Federal Way Farmers Market

Notes from Bellevue Farmers Market Exile

Summer is the time for travel. And whenever I'm out of town during Market season, I like to check in at other farmers markets if I run across one. Sadly, lately, I haven't been able to travel anywhere more exotic than Federal Way, Washington, where I did find free berries and giant slugs, as I mentioned last week.

This past Saturday found me in Federal Way again for another swim meet, with time to kill between prelims and finals. It was hot, and my son just wanted to park in the shade and nap, but I happened to spot the Federal Way Farmers Market in progress, so he had to settle for a shady parking spot near Sears while I explored. I'd missed the Thursday Bellevue Farmers Market (day one of the meet), so I knew at the very least I wanted fruit.

And there was fruit to be had, along with familiar produce. I even saw one of the BFM berry vendors and Amador Farms. Mission accomplished.

But the point of travel is to see new things, right? Therefore I asked about these curious items:

It turns out those are bitter melons. And what you do with them depends on your culinary tradition. The Asian guy I asked says he removes the seeds and adds them to soup. The Latino farmer said he takes the young ones, leaves the seeds in, and fries it up with an egg! You just know something that looks like that (and that tastes bitter) has got to be good for you.

Then there were these:

I've already forgotten what the farmer called them, but they look like paler versions of the zucchini your neighbor might be trying to force on you this time of year. If I found some of these on my porch, I think I'd try them grated in a baked good or roasted or stir-fried.

Demographically, Federal Way reminds me of Milpitas, California, where I grew up: lots of diversity and strip malls and good food, if you go looking for it. Did you know that almost 80% of the city population is under age 54? And 50% of the population is under 34! Maybe this explains why there were birdhouses for sale at their market that looked like camper trailers. Millenials are the hot new market for RV and camper manufacturers, ya know. I even considered shelling out $30 for the birdhouse/camper, since my 14YO loves birdwatching and also dreams of owning an RV(!).

Every farmers market has its own rules, of course, and Bellevue Farmers Market sticks to food. No crafts, no tie-dye, no stalls that smell of incense. So if you're itching for camper birdhouses or plywood furniture, you'll have to take the 35-minute trip down to Federal Way.

You won't find any wine or kombucha there, but you will see mini donuts, a Filipino food stand with lumpia, and shave ice. Long live farmers markets!