Lisa Codianne Fowler
Fresh, Not Frozen
Updated: Mar 30, 2020
Sarasota’s Downtown Farmers’ Market
By Lisa Codianne Fowler
Every Saturday morning a farmers’ market blooms along Main Street and Lemon Avenue. Colorful umbrellas and tents pop up before 7 a.m., the stands below bursting with organic produce, seafood, fresh cut flowers, beautiful bromeliads and orchids, homemade cookies and an imaginative array of arts and crafts. The aroma of freshly brewed coffee fills the air - along with lively tunes by local musicians - as crowds mingle and meander through the festive displays.
Fleshy vine-ripened tomatoes, juicy Florida oranges and grapefruit, bright yellow lemons and a cornucopia of sweet, crisp vegetables not only look inviting, but last longer and taste better when freshly plucked. Potatoes, leeks, strawberries, artichokes … you want it, you’ll find it. Since 1979, rain or shine, the market has been pleasing palettes and accommodating the health and budget conscious with its wonderfully fresh produce. Tremendous assortments of fresh and dried herbs and spices are also available in any quantity; if your recipe calls for a pinch, that’s all you need buy.
Prefer a pastry to a plum? The “cookie lady,” will tempt you with her fresh-baked confections along with varieties of flavored bagels and quick breads, or you can wash down a donut with your choice of flavored coffee; beans freshly ground on the spot. Visit the friendly gent at the hotdog stand for lunch and plan a sumptuous seafood dinner –pick up Maine lobster tails, shrimp, scallops, grouper or snapper. There are gourmet pastas, cheeses and pesto, and snacks ranging from nuts and sunflower seeds to chocolates and candied gingers. Honey, homemade mustards, chutneys and jams are also among the plethora of tasty tidbits for sale. The market continues to attract new vendors proffering creative culinary fare and will soon host cooking demonstrations as well.
From food to flowers, the farmers’ market is a feast for the senses. Plants and trees, flowers and succulents add to the aromatic quality and visual excitement of the event. Each week, a rainbow of hues unfurls with a showing of azaleas, bromeliads, orchids, annuals, perennials and citrus, palm and ficus trees, with fresh cut flower stands offering colorful competition. Whether you are an armchair botanist or an avid gardener, you’ll appreciate this golden opportunity to scoop up your floral favorites.
A melting pot of residents and visitors alike come as much for the camaraderie as for the merchandise. They are often accompanied by their four-legged friends, as dog visors, collars and canine clothing are among the market’s diverse offerings. Local artisans present a wide range of unique items, such as hand-painted gourd birdhouses, shell art, handmade jewelry, hand-painted clothing, unusual birdbaths and homemade soaps. You’ll find Adirondack chairs, wind chimes, silk flowers, copper sculptures, stained glass and paintings by talented local artists. You can even pause to purchase a massage.
Among the 70 or so vendors present is the Downtown Partnership of Sarasota, sponsor of the market as well as on-site information resource to those unfamiliar with the area. The market is just one of the exciting programs they support to enhance a vibrant downtown. Other non-profit agencies find a venue here as well, including numerous cultural and arts organizations.
For more information about the Downtown Farmers’ Market, call (941) 951-2656 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reprinted from Visit Sarasota; updated 3-14-18.