Picture it. It’s a typical November Saturday in Portland, Oregon. The air hangs heavy with moisture and a constant drizzle permeates your clothes, kissing the skin beneath your layers upon layers of clothing, leaving you damp and shivering. But as you walk into historic Old Town, you suddenly forget the cold at the euphoric vision before you. Everywhere you turn, you see marvelous mounds of color and astounding brightness, as countless stalls, winding and meandering about a park-like plaza, overflow with waterfalls of winter squash, rivers of red cabbage, and cascades of carrots.
Hearty Rose City residents forgo their umbrellas in favor of puffy, hooded Columbia jackets and smack their Burt’s Bees-lacquered lips at the sight of fresh mulled cider and piping hot vegan scones speckled with dates and slivered pecans. An apron-clad vendor ladles mountains of steel cut oatmeal from a cast iron cauldron into recycled paper bowls and dusts them with cinnamon and brown sugar, distributing them to a crowd of buyers eager to fill their bellies with the steaming, thick porridge.
Nestled into a corner stall, a woman rearranges pyramids of pickled vegetables, each jar a miniature aquarium filled with floating beets, cauliflower, carrots, and cucumbers. A local baker hollers above the din of the crowd, offering a two-for-one special on his rosemary potato loaves. Artisan cheeses decorate a nearby table, a mouth-watering display of sharp yellow cheddar, polka-dotted bleu cheese, and soft white brie. Rows of just-laid eggs in a rainbow of colors sit perched in a simple, brown carton. And all around the earthy aroma of fresh-picked fruits and vegetables mingles with the scent of warm apple pies and spice cookies.
The Eden before you is the Portland Saturday Market, arguably one of the best farmer’s markets this side of the Mississippi (and I only make this distinction because I have yet to visit a farmer’s market on the other side of the Mississippi). It’s enough to make even the most devout among us want to pick a ripe, juicy apple—forbidden or otherwise—sink our teeth into its thin flesh, and revel in the sin of something so simple and sweet.
In short, if you live near Portland or are scheduled to go and haven’t visited this Earth Mother of all farmer’s markets, go as soon as it re-opens on February 28th. And, if you don’t live close by, take a virtual tour through its gorgeous stalls below. Now, if only I could offer you a virtual taste of the amazing Black Sheep Bakery vegan oat scone I enjoyed with my coffee while lazily wandering the market that morning… I suppose you’ll just have to trust that it was delectable.