Now that Summer produce is in full swing, youve got to get out to the Farmers Market. Farmers Markets can be confusing and intimidating; there are a lot of options available and its hard to decide who to buy from. The Berkeley FM is one of the best in the Bay Area. Although it is not as large as markets in Oakland or SF, the quality standards are extremely high. Berkeley patrons are willing to spend more money for superior produce and the vendors know it. For the past few years Ive been shopping at the Berkeley FM three days a week, every week, rain or shine. Ive spent a lot of time and money learning what vendors sell the best produce. I thought Id share my findings with you folks.
Ram Das Produce (T, S) Quite simply, the best fruit Ive ever had. Outstanding, tree-ripened peaches and nectarines. Excellent grapes and figs. In fall, they are the only source Ive found for ripe Hachiya persimmons.
Quetzal Farms (R, S) I still remember the first time I bit into a dry farmed tomato; Ill never go back to heirlooms. Heirlooms are prettier, but dry farmed tastes better. Outstanding dry farmed tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and onions.
Dirty Girl (T, S) Also dry farmed. Excellent tomatoes and garlic.
Blue Heron (T, R, S) Good for greens and fresh herbs. The best basil in the market.
Tip Top (T, R) Dry farmed tomatoes dont come in until late July. I eat Tip Tops tomatoes during June and July. Also a good source for Zucchini and early fresh garlic.
Full Belly Farms (T) Excellent melons of all varieties. Good eggplants until Quetzal starts getting them. Excellent almond butter.
B & B Farms (S) The best eggs I have ever tasted. You will be hooked.
Happy Boy (R, S) Good Sicilian melons. Good spinach, corn, squash.
Swanson Berry Farm (T, S) Good strawberries and artichokes in the Spring. The strawberries are too ripe for my taste by Summer. Fantastic jams.
Frog Hollow (T, R, S) Overrated and overpriced. The best stuff goes to restaurants. Go at the end of the market on T & R for deals on the pastries.
Highland Hills (T, S) Excellent grass fed lamb and beef. Get there early, they sell out of the best stuff fast.
Brokaw Nursery (T, S) Excellent avocadoes.
Bariani (S) Theres some debate about this olive oil. I love it, others find it too bitter. Try the special, October harvest green olive oil. The balsamic vinegar is amazing.
Hudson Fish (R) Excellent filets of line caught, seasonal fish at good prices. Good smoked salmon.
Blossom Bluff IMO, stone fruit is not as good as Ram Das. Worth mentioning because they are the best source for cherries.
Brooks and Daughters Incredible wheat grass juice and fresh sprouts.
T Tuesday on Derby between Milvia and MLK 2-7 pm. Plenty of free parking on Derby East of Milvia.
R Thursday On Shattuck North of Rose. 3-7pm. Good luck finding parking.
S Saturday On Center between Milvia and MLK 10am-3pm. Park in the Center street lot, East of Milvia. If you leave before 2pm on a Saturday its only $1.50.
DONT TRUST SAMPLES! Sampler fruit is pre cut and oxidized. Taste and texture is destroyed. Many of the best farms dont sample. The ecology center organized fruit tastings are disgraceful.
FOR DEALS, SHOW UP LATE. Most farmers discount during the last hour of the market. Of course, selection will be more limited.
If you find yourself shopping regularly, pick up a free frequent buyers card at the Ecology Center for prizes and raffles.
Enjoy the market!