Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Dollar-a-Bag Secret Is Now Out

This is probably not much of a secret, and if it were, posting on my nearly-never read blog isn't going to blow anyone's cover. More than anything else, it's blog-worthy only because it's a discovery deeply aligned with my appreciation for deals.

The un-secret is: If you go to the Civic Center farmer's market around 4pm, when they're starting to break down, you can get some crazy cheap deals. All sorts of produce for a dollar a bag, fruit for a dollar a pound. 

The un-secret within the un-secret: At the stone fruit stand, the lady taking your money will complain if you don't fill your bag as full as possible and tries to make you take extra after you've paid. If you buy ten pounds of fruit it's even cheaper, and don't forget to mix and match varieties. They really don't want to cart this stuff back to the farm. 

It's really hard for me to control myself if I happen to be down there on a Sunday afternoon. Today, for example, I made off with this stash.

Five pounds of farm-fresh peaches, nectarines, plums and pluots; zucchini, yellow squash, Japanese eggplant, tomatoes and a bottomless bag of chilies for the low-low price of $10. 

Usually I just walk to the Grove Street farmer's market near my house. It's small and on par with normal farmer's market prices, so I can only get one or two bunches of leafy greens, a loaf of bread, and some cut flowers before I've unloaded $12.

But on the rare occasions when I make it all the way to the Civic Center on Sundays, it occurs to me that if I made the 4pm farmer's market stroll-by a regular habit, I could be basking in a steady supply of organic vegetables for less than what I pay at my uber-affordable but sometimes inconsistent Korean-owned corner store that I love. (Which was also featured in this cool photojournal article about corner stores.) The Civic Center market even has Asian vegetables, so I really have no excuse not to do my weekend groceries there.

The Civic Center farmer's market (apparently called "Heart of the City," presumably to avoid drawing attention to the fact that the Civic Center is also the heart of homeless), is what farmer's markets are supposed to be. Affordable for people who most need access to fresh, healthy locally-raised food. They claim that 75% of food stamps spent at farmer's markets are spent at this farmer's market.

The Ferry Building farmer's market is beautiful, but there's a visible difference in the kind of people who prefer to get their produce there compared to those who prefer the Civic Center farmer's market. For one thing, dodging ranting drunks and disoriented head cases is common at the Civic Center market. So is hearing vendors arguing with customers who try to pocket an extra melon or two without paying.

Interestingly, the two farmer's markets are down the street from each other (down Market Street from each other, for that matter) and occur not coincidentally on alternating days, so you could feasibly go to a farmer's market downtown six days a week. On Mondays you're out of luck in most of the Bay Area; hope you stocked up on the Sunday afternoon dollar-a-bag deal.

The best part of today's visit was when one of the vendors started yelling at a customer standing next to me.

"No seventy-five cents!" she yelled. "One dollar a bag, no seventy-five cents!"

I love me some good discounts, but even I wouldn't try to haggle down the late afternoon dollar special.

And the customer standing next to me? Small elderly Chinese lady. Naturally.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Tidepooling, Part II

Went down to Fitzgerald Marine Preserve with some friends for more tidepooling. Still amazed that this is a thing people do, since it involves getting up at the crack of dawn on a Saturday.

It turns out I've now been to two of the three Bay Area tidepools that made KQED's list of Bay Area Tidepools. Pigeon Point (#2 on said list) is where I discovered tidepooling as a gerund.

And now, tidepool universes from the most recent excursion:

There's a real name for this guy, but to me he's a starfish with webbed feet. Like a duck.

Sea anemone, not an enemy

Sunflower sea star. Eighteen legs, count 'em.