The Portland Farmers Market on the grassy campus of Portland State University is one of the largest and best greenmarkets in the country, running every Saturday of the year. It's the perfect place to sample the local meats, fruits, and vegetables, snag farm-fresh cheese, try several flavors of homemade hummus or kimchi, or take a seat in the grass to have brunch or a great pastry. Since Portlanders love wordplay, keep an eye out for creative signs saying “Kind of a big dill” or “These veggies are radicchiolous” along the way.
In August, which is peak season, the market sees up to 18,000 visitors a day, far above its average of 12,00 to 15,000. You’ll want to time your visit right, or you risk long lines and slow-moving crowds. “The serious shoppers come when the market first opens and then clear out,” says Ross Plambeck, who's volunteered with the market for 17 years. “The rush really starts at 11 a.m. or 11:30 a.m., so it's good to get here before that, or wait until after 12:30.” With 140 vendors it’s hard to pick favorites, but here are some booths that are worth a stop. For more details, such as hours and location, check out the market’s website.
Bouquets as Big as Your Head
The Chang Family Farm and Favorite Produce of Oregon booths both sell gorgeous, centerpiece-ready arrangements that mix flowers like sunflowers, dahlias, lilies, gladioluses, and gerbera daisies. Not only are the bouquets beautiful, they're divided into $5, $10, $15, or $20 arrangements—prices that would make traditional florists faint.
Top-Notch Organic Produce
The types of veggies offered and their prices can vary by up to 50 cents depending on the booth, but Spring Hill Farm has standard rates and a huge variety of organic veggies, including both padron and shishito peppers in summer.
The hazelnut is the official nut of Oregon, and you can buy bags of locally grown roasted ones at Freddy Guys Hazelnuts.
Pine State Biscuits sells bacon and egg or fried chicken sandwiches on a biscuit that are worth the commonly long line, while at Salumeria di Carlo, you’ll see people frying up peppers, onions, and sweet northern Italian or spicy southern Italian sausage for sandwiches.
Heritage Meats and Colorful Eggs
Willamette Valley Pastures is where the Deck family sells organic, heritage beef, pork, and lamb. Their pasture-raised eggs might make your eyes bug out at $8 a dozen, but they're the most beautiful shades of brown, tan, and mint green, and have richer-tasting yolks.
Two Tarts Bakery sells addictive mini sandwich cookies for 95 cents each; the Lil' Mamas are basically an upgraded-beyond-belief Oreo.
An eggplant in your suitcase might not be the best way to bring home a taste of the Portland Farmer's Market, so stop by Choi's Kimchi, where you can pick up a jar of traditional kimchi, or the rotating seasonal variety, to make your trip last a little longer.
Sarah Z. Wexler is on the Oregon beat for Travel + Leisure. Based in Portland, you can follow her on Twitter at @SarahZWexler.