Looking back, I realize that it took me half a year to grasp the purpose and regularity of visiting Portland’s farmers markets. I’ll blame arriving in rainy season, which I also got the hang of, eventually.
This morning’s rainy day market haul: green cabbage, cherry tomatoes, Chinese mustard greens, dragon beans, carrots, cucumbers, jalapeno peppers and Vietnamese spinach (less than $12 total)
Indeed, most Portlanders seem to have one: their very favorite farmers market. What a city.
–There’s likely one in your neighborhood or the next one over, or by your shopping haunts. Or, maybe you prefer the celebratory downtown scene on Saturdays so you can get coffee, brunch and groceries (and surely some socializing as you run into at least four people you know) all in the same visit. I’m drawn there during the very start of the season, but soon drift elsewhere.
Perhaps you hit one during your lunch break, or on the way home from work, kale in tow. I did that for years and it was often the highlight of a long day in the middle of the work week. Or, maybe, like me, you find yourself leaving your own neighborhood and heading to Montavilla, Woodstock or King markets, or even SE 92 & Foster for a heaping bag of local produce, $5 bouquet of vibrant flowers and a stop by a rice noodle & tofu shop on your way out (especially if you’re waiting for the bus, or if you happen to be a Lents resident).
I forget exactly why I decided to visit the Lents International Farmers Market for the first time, but its casual, down-to-earth vibe pulled me in from the get go. That, and the variety of chili peppers at such tempting prices. I think it may have simply been the notion of checking out all of Portland’s farmers markets, and seeing the unique aspects each one offers. So, when ‘International Farmers Market’ popped up on a list, I was hooked. The Lents International Farmers Market certainly lives up to its intriguing name, with farmers and crops (grown local, of course) hailing from around the world, as the neighborhood itself is one of the oldest and most diverse in the Portland metro area.
Yes, I’m a farmers market groupie.
Welcome to the Lents Market
I’ve now been visiting semi-regularly for a handful of years, and last summer, having recently been laid off and in dire straits, there was an even bigger, unexpected perk to my visits. Rain or shine, I learned that I was able to take part in their SNAP match while on food stamps, getting up to $10 in market tokens in return for $10 of my card balance. I realize this isn’t relatable to everyone, but trust me when I say that it was a glorious relief. The Healthy Rewards program is just like it sounds, a rewarding incentive system where low-income residents use their SNAP cards at farmers markets and base their meals around fresh, versatile produce which supports their own diet, and in turn, the funding supports local farmers. Win, win.
Year after year, I’ve seen this tiny market, which is now in its 7th season, grow and develop, reflected as the Lents community actively works to do the same. The market itself is organized by the Friends of Zenger Farm, which helps present produce from even the smallest local farms and garden, including many immigrant growers. The newest member of the Lents Town Center is the Fruit Face juice bar, located diagonally to where the market sets up. It’s opening seemed much anticipated, filling the space left vacant since the Lents Commons Coffee House closed (which is right next door to the renovated Eagle Eye Tavern). Check out the devoted Lents Neighborhood Association for more on the area’s developments.
I’m here to show a photo essay of just how this market has warmed its way into my Division/Clinton heart. I may have farmers markets closer to my own neck of the woods, but I wanted to share how this one calls out to me every Sunday, bus ride be damned. I simply spend the ride back thinking about what In contemplating dishes for the week ahead…
Photos from my recent visits:
Looking for locally grown bitter melon? To the right..
Local musical entertainment
The newly built welcome to Lents Town Center
J. Legume makes the trek for the flowers.
Well, this makes me realize I forgot to buy garlic.
A particularly colorful July bounty
A variety of fresh herbs
Circling the globe
These remain quite enjoyable to exclaim.
Three or so weeks ago
This is who you need to see when you want to make some pickles…
I love that you can get a microbrew and a bowl of Japanese curry at this farmers market (and yup, they have vegan options that I’ve been meaning to try).
A tote bag on my shoulder is a clear sign of a solo trip.
As I said, rain or shine. This is right across from the Sunday marketplace.
The brand new Fruit Face Juice Bar, on the corner of SE Foster & 92nd
Four or five weeks ago
Shucking fresh green chickpeas
8 blocks away
Here’s a quick handful of some Farmers Market cooking episodes from my own doses of market inspiration:
Summertime Pad See Ew with Tofu & Veggies
Farmers Market Fried Rice
Kosher Pickles, Mark Bittman style, plus some heat from crushed red pepper and dried chili peppers
These take me back to the new dills of my New York childhood and I find myself craving cream soda when the jar opens…
Side Salad, status quo: lettuce, roasted beets, carrots, sunflower seeds, Wayfare Bacony Bits and tahini-white balsamic dressing
Again and again
Pasta E Fagioli
Oh, the anticipation for summer tomatoes.
Curry leftovers: Indonesian Tempeh & green beans over rice noodles
Not pictured: dozens of additional curries.
Herb roasted potatoes & arugula salad with black rice lentil soup
Cheesy-garlic grits, roasted chiogga beets, pan-fried tempeh, roasted asparagus & beer-simmered fava beans
Smokey Vietnamese salad rolls with spicy chili dipping sauce (adapted from World Vegan Feast)
Stovetop mac & sauteed amaranth greens
Til next Sunday.
The Lents International Farmers Market is open on Sundays from mid-June to late October, from 11am-4pm at SE 92nd & Foster.