Even though I've been in San Francisco for Slow Food Nation, I have of course found it necessary to squeeze in some Farmer's Marketing. There are a whole lotta farmer's markets here - even though I only made it to two of them. There are apparently 100 more that I could have gone to.
The one market practically everyone knows about is the beautiful boutique-y Ferry Plaza Farmers Market with star-quality vendors like Rancho Gordo, Cowgirl Creamery, and Blue Bottle Coffee Co. And I was lucky (or determined enough) to make it to Ferry Plaza last weekend long enough to buy some meltingly sweet Brown Turkey figs, buttery pastries from Healdsburg Bakery, and some wonderful Acme breads.
However, Slow Food Nation's events were conveniently located at the Civic Center and the Herbst Theater, just across from the Sunday and Wednesday "Heart of the City" farmer's market. Reviews of this market repeatedly mention the rock-bottom prices and lack of glamour. The Heart of the City market with its world-tour of produce, vendors and eaters is aptly located at the United Nations Plaza. Check out this Wiki-fact:
"The United Nations Charter was signed in the Herbst Theatre here in 1945, leading to the creation of the United Nations. It is also where the post WWII peace treaty with Japan was signed. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1987."
What the United Nations plaza still has on market days is a United Nations of produce on offer. There were things for sale that I will never see at the Ann Arbor Farmer's Market. Fist-sized purple eggplants. Golf-ball sized eggplants in stripy green and egg shaped white. Slender, ridged bitter melons that look more like crested cucumbers. Powdery green winter melons the size and shape of suckling pigs. A dozen kinds of mushrooms. Fresh okra. And of course tomatoes, peaches, plums, and all that jazz.
A local blogger describes Heart of the City Market at United Nations plaza:
"...every Wednesday, it makes a transformation into something nearly bucolic. Now you need to lower your expectations from the swanky, upscale Farmer's Market at the Ferry Building. No, it's not like that...this one is for the proletarians, not the patricians. But in a way, it's a lot more honest...kinda like the ones in Europe or Vietnam or Greenwich Village. Everything is fresh off the farm, but there isn't a concerted effort to make it look pretty and packaged.
I get apples here. And leeks. I like leeks. But most of all, I like what the mushroom man sells. No not shrooms...the kind you actually cook and eat. I just had the oyster mushrooms tonight mixed in some pasta and garlic. And of course, there is the waffle man...Waffles on Wheels as I like to call him, ready to force those calories down my throat against my will. You believe me, don't you?
OK, it may not be organic, and yes, I might as well spray a can of Raid in my mouth. But come next Wednesday morning, you can see how the real people of this city shop for their produce. It ain't fancy but it's fresh enough."