Sunday, September 5th: Awarding Winning Market & Vendors! Of Firsts, Seconds, Thirds & Fourths!!!

According to the USDA, there are 6,132 farmers markets at present in the United States. And in the American Farmland Trust's national 2010 America's Favorite Farmers Market Contest, your Ballard Farmers Market finished #4 in the large market category. Not too shabby. Thank you, good folk of the People's Republic of Ballard, Seattle and Washington state for voting for Ballard. And to those who didn't vote for Ballard out of fear it would draw even more people to Ballard Avenue every Sunday, you can rest assured that those crowds are headed to Rochester, NY now. And if you believe that, I have some condos in Belltown I'd like to sell you!

Speaking of contests, the 2010 American Cheese Society Convention & Competition was held here in Seattle just last week, and three Washington cheese makers that sell right here at your Ballard Farmers Market won awards. Estrella Family Creamery, out of Montesano, won three ribbons, including First in Class (smoked Italian styles category) for their Weebles cheese, First in Class (sheep or mixed milks category) for their Caldwell Crick Chevrette, and a Second Place Award was given to their Jalapeño Buttery in the Flavored, Peppers category.

Samish Bay Cheese, out of Bow, won four ribbons, including: First in Class for their Ladysmith cheese in Fresh Unripened Cow’s Milk Cheeses category; Second Place for their Aged Ladysmith in the Farmstead Cheeses up to 60 days category; Third Place fro their Ladysmith with Chives in Farmstead Cheeses with Flavoring category; and Third Place for their Yogurt Cheese (Labneh) in Cultured Products from Cow’s Milk category.

And Mt Townsend Creamery, from Port Townsend, won First in Class for their Seastack cheese in the Soft Ripened category. Congratulations to all the great cheese makers of Washington, who have so impressed the rest of the world over the last 5-10 years that they drew this major national cheese event to Seattle this year. And don't forget that three more of those great Washington cheese makers -- Golden Glen Creamery, Port Madison and Sea Breeze -- also sell great cheese at your Ballard Farmers Market. Blessed are the cheese makers, indeed!

The boats of Loki Fish have returned to Washington waters from Alaska after a long summer fishing up north. Now, they are harvesting Frasier River sockeye salmon just south of the Canadian border, and you can get some of this amazing fish fresh today.

Though we may be bemoaning the summer that never completely arrived this year, as we rapidly descend into fall, one thing we can celebrate is an early and vibrant fall wild mushroom season. Just look at these spectacular lobster mushrooms Foraged & Found Edibles has right now. And if you still don't know why they are called lobster mushrooms after seeing this photo, you need to either adjust the color on your monitor, or you need to look up what a lobster looks like after it's been steamed.

Cippolini onions are another of those wonderful heirloom Italian crops that so many farmers around here enjoy growing. Cippolini onions, like these from Oxbow Farm, are kinda squat in appearance, more disc-like than bulbous. They caramelize magnificently. Just imagine them on some crostini, or over a nice steak.

Another great Italian crop is San Marzano tomatoes, like these from Pipitone Farms. These are the tomatoes of Naples, growing in the rich volcanic soil of Mt. Vecuvius. They are prized for their rich, thick, meaty flesh that produces what many consider the finest tomato sauce on earth.

Looking for spices and rubs? Check out Seattle Spice. They offer a huge selection of spices, blends and rubs to accent the Market fresh goodness you'll take home tonight. Stop by and just enjoy the aroma of the sample tins.

Sidhu has a fresh wave of raspberries coming on from their fields in Orting. Above are their big, juicy and tangy Caroline raspberries. They also have ever-bearing raspberries now. And they still have plenty of blueberries and blackberries, too.

Just look at all these beans from Growing Things Farm! Green beans. Dragon Tongue beans. Yellow wax beans. Purple beans. I'm thinking pickles. Or casseroles. Maybe sauteed with bacon and pearl onions. How about a nice stir fry with pork or shrimp. Or perhaps a bean salad. Ah, beans!

Ailsa Craig onions are not only one of my favorite onions to eat, they are also one of my favorites to say -- Ailsa Craig! (Say it with your inner Scot.) These beautiful heirloom onions hail from Scotland originally. These are a sweet onion with a wonderful flavor, great sauteed, caramelized, roasted, grilled and raw. Prana Farms grows them for us here, along with many other heirloom crops.

Alvarez Organic Farms grows more than 150 varieties of peppers, some of which are varieties they have developed themselves. Above is just a small sampling of the many hot chili peppers they grow, in all their colorful glory. Peppers vary widely in flavor and heat, so experiment with them to find which ones you like the best.

And there is much more waiting for you at your Ballard Farmers Market today. Just check the What's Fresh Now! listings in the upper right-hand corner of this page for a more complete accounting of what is in season right now!