When I got back from the Central Florida Bloggers Conference this weekend, I mentioned that I’d be taking this blog in a new direction soon. One of the speakers at the conference really opened my mind up to new sources for content, and inspired me to focus on some of the amazing local things Gainesville has to offer.
Instead of complaining about not having a Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, I want to praise Gainesville for its farmers markets. We have six weekly! We may live in a small country town, but with ample land and resources surrounding us, we deliver some of the freshest, most delicious seasonal foods available in Florida.
In my mission to be your guide to Gainesville, I’m going to visit our six farmer’s markets over the next few weeks and showcase my findings in a series called Farmers Market Finds.
Union Street Farmers Market
Yesterday I visited Union Street Farmers Market in Downtown Gainesville, which has been a community staple since 1996. The Union Street market isn’t your ordinary growers market. While there are plenty of local growers and farmers, this market is unique because it features bakers, artisans, chefs, jewelers, coffee roasteries and many other small businesses and tradespeople.
Bo Diddley Community Plaza
111 E. University Ave.
Gainesville, FL 32601
Wednesdays 4-7 p.m.
52 weeks a year
Since the market is open year-round with vendors and produce constantly changing, I want to focus on some of the artisanal goods you can’t find anywhere else. For a complete list of seasonal offerings, visit the Union Street Web site.
Cold pressed extra virgin olive oil straight from a family farm in Greece for $25 a bottle. I sampled some with a piece of fresh bread and it was heavenly.
Farmer John is my go-to seller for fresh greens and plants. They’re always different, and you can always count on them to make you a great salad bunch.
I saw cookies, and immediately gravitated to this booth. With several vegan options, and beautiful loaves of artisanal bread, this baker is a must-try at the Union Street market.
I hadn’t eaten persimmons since I was a kid, but judging by the abundance at this week’s market, I’d say they’re in season. I got to sample a piece from this seller, and couldn’t resist picking one up to take home.
The Tempeh Shop has been making tempeh locally for over 20 years, and it shows! I sampled some with a vegan thousand island dip, and I’ll surely pick some up next time I’m at the market.
The Bearbottomboyz make phenomenal homemade salsa. They feature onion/ garlic, peach, and pineapple/ mango salsa. I sampled some of the peach, and it was exquisite! $6 a jar sounds pricey, but this was easily the best salsa I’ve ever had. This is the “hide in the closet with a jar and a bag of chips so no one else has any” kind of salsa.
Vine bakery makes their own breads and pasta from “freshly milled flour with no genetically modified ingredients.” (Source) I tried one of their sourdough breads, and it was moist and chewy with a thick, crispy crust. What makes it great is that the only ingredients are flour, filtered water and Himalayan salt. I know I’ll be back to try their cranberry walnut and olive loaves.
Our farmers market features lots of vegan creations, like these pizzas from the Sweetwater Branch Inn. I got to talking with the rep, and she said the inn will be hosting Gainesville’e first farm to table dining event in a few weeks. She said I’ll be on the list to find out about it when the date is set, and I can’t be more excited!
Last, I stopped by a booth selling coconut butter. I’ve been hearing about this all over Twitter and blogs, so I had to try some of their bread with coconut butter frosting for myself, and now I see what all the fuss is about. This stuff is so good. No nut butter can come close. This is going on my list of things to pick up next time.
Unfortunately, I didn’t bring a lot of cash with me yesterday. This was more of a journalistic visit, so I didn’t anticipate wanting to pick up so many things. Here’s what I did snag, all for $10.75!
- Sweet peppers
- African vine spinach
- Garlic chives
- Vegan tomato oregano and onion pizzas
- Vegan cookies
For dinner, I made a huge salad with African vine spinach, regular spinach, arugula, tomatoes, apples and sweet onions, tossed in balsamic vinaigrette.
I added sweet peppers, garlic chives and feta cheese to the pizzas and baked them for 5 minutes to enjoy with the salad.
For dessert, we had the cookies with a smooth Merlot, but finished them off before I could grab my camera (the cookies, not the wine).
Next week, I’m featuring the Alachua County Farmer’s Market, which showcases mostly growers and will give you a glance at Gainesville’s local produce.
Do you frequent your local farmer’s markets? What are some finds unique to your area?