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Lunch at the market: South Tacoma Farmers Market

A weekly oasis of local produce and handcrafted treats

SOUTH TACOMA FARMERS MARKET: A photo taken during last year's "Kid's Day" on July 18. Photo courtesy of Facebook

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Currently, a dozen vendors and two hot food stands make up the South Tacoma Farmers Market, which is held in the Heritage Bank Parking Lot at South 56th Street and Washington Street on Sundays through Sept. 25. More vendors are expected as the season progresses. Still in its infancy, the market is a weekly oasis of local produce and handcrafted treats in an area not known for such things. At the 11 a.m. opening time on a recent visit, 20 or so people had already converged on the market and were perusing the booths. By noon activity had picked up, lines were forming and it looked like a fairly well attended Sunday, despite the shy sunshine.

From the farm

Lucky Pig Farm in Tenino provides freshly slaughtered, custom cuts of pork, chicken, turkey and rabbit. Yes, we're talking about the hippity hop. By special order you can get a whole rabbit; loin or legs are sold by the pound. In terms of yard bird, Lucky Pig has livers, hearts, gizzards, ground chicken, bone-in or boneless chicken breasts, and offers a grilling special of $4 leg and thigh combo or wings. Freshly made sausage comes in apple, spicy or sweet Italian, chorizo, bratwurst and more.

We gazed wistfully at the produce booths' limited stock. Pesticide-free, sweet Walla Walla green onions and lustrous purplish-red cherries from Eastern Washington were tempting. Rosy red radishes dazzled, yet we wished for zucchini, carrots, peaches and tomatoes. Patience, we were reminded by a smiling face at the Dao Lee Garden booth, is required.

"They're just not ready yet, such a bad spring for growing," we were told, as the women clucked her tongue and shook her head. I still had green leaf lettuce in my refrigerator or I would have snagged a bundle of hers for $1.

Eat it there

A canopy shades the faux-grass-carpeted eating area at the South Tacoma Farmers Market. Colorful tablecloths grace eight bouquet-topped tables. The volume of the acoustic guitar-playing singer allows easy conversation. Tim Norris, the week's market musical lunch date, remarks that people who haven't had organic produce truly don't know there's a difference.

"If all you ever ate was McDonald's fries you couldn't know what a real potato tastes like," says Norris. "Once people have tried both they know there isn't even a comparison." 

We discuss organic quality, flavor and increased price over a plate of piled-high nachos ($7) from the Empa Naughty food booth. Stale chips turned what should have been a munch-fest into a disappointing ordeal. We fared slightly better with a tamale platter ($7) of bland Spanish rice, cooked-down beans and a tamale that was 80 percent corn. At least there was fresh cilantro, jalapeño, black olives, and salsa verde to punch up the flavor. I regret not choosing the steak sandwich and huge, loaded baked potato at the only other food booth. Next time.

"Famous Fiesta Lemonade," also from the Empa Naughty's booth truly was the most positive thing about lunch ($3). Real strawberries and slices of lemon delivered sweet-tart refreshment. Refills are only $1. Nice.

Special made

Basil, corn, tomato and blueberry plant starts cover one end of the Sidhu Farms table while jars of jam line the rest. Though strawberry jam is said to be the most popular, I buy the raspberry-rhubarb for its sweet-tart balance. Also available are blueberry, blackberry, boysenberry and marionberry. The nine-ounce jar of jam is made with berries and rhubarb grown in Pierce County, low-sugar pectin, sugar and nothing else. No preservatives, and zip zilch zero other ingredients. Based in Puyallup, Sidhu Farms is a family operation that spans generations, both in the U.S. and in India. At $6 a jar, the jam is more expensive than the same size jar at Stadium Thriftway, though not by much. Not a huge bread consumer, I envision the jam on a grilled chicken breast with melted jalapeño Jack cheese on a bed of mixed greens.

South Tacoma Farmers Market

Sunday 11 a.m. - 3 p.m., through Sept. 25
Heritage Bank Parking Lot
South 56th Street and Washington Street, South Tacoma

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