pistachios at good prices.
Finally, back to the radicchio, I decided to purchase the classic round radicchio and the treviso type; I also threw in some superb arugula they were selling.
I took these gems home, and made an incredible romaine/treviso/arugula salad with garlic croutons and creamy vinagarette dressing.
Needless to say, the salad was great, and I could taste a major difference between the fresh arugula and radicchio I purchased from Marchini farms compared to the tired looking radicchios and bagged arugula I've purchased from Raley's.
The downtown Merced farmer's market has great potential, and it would be nice to see more local specialty growers join Marchini farms to sell their produce there.
Along with the farmers market, I hope there are more options available in the future for local Merced residents to find the quality produce they live so close to.
I read an article in the Merced Sun Star about two weeks ago regarding a organic farmer in the Merced area that is trying to cater to locals, and it appeared his business was growing, I forgot their name.
I've also seen flyers for a seasonal organic produce service that will create a box of items every week to be picked up for a flat fee.
I slid in Saturday morning about 11:30am. Some booths were already mostly sold out and packing up.
I spent a good amount of time talking to the lady who sells pickles and preserves. Gerri Brown? I bought her peanut brittle and she shared her secret for getting more airiness into the texture.
This was nut buying day for me too. I bought two kinds of walnuts. I was mightily impressed by the Eureka variety walnuts from Schaefer farms. A dark-skinned and meaty type, these have much richer, almost buttery flavor, and the skins are not bitter though they feel a bit astringent. Then I also purchased some red walnuts from Shasky Farms. Not as deeply flavored but still very fresh in flavor, and the skins are very thin and not bitter.
My friend bought some cheese earlier in the day there. Is it this one?
Thought I'd throw in an update now that I am a regular here. The guy selling radicchio, (sorry, I know him by site but haven't seen a name, I am not sure it is Marchini, but he did have both types of radicchio you describe) told me it was his last market this year Saturday. He told me the frost last week finished them off for the year.
However, the other lettuce vendor (I am terrible with names, I focus on the produce) is going strong and had beautiful romaine and parsley. Great salad Saturday night. with produce from both vendors.
Two relatively new vendors are selling bread at the Saturday Market: Tony's Courtyard Cafe and a Mariposa baker (again, bad with names, just remember Mariposa). The rustic loaf I had from Tony's yesterday was excellent (if pricey, at $4 for a small loaf;) still warm from the oven!. However, I've tried the bread from the Mariposa stand twice and been disappointed: somewhat stale both times.
thanks for the update. I've been back a few more times since my original post last year.
Marchini is still the best vendor with their high quality seasonal produce. Over the summer, they had an amazing array of beautiful peppers, tomatoes (even SAn Marzano) , and lettuces. I was also happy to see a small local olive oil producer and another vendor selling organic farm eggs.
It also seems like the market is getting more interest because I've been noticing slightly larger crowds.
I remember going to that market 15 years ago, and it was somewhat a sad sight. Although it is still small, it has come a long way.
those eggs are beautiful and delicious. They typically run out fairly early and you have to get there early to grab a dozen. Has turned me into a morning person on Saturdays :-)....and if you haven't tried the olive oils, you should. They are generous with tastes, and the styles of the different oils are each unique, with varying levels of pepperiness. The vendor is Athena's Gift, and their orchard is in Gustine. They also sell at the Wednesday FM on Yosemite (in the Promenade Shopping Center Parking Lot). I am heading there tomorrow to pick up holiday stocking stuffers. Everyone can use more high quality olive oil!
The other vendor I like, though he isn't there much this time of year, is the melon guy. He is very quiet and shy, so it is hard to get much information about his produce, but he has an excellent variety (in season), including some types of melons that I never see elsewhere, and is very good about choosing the right one depending on when I say I want to eat it.