03 September 2005

A Ramble through Portland's Park Blocks

Peppers and eggplants
Originally uploaded by Katherine H.
Since I gave so much love to the Farmer’s Market in Salt Lake City last week, I decided I should visit one a little closer to home. I have been hearing good things about the market held on the North Park Blocks in Portland, so my early morning foray began there.

A sign of a good market is the bustling activity. And the advantage of a community market is the opportunity to hand select the best of the local bounty and chat up the providers of such delicious fare. It is evident by the rapport between the vendors and the customers that this market is a weekly staple for many of the attendees.

On this particular Saturday, the market is also hosting the annual Tomato Festival. Long tables with bite-sized portions of succulent tomatoes are beckoning to be tasted. From the amusing to the exotic, names like Fantastic, Taxi, Tennessee Halo, Purple Russian, Principe Borghese, and Thessoloniki signal that these growers take their tomatoes seriously. Taste-testers were encouraged to take notes and vote for their favorite one. Free recipe booklets outlined the endless possibilities for preparing these tasty hybrids.

Best piece of advice: bring an expandable bag! I managed to make my escape with two pluots, one asian pear, a pint of blackberries, and some cilantro lime pesto.

Labor Day Weekend is the time of year when the South Park Blocks host Art in the Pearl. I attended the festival on a whim last year, and was eager to experience its vibrancy once again. Juried artists from around the country display their wares in a multitude of mediums. A performance tent is set up at one end of the festival, and food booths are given their space as well.

What lends this festival a unique feel is its location among an active, dynamic park. Neighborhood competitors join in a game of bocce at one end of the park. Parents are pushing toddlers in swings and keeping a watchful eye on their progress up the jungle gym. One has the sense that these activities are just as much a draw to the shaded park blocks as the well organized festival.

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