By Laure Latham
Every day after school the first question my girls ask is “what’s for snack today, mom?” It always sounds like they haven’t been fed all week when really they’ve only probably without food for the last 45 minutes or so. On Wednesdays when we have no other big plans, I answer “farmers market for snacks” and we all head to the San Francisco Public Library where we park. From there, it’s a half-block hop to my favorite farmers market in the city: the Heart of the City Farmers Market.
I usually tell my girls that they can pick whatever fruit they want for snack. Actually I even give them $5 to spend at will – responsibilities, girls! At first they groan –they’d much rather eat a plain butter croissant at La Boulange – but then they start exploring and quickly get in the groove. We aim for the middle section of UN Plaza where fruit vendors will let you try samples of their fruits trucked that morning from the farm.
Last week we were lucky and found juicy plums, sweet white nectarines (my 8-year old’s favorite) and plump rainier cherries, the tart white variety that’s so yummy for my 6-year old. Once they’re not hungry anymore – or walking with a handful of fruit– I whip out the dozen-folded canvas bags and the real business begins: grocery shopping!
Since we arrive at the end of the market, some of the produce stands have already packed up but the ones that are still there give us some pretty good deals on what they have. I get my fresh herbs as well as my citrus at Asian stands because they always have a good selection. Kumquats are always on our list for my 6-year old who’s found out that I’ll let her eat honey sticks with kumquats.
As part of our regular stops, I go find the “egg guy” before he leaves and buy a dozen of brown big eggs. Soft-boiled eggs for breakfast! I also like to bring back one or two bags of the fresh mixed greens right next to the egg guy. They sell small white and orange carrots that beg for a picnic lunch or a lunch bag at school.
In the same category, my girls love picking their own small cucumbers and graze on them at school like they would on fresh apples. They know to select firm and crunchy cucumbers that are neither too big nor too small so they can eat them easily. In the bakery department I tend to pass because I’ve been disappointed many times with what I’ve bought at one of the two bakery stands. Too soft, too expensive and simply not worth it. However for a special sweet treat, the dates stand is a great stop where you can buy from a large selection of dates, even fresh dates that look like they’re straight out of “Tintin and the Cigars of the Pharaoh”.
When the bags are too heavy to carry and we have our fill of produce until the weekend or more, we head back to the car, drop the groceries in the trunk and … hit the Fischer Children’s Center on the second floor of the library to bring home food for the mind as well. Books, DVDs and fresh produce – Wednesdays are the best!
Practical details: The Heart of the City Farmers Market is open Wednesdays from 7am to 5.30pm and Sundays from 7am to 5pm at the United Nations Plaza.