Visiting the Ballard Farmers Market
The Ballard Farmers Market is the most vibrant open-air market in Seattle
I can even say that it’s one of the best markets I’ve ever been to, hands down. Stall after stall of locally grown vegetables, fruit, berries, meat, seafood, mushrooms, and stunning flowers wow you time and time again. Not only is the quality some of the best you’ll see, but the people who grow and produce the wares are often manning the booths. If you can’t grow your own produce, this is the next best thing.
Locally grown sunflowers and dahlias
Washington state’s climate is perfect for growing most anything but I was most amazed at the flowers. The explosion of sunflowers, dahlias, and other colourful blossoms brought a huge smile to my face every time. Especially since the bouquets were so affordable.
Here on the Isle of Man you’ll be lucky to get a sad looking bouquet of supermarket flowers for £10. At the market, fresh and vibrant arrangements of cut flowers were mostly around the five dollar mark. I bought one for a friend but with the thought that I’d buy a bouquet every week for myself if I lived in Seattle.
Berries bursting with juice
It was the tail end of summer and with it came crate after crate of juicy berries. Blueberries, blackberries, huckleberries, and more. Ripened by a mild climate with enough sun to pump sweetness into each one. I’m sure I looked like I was ready to pounce on them as we sauntered by!
If I could have, I’d have liked to get some to make this Blueberry and Lavender jam. And then maybe blueberry muffins, blueberry wine, or blueberry anything. You seriously cannot have enough blueberries in my book.
Unusual garden fare
If you grow your own, visiting a big farmers market is a perfect way to get inspiration for the next season. Seeing heirloom tomatoes, zucchini blossoms, and unusual varieties of cucumber in the flesh is far more convincing than just seeing them on paper.
For the last couple of years I’ve tried growing ‘Crystal Lemon’ cucumbers without much luck. After seeing similar ones at the Ballard Farmers Market I’m now determined to try again. Maybe this time under cover rather than outdoors.
One thing that I can usually count on in my own garden are zucchinis – called courgettes in the UK. I’m rarely tempted to buy them since I’ve lived through zucchini-overload more than once.
Still, the size of some of the blossoms that were on sale were impressive and it made me recall a recipe I have saved for stuffing them with goats cheese. I also couldn’t believe how anyone would buy one bordering on becoming a marrow for $2 versus two smaller, and no doubt more tender, ones for $1 each. Bigger is not always better.
Raw honey infused with lavender and vanilla
There were two or three beekeepers at the market and each of them had their own spin on infused honey. To tell you the truth I’ve not been a hundred percent sold on the idea of infusing honey but then again I hadn’t tried it yet.
Raw honey infused with vanilla bean was to die for. Absolutely divine and I can’t wait to try it out with my own honey. I’m so pleased that I had the chance to try it before I dismissed the idea altogether. Lavender honey was also beautiful and that’s an easy one for me to make since I have plenty of lavender growing at home. One producer simply poured honey into mason jars with dried lavender buds. I imagine that you gently shake the jars for the first couple of weeks that they’re infusing.
Grow your own
Most of the produce at the market was to take home for the table but there were a couple of opportunities to buy ‘grow your owns’. It’s such an important experience to try growing your own plants and edibles and the succulents and mushroom growing kits were perfect for getting started.
One of the first things I tried growing when I started my Lovely Greens journey was a mushroom kit and it was just so much fun! If I could have brought them back with me I’d have stocked up on both the plants and the kits.
You have to smile at the experiences we had with ‘Hipster Edibles’. These days food is definitely a target for stylish 20-somethings and twice we encountered food that raised my eyebrows. The first was a pour-over coffee at the Ballard Farmers Market. It was just a guy at a small stand manually pouring hot water over ground coffee. The coffee was good…when we got it 10 minutes later. The poor guy was working hard but it just wasn’t a speedy thing to make.
The $4 cob of corn we had later at the Pike Place Market was delicious. However, I think I’ll stick with buying four ears for $1 than paying that price again. I find myself in a place where I want to support artisan food producers but sometimes the experience leaves a sour taste in my mouth.
A definite recommend for anyone visiting Seattle
The Ballard Farmers Market on Ballard Avenue is open every Sunday from 10am-3pm, rain or shine. I’ve visited on both my last trips to Seattle and would highly recommend a morning spent browsing the stalls. Seeing so many local producers in one spot will inspire not only gardeners but anyone who loves food and supports local.
Make sure you try before you buy when possible and to gather ideas on what you can DIY. What you don’t buy on that day can be inspiration for another!