As I work my way south in California, one of the things I’ve been doing is dropping in farmers markets when I see them. The bay area markets are about the same as Portland’s, but the Southern California versions are different for a few reasons. The first, of course, is the amazing variety of produce: tropical fruits I’ve never heard of and many Mexican regional varieties of fruits and herbs. Huge mounds of avocados are everywhere. It is nice to visit just to see the different things available. Second is the care in produce display. Many of the vendors seem to have an artistic bent, with vegetables cascading out of baskets in rivers of color, every fruit turned stem upright in exactly the same angle. Every basket of strawberries is carefully gone through, with the individual berries in rows, again all at the same angle. Of course it helps that many of the berries are about the same size and shape, but still… Finally, every booth has someone out front giving tastes of peaches, apricots, strawberries and whatnot.
Another thing that caught my eye is knife sharpening booths. Judging by the lines, this is a popular service; one I would take advantage of if our markets had it. However, I can’t help but pause when I think of people walking around the crowded market with long kitchen knives. It is handled here by keeping the booths on the outskirts, and asking people not to enter the market proper with their knives.
These markets aren’t any better than ours, but it’s fun to see the differences.