When Benicia Main Street’s Certified Farmers Market opened in April, shoppers discovered the “first fruits” from Bay Area produce growers. By summer, California’s full bounty is available, and the choices can be impressive.
“It’s a bumper crop—absolutely!” said Nancy Martinez, Main Street’s executive director. “You’re always going to have the strawberries,” she said. But alongside those plump red berries are two types of blueberries. Summer also means that blackberries, which were barely ripening earlier this year, also are available in quantity. “They will be coming, and we’re really excited about that,” Martinez said.
If those aren’t enough, summer is the time of stone fruit, such as peaches, plums cherries, apricots and nectarines. These can be the perfect summer snack or dessert, especially for those who want to shed a few pounds to look swimsuit sleek. A cup of most stone fruit has fewer than 70 calories, and berries have an even lower calorie count. Both are packed with essential vitamins, minerals and fiber as well as good flavors.
But that’s not all that’s awaiting farmers market shoppers. “You get the full variety of summer veggies,” Martinez said. Strolling among the Main Street vendors, a shopper can pick up lettuce, tomatoes and carrots for a fresh salad as well as olive oil and flavored vinegars for dressings (also check out Sepay Groves olive oil in the row of shops in the Treasury Commons building on the east side of the farmers market).
For those who want to shop local, the market brings in cheeses from Petaluma, eggs from Pescadero and honey from Benicia’s own Gourmet Temptations and Knightsen’s Rose Lane Farms. Rose Lane Farms also is selling fresh-cut flowers, too, Martinez said.
Other produce comes in from Watsonville, Fowler and Hughson. One of the newest vendors is Jewel Date Company, selling date paste, gift packages and, of course, organic dates. Although this is its first year at the Benicia Farmers Market, the company began in 1995 to market dried fruit. Two years later, it bought Covalda Date Company, founded in 1935. Jewel still uses the same processing secrets used by Covalda.
Spreads, dips, chutney, jams, jellies, preserves, vegetable snacks, baked goods and breads also are available. Anyone who wants to dine while they shop can find plenty of options, too. Choices from area food trucks range from crepes to corn dogs, tacos to island-style loco moco, and a full array of sliders, wings, roasted corn, fried veggies, chicken tenders and lumpia, and for dessert, funnel cakes and doughnuts.
More than just a chance to buy fresh produce and just-made foods, the farmers market also is a weekly family-friendly entertainment event. Live performers have been lined up for each week, Martinez said. In addition, Salina Wirbick and her “Jump, Jump and Away” business has brought in its jumping house, which she sets up on the First Street Green. This newest jumping house is decorated with unicorns, “so the kids love that,” Martinez said.
Henna by Cori is back, she said, giving both youth and adults the opportunity to be decorated in intricate temporary designs using this ancient, plant-based stain.
Youngsters who want more colorful artwork can visit one of the farmers market’s face painters.
The Benicia Farmers Market is in its 27th season and is open on First Street between B and D streets 4-8pm, Thursdays through the end of August, and will be open 4-7pm in September and October. Shoppers can find lists of specific vendors as well as entertainers on Benicia Main Street’s website, beniciamainstreet.org/benicia-farmers-market-2019/.