local color at a downtown farmers’ market…

3rd in a series of belly filling posts about Local Pickins foodie adventure in Austin.

A Local Pickins trip to Austin would not be complete without visiting at least one of the city’s many farmers markets. Wisps of music, tantalizing cooking scents, and foodie energy wafted across the parking lot at the Saturday SFC Farmers Market at Republic Square Park, and made us quicken our step!

However, it was going to be a different experience for Local Pickins. We were used to visiting farmers markets to purchase provisions for a recipe or for a week of meals. Instead, we found ourselves at this market as foodie tourists. If we couldn’t fill our grocery bags with greens, yellows and oranges of fresh veggies, then we would harvest the other color abundantly available here:  the sights, the interactions and the stories of the vendors. The rainbow display of vegetables at Johnson’s Backyard Garden caught our eye immediately. Marveling at the deep purple shade of the cauliflower and carrots we noticed how popular these colorful veggies  were with the shoppers. JBG originally started in Beth and Brenton Johnson’s small, urban backyard. JBG now farms more than 70 acres and has grown to more than a 1000-member CSA in just a few years.  A testament to Austin’s demand for locally grown, organic vegetables.

Over at the Smith and Smith Farm table, they were doing a brisk business selling fresh eggs and pasture-raised pork and chicken.  Returning customers quickly queued up, intent on buying their eggs and chicken before they ran out. First time visitors were full of questions:  “What do you feed the chickens?” “Is the pork pasture-raised?”

At specialty heirloom tomato grower B5 Farms, a simple display of fruit was all that was needed to lure shoppers. Folks cradled these beauties like precious jewels in their hands. B5, we learned, is named after the brand symbol from a grandfather’s ranch.

Countryside Farm was offering goose eggs, heirloom chicken, whole ducks and several cuts of wild hog shot on a nearby farm. Feral hogs they explained, are a major agricultural nuisance costing Texas farmers more than $50 million yearly in damages. A story about a particularly tasty hog that had been living on a local pecan farm made us wish we had been around for a bit of that bacon!

Cocoa Puro gathered a large crowd offering tastings of its roasted cocoa beans dipped in three layers of chocolate. Chocolatier Tom Pedersen shared his passion for chocolate and relayed his many trials and tribulations in his quest to concoct the perfect chocolate treat. Folks agreed his efforts were worth the reward! Over at the Pecan Shop table, we snacked on native pecans, the fruit of the Texas state tree. Plain, salted or the delicate apple pie flavor were on offer. All were mighty tasty, but a bag of the apple pie made it into our market tote.

Stopping at the Austin Honey Company display, beekeeper Mark Bradley explained that the different color of the honey was due to the seasonal differences in the pollen: spring is light, summer slightly darker, and autumn darkest of all. The sweet depth of flavor seem to progress with the seasons as well. The lovely little tarts at Cake and Spoon would be the perfect hostess gift if we were back home and headed to dinner at a friend’s. Their massive fruit scones were enticing and more portable, so one was packed away for a late afternoon snack.

Near the toe-tapping music, we tarried at Red Rabbit’s table of award-winning vegan donuts. Their delicate and delicious confections appeal to both vegans and non vegans alike. Hailing from Boston, we got a kick out of the Austin Creme Pie donut, a reverse spin on our city’s famous dessert with the chocolate on the inside and vanilla on the outside. A sticky, fully satisfying experience!

The mouth-watering scents from Dai Due’s grill lured us for lunch. A nose-to-tail butcher, Dai Due sells sausages and charcuterie and freshly grilled sandwiches. While our lemon grass chicken sandwich and kimchi hot dog sizzled on the grill, we learned about Dai Due’s supper club and cooking classes. Their name hails from an Italian proverb, “Dai due regni di natura, piglia il cibo con misura” ~ “From the two kingdoms of nature, choose food with care.” Thunderheart was offering their pastured bison in a variety of cuts including ground, ribeye, sirloin and short ribs. Their lean and tasty bison meat is also available cooked up at their eponymous food truck.

As we munched our heavenly sandwiches and looked around contentedly we thought about how apt that motto was for this market. Here were discriminating shoppers, and a dedicated group of farmers, bakers, butchers, beekeepers and food artisans. This was a tight, collaborative community that clearly supported each other and reveled in the delicious bounty of Austin’s local food.

There are many great markets around Austin, you’ll find most of the above vendors and many more at these events:

Barton Creek Farmers Markets
Boggy Creek Farm – Market Day
HOPE Market (Helping Other People  Everywhere)
Mueller’s Farmers Market
SFC Sunset Valley
SFC East
SFC Triangle  

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