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Farmers Market Favorites

What are some of your favorite items from San Diego's farmers markets? Any items or purveyors that you wish you could find in (or in more) shops and markets around SD?

I just moved back to town, and this time I want to take advantage of more local specialties. I know Cravory cookies are wildly popular at the market in La Jolla, and heard people rave about Bitchin' Sauce, and a Mejol Dates guy at Little Italy and elsewhere, what else?

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  1. The strength of any farmers market especially in SD shouldn't be prepared food but the great produce. There aren't many places in the US were you get this variety and quality of it throughout the whole year.

    1. For me it's about the fresh produce, fruits like strawberries and veggies etc.

      1. There are more than 50 Farmers Markets in the County every week. I stop whenever I see one happening and go to "mine" (in Santee on Wednesday late afternoon) regularly.

        Listing at bottom of this page: http://sdfarmbureau.org/BuyLocal/Farm...

        As far as I have noticed, the other than fruit and vegetable vendors are not necessarily 'regular'. Santee used to have a person selling Halal chickens, but they haven't been there since mid-December. The 'snack' vendors also change or disappear every few months. There was a French Crepe truck run by a very nice couple who had some really good stuff, they haven't been in Santee for at least six months and I think they were at the Mira Mesa Market once in Autumn but don't know if they are still there.

        In any case, those other than fruit and veggie people are not why I go to a Farmers market.
        It's just fun to see what is at each market that day whenever I stop to shop. Everything is seasonal and that's what I am looking for.

        1. There are so many options and diversity at the farmers markets and it's always changing. Part of the fun of going is to see who's got what this week. Because the farmer's marekts tend to be more seasonally driven, I think it's hard to have "favorites" because it can be there one week and not a few weeks later.

          I ususally try and stop by the Suzie's booth just to see what they've got as they usually have some unusual or unique items. I really like the Asian produce vendor at LI, wonderful chard, and remarkably sweet cherry tomatoes, plus a nice array of Asian vegetables, many of which I don't know what to do, but they're always patient in telling me how to use their goods. Like the citrus and herb from Schaner Farms, the fingerling potatoes that one of the ctirus vendors also sells. Not everything is wonderful, you kind of have to go on a regular basis and figure out which vendors have products that ring your chimes. There is one well known vendor that attends multiple markets that I've tried to like. But their booth staff is young and more interested in socializing with their friends than in talking to me about their produce and the quality of what they've sold me (at very high prices) hasn't been that great. So now, even though their display may look enticing, I just walk right by.

          You also need to remember, not all vendors are actually growing what they're selling. Farmer's markets are kind of a tactile thing. You've got to go out and get in the middle of it. You've got to touch, smell, taste and talk to the vendors to figure out what products you like and how you want to support with your purchases.

          2 Replies
          1. re: DiningDiva

            Thanks, DD. Quite a few (29 of the 51) of the Markets are on the SD Farm Bureau list as Certified Farmers Markets, those are the ones with all the Fruit and Vegetable Vendors who are the actual farmers. It makes a difference as to how I spend my money.

            1. re: DiningDiva

              When I go to the Hillcrest Farmer's Market, I usually go to Sage Mountain Farms for the greens and garlic, Suzie's farm for the odd vegetables (Romesco cauliflower is 10000% better than regular cauliflower), and I especially like Tom King farms for pomegranates and watermelons (especially watermelon).

            2. I feel like our farmer's markets are something of a rip-off. Food there tends to be a lot more expensive than you'd pay retail, with some exceptions, but not many. I get much better deals on produce by going to People's in OB. The variety may not be quite as broad, but prices are definitely lower.

              16 Replies
              1. re: Josh

                I agree with this, but there are some exceptions.
                Peaches are just one I can think of, it's really difficult to find a decent peach at the store.
                I have been to farmer's markets in Davis and San Luis Obispo and they seem to have better selection and prices. Roadside stands can be worthwhile. I bought a big bag of Fuerte avocados near Bonsall for $5 and they were good.

                1. re: pantani

                  Have you shopped at People's in the summer? They get some really nice peaches there.

                  1. re: Josh

                    I live in Encinitas so it's too far to go.
                    Used to shop there when I lived in PB long time ago.
                    There is WF in Encinitas now but have not been very impressed with their produce.

                    1. re: pantani

                      Yeah, I agree about WF. You're not that far from Jimbo's, though. They have some good stuff.

                2. re: Josh

                  I decided one week to skip the apples at the Farmers' Market and buy a bag at Trader Joes. What a mistake--the apples had little flavor and what there was wasn't good. They're still sitting in my frig while the ones from the FM are always gone because they taste GOOD.

                  1. re: escondido123

                    I have found that at least in San Diego, a good amount of the produce carried by Trader Joe's is vastly inferior. Other than the bananas, I will not buy fresh fruit there (the cranberry-orange relish is a favorite of mine, though).

                    1. re: RB Hound

                      TJ has some of the worst produce (and many other product, e.g. cheese) I have seen in any kind of supermarket. I still don't undertsnad the appeal of TJ to so many people, especially with their strong focus on highly processed crap.

                      1. re: honkman

                        Ditto. It's baffling. Or maybe it's marketing.

                        1. re: honkman

                          But it's the place to be and be seen, and when everyone sees those TJ bags....well.

                          1. re: cstr

                            Not, sure about cstr, but I think most of the rest of you are probably too young to remember TJ in it's early days before it got sold to the Canadian company that almost killed it and the resold to it's current owners.

                            It was a way different store then, the prices were lower and the products better. It's been through a lot of transition since then to position it in the competitive grocery sector. Their Fearless Flyer used to be required reading; it was fun, irreverent and hip enough to attract a young audience without offending the older one. The new owners have found a niche, filled it, made it sexy enough to keep customers coming back. Oh...and they stock a lot of frozen products that weigh in pretty low for those counting Weight Watchers Points and they make bakers and candy makers happy by selling nuts in larger size packages at affordable prices. It's not about the food quality, it's about the marketing (baby) to keep the attractive young people coming back and making the numbers work.

                            1. re: DiningDiva

                              So, I guess we can say "that was then and this is now".

                        2. re: RB Hound

                          I agree with your comments about Trader Joe's produce. It is not very good at all. i used to live in Sacramento and the tomatoes there were marvelous. After 2 years here I have not found a replacement.

                          1. re: pegasus505

                            Yes, the produce at Trader Joe's is so-so, but that's not the reason to go there. I go to Trader Joe's for dry goods, frozen foods, and wine. I go to farmers' markets, or Sprouts for produce, and I go to Mona Lisa for Italian fare. But that said, Trader Joe's is really good on proportioning items for single people.

                            1. re: jmtreg

                              I find TJs to be fine for most produce but I don't think you can beat the freshness of a good Farmers' Market where it is often freshly picked.

                        3. re: escondido123

                          +1 on TJ having bad produce, at least in the fruit dept. The FM have much better fruit, w/ the exception of bananas (excluding the apple bananas and other varieties in HI).

                          I quit getting cheese there after having many wonderful cheeses at Venissimo.

                      2. Thanks everyone for the great information. My local market is PB, but I would like to explore them all.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Rodzilla

                          Here's a list of my favorite things:
                          Fresh-squeezed blood orange juice (I get it at the Little Italy Mercato but you might be able to find it in PB as well)

                          Chips and guac from H&B Guac Shak (Hillcrest and OB for sure)

                          Horchata Latte from Joes on the Nose (Hillcrest and Little Italy)

                          Flavor King pluots and ataulfo mangoes (seasonal)

                          Virtuoso coffee beans

                          Thai pancakes (Hillcrest) - they're cheap and you have to try them at least once

                          Gourmet caramel from Praline Patisserie (Lavender)

                          Giant macarons from Lisko Imports

                          Hummus samples :)

                          You can also get uni with mango salsa at the Little Italy Mercato. It's so fresh, it's still moving when you eat it.

                        2. I really like the Rasberries from Peterson's & Pio in Fallbrook (They have just changed their name to Blue Heron Farms). I don't know the variety but they got their cutting from the old John's Farms in Vista about 15- 20 years ago and they are great! You couldn't put them in a plastic box and ship them across the country because you would end up with berry mush but I think they are the better than the ones from the other growers I've tried.

                          I also like the Hummus from Baba Foods. Unlike some of the brands, their Hummus isn't full of additives and preservatives.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: svnirvana

                            I'm not a granola aficionado but my wife, who is, says the product from Granola Girl at L.I. market is the best ever.

                          2. Like most of the commenters, I go to my local FM primarily for the produce. Some merchants have a more-or-less constant supply of the same items, but I really enjoy those that cycle through the seasons with different items. Though I do often buy the same items from the same vendors, I always make a point to make a full round of every stall before committing to buy as you never know what you will find. My one and only beef with the SD market scene is that the same vendors will "modify" their prices for different markets. I could understand if the markets I visit were hours away from one another, but my roaming grounds are pretty much limited to Little Italy to Del Mar (coastal).
                            That being said, special favorites I love to happen upon would include: passion fruit, pomegranate juice, kiwis, cannellini beans and the unending varieties of citrus :)

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: CampySD

                              Are you talking cooked, fresh or dried cannellini beans....my husband love them.

                              1. re: escondido123

                                Fresh, but "dry", still in the pod. Suzie's Farms had them for a few weeks in the early fall. I'm assuming they are a seasonal item.

                            2. LJ Farmer's market has the best playgrounds and dogs running around. You guys will understand when you have kids. ;-)