I drove by the Berkeley Farmers' Market today and couldn't help myself. Never mind that my partner in eating is in Spain (more on that later) and I am cooking for one; the siren song of beautiful vegetables was just too strong.
But the BFM is a serious market, a professional market, that is so Berkeley that it's almost a stereotype, but in a great and wholesome and not too self-conscious way. Yes, you'll see bare-chested old-timers with large wooden amulets dangling from around their necks. There are hippies playing the banjo, a cute guy in a straw cowboy house sharpening knives and garden tools, vegan cookies.
There are also unbelievable baskets of cherry tomatoes, some as tiny as pinto beans, others bright orange and pear-shaped, big bags of salad greens, festooned with nasturtium blossoms and flower petals, and hearty seed studded loaves of bread.
My favorite discovery, though, were the little dates from Flying Disc Ranch, some 500 miles South of San Francisco, which tasted just like maple syrup. All that diversity, all that beauty, makes me think that California is a country unto itself.
The Berkeley Farmers' Market is open Tuesday from 2-7pm and Saturday from 10-3pm and is located at Center Street @ Martin Luther King Way. For more information, visit http://www.ecologycenter.org/bfm/index.html