Rediscover Portland’s famous farmers markets to find the freshest berries, tempting baked goods, local hot sauce and much more.
Story and photo by Miranda Rake
When it comes to stocking up on everything from standards like organic kale and bunches of carrots (in rainbow hues, no less) to more seasonal goodies like pea tendrils and fava greens, there’s still no place better to go in Portland than the PSU Farmers Market.
Before we get to the many things that are wonderful about making a regular trip to the farmers market, let’s cover what’s a little different at the market right now because of COVID-19. Thankfully, the list isn’t long and the precautions that are in place mean that shopping at these outdoor markets feels very, very safe. First and foremost, masks are required when shopping in the market for anyone over the age of 2. Pets are not allowed, with the exception of service animals. Hot foods, like the much-adored Enchanted Sun Burritos, are still available, but are to-go only for the time being (meaning you can’t actually eat and stroll). So it’s a good idea to make them your last stop instead of your first. Sadly, sampling is not allowed right now, but, on the upside, most every vendor has set up contactless payments, which means that the days of cash-only booths are a distant memory. Families are encouraged to send only one or two family members to shop, to make it easier for everyone shopping in the market to maintain social distance. This means that a trip to the market is not the best idea for whole families right now — but those days are coming back soon! Instead, think of a market day as a terrific chance for some quality one-on-one time. So, just grab your masks and a kid who’s ready for some attention and adventure — and (most of all) has a good appetite. Despite these pandemic adjustments, Oregon’s incredible local agricultural bounty is still right at your fingertips.
Soon, most every produce booth will be hitting their summertime stride, dripping with the fresh berries we’ve waited for all winter. Raspberries, blackberries and, of course, marionberries, loganberries and tayberries (if you know, you know) will be glittering in the sunshine, ready to go into pies, jams and directly into eager mouths and tummies. Get there early, especially in May and June, when the berries are just getting started and can sometimes sell out quickly. We always stop at Groundwork Organics first and fill a flat with various berries and giant local strawberries that are impossibly sweet. The delicate, melt-in-your-mouth golden raspberries are my son’s perennial favorite. After you load up on produce, check out the many nonproduce treats available throughout the market — many of the bakeries and small-batch makers work hard to use mostly local ingredients, so you can feel good about even the most indulgent treats. Don’t miss Marshall’s Haute Sauce, a true family-run business that uses almost all local produce to make its spicy wares, and Small Baking Co. whose cookies (pro tip: get the ginger-molasses) are as tender and irresistible as they are huge. Though some of the interactions are a bit more distant, and a few things are missing — the kids are counting the days till live music returns to the markets — great food and good vibes are still plentiful at this downtown PDX staple.
If You Go: PSU Farmers Market: Saturdays year-round. April to October: 8:30 am-2 pm. November to March: 9 am-2 pm. South Park Blocks at SW Park and Montgomery.
Miranda Rake is a Portland-based writer, editor and mom to Griffin, who is 3 years old and super-great. She has written about food, motherhood, cocktails, the history of wine advertising in the United States and just about everything in between. For a few years along the way, she owned and operated a (very) small-batch jam company. She’s passionate about all of the usual stuff like farmers markets and swimming in the warm sea.