Named one of America’s finest farmers’ markets by The Daily Meal, Cooking Light and Fodor’s, Portland’s flagship market perfectly embodies the city’s foodie sensibilities and independent spirit. Every Saturday from 8:30 a.m.–2 p.m. (9 a.m.–2 p.m. Nov.–Feb.), the Portland Farmers Market at Portland State University transforms downtown’s South Park Blocks into the city’s largest outdoor grocery. With space for up to 140 local vendors each week, the market’s myriad sights, sounds, scents and flavors may be mildly overwhelming to first-time visitors. Fear not, however; our guide to the market’s best vendors will make your visit a guaranteed success.
Fresh, local produce is the cornerstone of any proper farmers’ market, with new seasonal crops arriving almost every week. In Portland, you can expect crunchy snap peas and carrots in spring, tomatoes and melons in summer, and leafy greens and winter squash in the colder months. If you prefer pesticide-free produce (and who doesn’t?), stock up at the booths of DeNoble Farms, a family-owned farm on the Oregon Coast, or Groundwork Organics, a stalwart supplier for many award-winning Portland restaurants. Stop by the sample counter at organic Gathering Together Farm for tastes of homemade salsas and veggie-centric recipes whipped up by the expert crew.
The arrival of the year’s first strawberries is somewhat of a holiday at the Portland Farmers Market, with patrons racing to get their hands on a few precious pints in the first weeks of April. Unger Farms is a popular choice for berries of all kinds, while the folks at Baird Family Orchards and Maryhill Fruit Company cheerfully proffer chunks of juicy peaches and nectarines in the summer months. Packer Orchards offers bags of beautiful Rainier cherries in the summer, as well as a plethora of apples and pears in autumn. (Even if you visit in the dead of winter, you can count on sampling dozens of delicious jams and fresh-baked cookies at the Packer booth.) If you’re visiting in the fall, don’t forget Kiyokawa Family Orchards, which has been growing more than 80 varieties of apples in the Hood River Valley since 1911 (no wonder it was named one of the nation’s top five apple orchards by USA Today!).
Gifts & snacks
Known for their exquisite chocolate icons covered in edible gold, Alma Chocolates offers tastes of artisan toffees, caramels and truffles at their market booth. Another cacao-powered favorite, Honey Mama’s invites visitors to try all seven fabulous flavors of their raw, organic and dairy-free fudge.
Speaking of allergen-friendly treats, New Cascadia Traditional and Petunia’s Pies & Pastries both offer a broad array of baked goods that are gluten-free, vegan and truly delicious. Add a wheel of sheep’s milk cheese from Ancient Heritage Dairy and award-winning salami from the meat masters at Olympia Provisions, and you’ve got all the makings of a top-notch Portland picnic.
Oregon is famous for its hazelnuts (known as filberts by the locals), and Freddy Guys Hazelnuts is a great spot to buy a few bags for friends and family back home. Another popular gift, Marshall’s Haute Sauce blends local produce into zesty condiments like habanero carrot curry and serrano ginger lemongrass sauces. Spice lovers will also get a kick out of the fresh dips and chile oils at Hot Mama Salsa, and if you’re a fan of fresh flowers, Lucky Farms is beloved for its beautiful bouquets.
Feeling parched from all that shopping and sampling? Quench your thirst with organic cranberry juice from Starvation Alley, funky herbal kombucha from Eva’s Herbucha or a hot cup of locally roasted coffee from Nossa Familia. If you’re looking for something a bit stronger, sip barrel-aged meads from Nectar Creek or Wandering Aengus ciders made from Oregon apples.
If you’re still hungry after all those delicious samples, you’re in luck. Foodie mainstays like wood-fired pizza spot Tastebud, farm-fresh Mexican restaurant Verde Cocina, deep-dish joint Via Chicago and breakfast sandwich haven Pine State Biscuits all got their start as market vendors, and still serve up their signature fare at the market on Saturdays. Whether you’re in the mood for a monstrous New Mexican-style breakfast burrito from Enchanted Sun or a raw falafel wrap from Eatin’ Alive, the perfect farm-sourced meal is only steps away.