If it’s just before the weekend and you find yourself out on a late morning or afternoon stroll looking to fill both your stomach and your larder with foods you may not find at your local supermarket, the Downtown Farmers Market is an ideal destination. While this farmers market has shortened somewhat over the years (previously this used to begin on Ocean Blvd. and stretch north along the Promenade toward WalMart; now it begins at East 5th St. and heads up to hook a left into the parking lot in front of the megastore), it still hosts over two dozen vendors offering a plethora of fruits, vegetables and interesting snack foods to take home, as well as a good number of hot meals from multiple cultures to eat right there on the street.
The array of fresh fruit and vegetables, much of it touted as organic, includes the usual oranges, cabbages and onions, but you can also find less-standard items such as kumquats, yams, bok choy and beets. Sadly missing this time, perhaps because it’s February, is the assortment of chilies previously available; the habaneros and green and red Thai chilies have always been good finds in the past. Dried fruit and nuts are available at more than one location, and beverages, including 100% Natural Juice from Sherrill Orchards (with an emphasis on pomegranate blends) are served throughout the Market. You can pick up raw honey from Energy Bee Farm, and the Kowalski Family Sprouts stand’s offerings include bean sprouts and kitty grass.
Equally as impressive as the fruit and veggies (perhaps more so, depending upon how hungry you are) is the assortment of vendor food from a variety of cultural kitchens, free samples of which are available at some spots. There’s Me Gusta Gourmet Tamales, which also presents an intriguing variety of drinks including horchata (rice drink) and champurrado (Mexican chocolate). Try the champurrado with a churro from Tio Pepe’s, a stand that also sells harinas, crispy puffed flour snacks (no fresh-fried chicharrones, though). Nolin Roasted Corn has hot sauce at the ready, and you can treat yourself to festive Hula Pop Kettle Corn and Tacos al Vapor at their respective stands. Also lighting up the line of food vendors are Mom’s Specialty Mediterranean Appetizers, Peanut Dudes (.com), offering seeds and nuts with a Hispanic flavor, and QT’s Smokehouse BBQ, all of which deserve articles on their own.
This Certified California Grown Farmers Market is open every Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Quality is high, prices are reasonable, and admission is free. The Harbor Area Farmers Markets Website provides more information on this and other local farmers markets, including free parking and public transit information. (Also check out their section, “Why Shop at a Certified Farmers Market.”)
Farmers Market, Downtown Long Beach, located at CityPlace, North Waite Ct.(north end of the Promenade, east of Pine) and E. 5th St.