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More TGSMVH: Barton Creek Farmers Market

This entry is part of a series, Market Days»

Yellow Scalloped Squash

Continuing our roundup of regional farmers’ markets in central Texas (lovingly known as TGSMVH, or The Great Saturday Morning Vegable Hunt; and yes, it’s vegable, from when my baby brother was two), we visited the Barton Creek area of town on Saturday to peruse the offerings at the Barton Creek Farmers Market. This market is an under-discovered gem in the area, actually. They’ve been voted into the Top Ten farmers markets in recent years, and was considered to be in the top five such in the country by Eating Well Magazine. Area readers’ polls agree.

Despite all that, not many people seem to know about this enjoyable Saturday morning affair. (But now you know, so it’s all fixed.) Oh, there were plenty of folks there early, as the fair opened. We learned from last week, we got there as early as we could rather than let the day’s heat get away from us. Weatherly speaking, we were rewarded with a bit cooler temperatures and plenty of cloud cover. For a while.

The “midway” of tents is placed well away from the buildings, near a sizeable drop-off to the Mall’s back entrance. If this were housing, they’d have to pay plenty extra for the view! A phenomenal vista of the city skyline in the distance, with plenty of greenbelt nearby. Not a lot of neighborhood noise either. A primo location.

There were about 50 to 60 vendors present, although I didn’t try for an exact count. I thought maybe it was as big as the Cedar Park market, PJ thought it was smaller. But not a lot smaller!

What all was for sale? Oh so many goodies! Some of the vendors also sell at Cedar Park. However, the overlap is actually quite small. For instance, the handmade soda guys, Arr Squeeze, were there with their tasty drinks (grapefruit habañero!). The Indian food seller, Lamba Royal, serves both places. So there are a few peddlers with enough resources to be in several locations at once. Not a lot of them, though!

There are basically four categories of sellers at this fair: Farmers, Artisans, Prepared Food Purveyors, and a medley of miscellaneous products and services.

On the Farmer side, there were not quite 20 (I’d guess) present, ranging from specialized offerings like Kitchen Pride Mushrooms Vital Farms’ (with their organic eggs) to large and diversified produce farms like Star Farmers and Johnson’s Backyard Garden (a local gem, and a community-supported farm). All the usual suspects were being offered, from root vegetables to leafy greens, squash, tomatoes and plenty of chiles. Lots of different kinds of chiles! Next time I’ll ask to take some pictures, as evidence. Green ones, red ones, yellow and orange peppers, even purple and blue. Lots of funky shapes, and heat levels ranging from mild and sweet to head-exploding hot.

Orange Tomatoes

We bought squash (yellow straight-necks, zucchini and scalloped) and a few other tasty items. I was impressed with the variety of fruits and vegetables offered, and their uniform high quality.

Prepared foods included things like olive oil (two vendors), chips, dips, salsa, Buddha’s Brew, empanadas and breakfast tacos (had to try those; yum!), Dr. Kracker’s flatbreads and Dad’s Premium Granola, handmade ketchup (in sweet onion, mild chipotle and spicy chipotle varieties) and artisanal breads. There’s a coffee roaster, a boutique charcuterie (great sausage), Mediterranean food, jams and jellies, and even a vendor selling tiny pies. (They’re awesome.)

We bought some of the ketchup, made by Drippin’ Sauce. Two bottles, in fact: Hot Chipotle and Sweet Onion. How good is this stuff? Good enough to get PJ to violate our rules, actually. (As I remember it, she started these rules.) You see, we always walk the fair twice: Once to spot what we’d like to buy (or strongly consider), and then we circulate again to gather up our plunder. That way we can stay within budget. Anyway, the sweet onion ketchup is so good that after one taste, Paula Jo was digging in her wallet for cash like a starving badger digging for breakfast. While taking another taste. Then she immediately back-tracked (I was well behind by then, as I like to chat up all the vendors was doing serious research on chiles about ten stalls back) and effusively gushed told me about this booth I had to come see. Now.

The chipotle varieties of Drippin’ Sauce were a problem, though. I couldn’t decide which one to buy! And I really only wanted one, this time. So as I tasted back and forth under the watchful eye of the owner (who began to squint at me a bit as the chips bin was rapidly depleted) until I finally closed my eyes and randomly reached for a bottle. I figured by then I had to buy at least one, to cover the tasting tab. As luck would have it, I snagged a hot chipotle one. I’m good with that.

I bought some candied jalapeños from Blanco Valley Farms. They’re labeled “Sweet and Hot” (rather like me, don’t you think?) and what made the buying decision for me was, they’re not made from previously-pickled jalapeño slices. You see, the usual way that boutique pickle places make their sweet jalapeño pickles is to take a big ol’ tub of savory nacho slices (from the can, usually) and re-pickle them with syrup and spices. (Good, but sometimes too sweet or a bit mushy from double-handling.) These babies were made from fresh jalapeños, by hand. What else is in there? Sugar, water, vinegar, salt and spices. That’s it.

The non-food artisans at Barton Creek range from makers of yard art to natural skin care products. Clothing, jewelry, lavender, water stones, soy candles, and even poetry (written on the spot for you) are for sale. It’s a bit like crossing a vegetable market with the Renaissance Fair. But without all those beefy guys carting around ham slicers big enough to take down a water buffalo. We didn’t buy anything from these folks, this time, but there’ll be other visits!

Yellow Zucchini

What else can you see or do at this market? You can order a rainwater collecting system for your house; get organic pest control supplies; place an order for home-delivered produce; learn how to make better compost; and even get a boxer. No, not Mike Tyson; a boxer dog! The nice folks from Austin Boxer Rescue have a tent, and they’ll gladly talk with you about adopting a sweet pup of your own.

Sonia Candia the Red Golden was the hit of the puppy parade, at least in her estimation. Once again, we nearly had to hire crowd control specialists. But we muddled through, and by the end of our two circuits of the fair she was ready to go ride in the cool air conditioning. She’s always glad to get out, and especially pleased to get the attention; but when she’s done, she’s done.

We very much enjoyed the Barton Creek market, and we’ll be back. Oh, not as regulars, it’s a bit of a hike back and forth, and at today’s gas prices you really need more than one reason to be in that part of town from our neighborhood. However, Central Market is nearby; I smell a two-fer coming on…

Enjoy the (Pristine Produce and Pleasant Provender) Heat!

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