Monday, August 11, 2008

Alemany, the Grandfather of SF Farmers' Markets

Not knowing the exact history of this market, its year of origin is unknown to me, but my grandparents bought produce here in at least the late 1950's. It predates all other open air markets in the city in recent memory. After visiting many of the other markets, I can say with certainty that Alemany is one of the largest and one of the best. Prices are lower than Ferry Plaza because vendors who trade at both places have admitted to saving their best quality produce for the rarefied atmosphere of FPFM. The quality of the produce here is generally better than that being sold at Civic Center, but it varies from vendor to vendor, so this assessment can turn on a dime, or the date when visiting the markets. All in all, the produce at Alemany is plentiful and reasonably priced.

The selection of fruits and vegetables is broad and items other than fresh produce are also in great supply. For example, there are extra virgin olive oils from 2 and sometimes 3 vendors, honey, beeswax candles; duck, chicken and quail eggs, handmade soaps, bakery goods; Indian and Afghani condiments, spreads and flat breads; and vendors selling prepared foods. In Spring you may also find a vendor selling seedlings for your own home grown produce.

Exotic fruits like cherimoya can be found and although they are not grown locally, it's nice to have someone willing to drive them up from Southern California. Ordinary fruits like Granny Smith apples, citrus, grapes, peaches, plums and berries are carried in season, but some have been put in cold storage too, such as the grapes I saw in January. It's a good idea to ask if you want truly seasonal produce.

I've also seen Fava Beans in January, but discovered that they had been grown locally in a greenhouse. Most other vegetables are truly seasonal and ethnically diverse from Asian eggplants, mustard greens and melons to Italian specialties like cardoons, artichokes, and flat leaf parsley

As is evidenced by the photographs, this is a very colorful market and it is impossible for me to shop there without my camera. The lower right photo is of the most colorful walnuts I have ever seen. The skins of this nutmeat are reddish burgundy and the flavor is classic walnut. They are on the top of my grocery list when they appear again at Alemany Farmers' Market. Nash's Olive Oils set up the next photo for me. Besides the oils, they also sell cured olives by the pint and have agreed to sell me raw olives in November, so that I might try my hand at salt curing them. You meet the nicest people at the markets.

100 Alemany Blvd
San Francisco CA 94110-6221
Phone: (415) 647-9423