At last count, San Diego had more than two-dozen weekly farmers markets, not including roadside farm stands. If you haven't explored one of these markets in a while, (or maybe if a pre-noon event is too much for you on weekends), San Diego markets are an orgy of not only fresh, local fruit, veggies, flowers and honey, but also arts and crafts and treats like kettle corn, fresh crepes, baked goods and, if you're lucky, homemade tamales.
The markets provide a way to both support our local farmers (at least 6,000 in San Diego County) and get good, oftentimes certified organic, produce.
I was a big skeptic about organic produce until I tried it not long ago, and organic just tastes sweeter, richer-better, period.
Beyond the benefits of buying directly from the grower-meaning before it's sat on a truck or in a refrigerated room in some supermarket-the market is also a primo spot to ask questions about how to cook your fresh finds. One grower sold me softball-sized bell peppers last week by telling me she had been making stuffed peppers with some of her crop. For those who can't roust themselves out of bed until 11 a.m. on weekends, there are several markets that have afternoon hours.
Here's a quick rundown of a few of my favorites (visit www.sdfarmbureau.org and click on Farmers Markets for a complete listing):
Oceanside. Beyond the regular fruit-and-veggie fare, you can usually find vendors selling red pepper hummus, flat bread and olives and fresh crepes, prepared right in front of you. With the pier only a block away, the market is a great excuse to spend some time at the shoreline. Thursdays, 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Pier View and Coast Highway.
Solana Beach. Small but quality market. Parking's a little tricky. If you can't find a spot to park just past the market on North Cedros, go around the block to the lot behind the market. Good fresh baked bread and foccacia. Sundays, 2-5 p.m. Across from the old train station at 124 Lomas Santa Fe Drive (SB Plaza parking lot).
Hillcrest. This market seems more like a weekly street fair than a farmers market. It has one of the larger gatherings of vendors and growers and some of the most loyal customers. That the 7th Day Buskers make the atmosphere even more festive with their neo-acoustic jams doesn't hurt, either. Sundays, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Corner of Normal and Cleveland streets (DMV parking lot).Carlsbad. Seems like more than its share of artists make it to the center of old Carlsbad every week. Look for great tamales. Try some tiny cerise orange tomatoes and amazing strawberries here-the farms are literally around the corner. 2-5 p.m. Roosevelt Street between Grand Avenue and Carlsbad Village Drive.