September is a sweet spot for New England markets, when summer produce is still abundant and joins fall favorites such as butternut squash and pumpkins. Dropping into a farmers market right now can transform your vacation picnic into a memorable live-like-a-local stay. And speaking of New Englanders, they take their food seriously and tend to line up early for their apples and pears. Follow suit and take part in the farm-fresh fun by donning your wooly sweater and making your way to one of these markets one upcoming morning.
Every Wednesday (Monument Square, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.) and Saturday (Deering Oaks Park, 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.), about three dozen farmers, bakers and other food artisans gather to greet hundreds of hungry shoppers at the Portland Farmers’ Market. It’s a tradition that dates back more than two centuries, when the first Portland public market opened in 1768. From chefs in whites to kids in little red wagons, it’s a gathering spot for this tight community and a boon for travelers in search of a simple watermelon, freshly picked squash or apple cider.
Forget the charity golf events and art gallery hopping. The island’s best stop is the Sustainable Nantucket’s Farmers’ and Artisans’ Market, a veritable street festival with about 30 vendors (including food producers, painters and purse makers), live music and kids’ activities held at North Union and Cambridge streets downtown each Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Nantucket Beach Plum Jelly, made from tiny local wild plums by family-owned Nantucket Jams, is a great gift for friends back on the mainland. But you need to hurry because the market closes for the season in October, reopening in June.
Boston Copley Square Farmers Market rivals any major city bazaar, with a dizzying variety of produce available Tuesdays and Fridays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Thanksgiving. It’s famous for its apple cider doughnuts, but there are also plenty of prepared foods for lunch-on-the-go or an easy weeknight dinner. Beyond full meals, you can also find herbs, homemade preserves and houseplants. Expect crowds on Fridays, or opt for the slightly mellower Tuesday market.
Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Scores of New Hampshire woodworkers, maple growers, farmers and even vintners take over City Hall (well, the outdoor space at least) for the Portsmouth Famers’ Market on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. through November in this seaside town right over the Massachusetts border. Pick up a pastry or lobster roll and enjoy the violinist or guitarist performing for passersby.
Saunderstown, Rhode Island
The Coastal Growers’ Market at Casey Farm runs on Saturdays through October 27 from 9 a.m. to noon, and is a top source for picking up just-harvested crustaceans from Matunuck Oyster Farm, fresh seafood from The Local Catch and loads of seasonal produce and meats from area food producers, such as Windmist Farm. A pared-down winter market is held November through May in North Kingstown, which sits six miles north of Saunderstown.
Photos Courtesy of Mary Beth Albright