Chefs' Favorite Farmers' Markets

Seeking ingredient inspiration? Chefs around the country share their favorite local farmers' markets, and what to buy there.

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Upcountry Farmers’ Market: Maui (Saturday)

Even though I live in Napili, I drive all the way up to Kula Saturday mornings. I like to get there at 6:30 in the morning, that’s when the good stuff’s around. The fern shoots from the lady from Hana, sold in these bunches. I don’t know how she gets it so perfectly cut — they’re perfect. At Coca Farms, any type of greens or their kumquats. Their kumquats don’t have the intense bitterness. Once you get through the bitterness, the switch to sweet is almost like a light switch, it flips so quickly. By the second or third chew, it’s like pure, sweet candy after.

— Sheldon Simeon, chef/owner of Tin Roof, Maui

Tuna Harbor Dockside Market, San Diego (Saturday)

Tuna Harbor is our opportunity to buy from the local fishermen. It’s every Saturday morning at eight o’clock. They get everything from harpooned swordfish to local sea urchin to spot prawns. It’s an absolutely incredible assortment of fish. You just pick it up fresh right there. After that, you have a cup of coffee and go up to the Little Italy farmers’ market, and they have incredible produce from local farms around San Diego. If I haven't gotten some from Tuna Harbor, I love to have a sea urchin for breakfast that they crack open right there for you. It’s so good. And then I’ll buy flowers to put in the restaurant, which are fresh from the Carlsbad flower fields.

—Brian Malarkey, chef/partner at Herb & Wood, San Diego

FreshFarm CityCenterDC: Washington, D.C. (Tuesday)

There are a few farmers' markets in the area, but my go-to is the FRESHFARM CityCenterDC Market, where I frequent the Barajas Produce and Black Rock Orchard stands. I look forward to their selection year-round; in early spring, some of my favorite finds are salad greens, asparagus, spring garlic and kale on the veggie side, and fruits like pluots, apricots and early summer berries.

—Mike Isabella, chef/owner of Arroz

Santa Monica Farmers’ Market: Los Angeles (Wednesday)

Some of my favorite farmers at the Wednesday market throughout the year include Windrose Farm, Harry’s Berries (the best strawberries), JJ’s Lone Daughter Ranch, Andy’s Orchard, and Murray Family Farm. Windrose Farm’s lettuces and herbs are amazing all year long. The winter squash is as sweet as it comes, and in the summer they provide us with lovely Baby Crawford peaches, Babcock peaches and Santa Rosa plums. They also have one Persian Mulberry tree that I have been lucky enough to get my hands stained from picking! JJ’s Lone Daughter Ranch grows amazing citrus, pomegranates, avocados and persimmons. [JJ’s Lone Daughter farmer] Laura Ramirez is possibly more obsessive than even I am about ripeness. Andy’s Orchard appears late each spring with amazing cherries. Their heirloom varieties of peaches, plums and other stone fruits are picked at the height of their brix. They are the jewels of summer there. Murray Family Farm also has great cherries, blueberries, blackberries, and they always have some crazy new fruit they’ve raised from somewhere — things you never get anywhere else!

—Shannon Swindle, pastry chef at Craft Los Angeles

Old Beach Farmers Market: Virginia Beach, Virginia (Saturday)

I frequent Old Beach Farmers' Market in Virginia Beach for anything that Mattawoman Creek Farms is growing! In the summer, they grow the best Eva Purple (Ball) tomatoes. And in the colder months, they grow the sweetest kale you will ever find. A staple on my menu is a vegan Caesar salad that is a mix of organic kale and organic romaine that Mattawoman grows. It’s tossed in a cashew curry dressing with fried capers and nutritional yeast. When the tomatoes are in season, I let them shine by keeping it simple. We pull our mozzarella to order, so that it’s still warm, and serve it with a few slices of the Eva Purple (Ball) tomatoes.

—Rodney Einhorn, chef at Terrapin Restaurant

San Rafael Farmers’ Market: Marin County (Thursday)

It isn't as well known as The Ferry Building market on Saturdays, but the Thursday market in Marin includes a lot of the same farms as the Ferry Building market, in addition to a lot of farms that don't want the hassle of getting into SF. Full Belly Farm is one of those farms that won't venture into SF, so it's always a treat to get our hands on their produce when we make the trip up to Marin. They have so much variety, but their lettuces are especially lovely. For micros and edible flowers, we always go to Marin Roots. We see them every week at the Saturday market in SF at The Ferry Building, but they always have a little more time to chat at the less-chaotic Marin market. 

— Josh Even, executive chef of Tosca Cafe, San Francisco

Crescent City Farmers Market: New Orleans (Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday)

I’m a regular at Crescent City Farmers' Market, which takes place Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays in various locations in New Orleans. I go to the one in the Warehouse District mostly, but also frequent the one in Mid-City from time to time. Without a doubt, the strawberries from Johndale Farms in Ponchatoula are my favorite. Heather, the owner, is terrific. I have deep ties to that area of Louisiana because my great grandfather was a strawberry farmer in the next town over from Ponchatoula. Everything Heather brings is fresh, but the strawberries are out of this world. We do a strawberry parfait at DTB with Ponchatoula strawberries, homemade lemon sorbet, pistachios, fresh whipped cream and olive oil. It’s refreshing and the olive oil and pistachios add a nice savory component.

—Carl Schaubhut chef/co-owner of DTB

Portland Farmers Market: Portland, Maine (Wednesday, Saturday)

My favorite farmers’ market is the Portland Farmers' Market. It is held twice a week — Wednesday and Saturday — during the months of May through November, and only Saturday in the winter. The "must have" produce changes throughout the year. During the summer, there are many micro-seasons within a few months that change drastically and quickly. Early in the summer we start with strawberries, which lasts about six weeks, and then the blueberries arrive, followed by raspberries and stone fruit. We also get fantastic chickens from the market. One menu item inspired by the farmers’ market is our local chicken dish with turnips. We make a chicken ballotine and serve it with scarlet turnips prepared a few different ways: pickled, roasted and raw. The dish is finished with pickled mango and parsley.

—Matt Ginn, chef at Evo

Green City Market: Chicago (Wednesday, Saturday)

Our favorite farmer’s market is Chicago’s Green City Market. We know it well, as we had our own burger stand here some years back. We still frequent the market to source ingredients from various purveyors. Must-haves include Prairie Fruits’ Farm Chèvre and Three Sisters’ sweet corn. We’re also fond of Green Acres’ cucumbers and tomatoes, which we incorporate into our take on naem khao tod (crispy rice salad). Our version combines rice croquettes with the market-fresh cucumbers and tomatoes, along with summer sausage, red onions and ginger. —Christine Cikowski and Josh Kulp, executive chefs/managing partners at Honey Butter Fried Chicken