PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — At the weekly farmers’ market here, visitors seem to be walking somewhat hurriedly toward the stalls and leave smiling, despite the weight of their cloth bags stuffed with leafy greens and freshly cut flowers flopping over the rims. Such are the comings and goings on Saturday mornings through the end of October, with 60-plus vendors offering produce, meats, sweets, beer and cider, crafts, and more.
If you arrive hungry, follow the scent of smoke wafting from sausages sizzling on a grill at Kellie Brook Farm’s stand. Breakfast sandwiches made with their pork sausage, a one-egg omelet, and American cheese piled on a croissant provide sustenance.
Many shoppers are munching on sugar-dusted cider doughnuts from Applecrest Farm Orchards, but if you’re a pastry aficionado, head for the unforgettable sweets at Figtree Kitchen. Co-owner and baker Brian Murphy has perfected the buttery Breton specialty called kouign amann (pronounced queen a-mahn) as well as large and “wee” sweet and savory tarts, scones, muffins, and cookies. Making the traditional French pastry involves a day’s worth of folding dough with European-style butter, just as for croissants, with caramelized sugar bringing a delectable sweetness.
At the vegetable-centric stands, such as Black Kettle Farm, Wake Robin Farm, Meadow’s Mirth, and Heron Pond Farm, the displays are some of the prettiest you’ll find, with tomatoes, greens, squashes, roots, and tubers artfully arranged in wicker baskets, wood boxes, and small recyclable containers.
Abby Wiggin of Wake Robin Farm in Stratham, N.H., is the 14th generation of a farming family. Her bountiful tables also include less common items, such as tomatillos, husk cherries, sunchokes, and Christmas lima beans. Of the 16 varieties of potatoes grown on the farm, her father, Bob Wiggin, says, “It’s one of the better potato years we’ve had with not too much rain and a cooler summer.”
The Seacoast Growers Association runs the Portsmouth market and three others in the area. SGA president George Beland, a wood furniture maker, says everything must be grown or made in the three counties of Rockingham and Strafford, N.H., and York, Maine. Davyanne Moriarity, of Stratham’s Moriarty’s Greenhouse, explains that her father, David, and a few other farmers founded the organization in 1977. “They thought they would do better if they were all in one place,” she says. Now in their 37th year, she adds, “They were ahead of their time.”
Locally raised meats are available at a few stands, including New Roots Farm of Newmarket, N.H., which raises “100 percent grass-fed beef and lamb and pasture-raised pork and poultry,” says Jeff Cantara, who owns the farm with his wife, Renee. They sell sausages (such as peppercorn fennel and jalapeno chipotle), steaks, uncured hot dogs, and thick-cut pork chops.
If you’re interested in farm-fresh eggs, prepare to be disappointed if you haven’t called ahead to reserve a box from Mona Farm of Danville, N.H. Owner Philip Nugent, a former consultant, and his wife, Gertrud, started with 12 hens four years ago, he says, “because we like the eggs.” Now they keep 300 free-range birds that lay eggs of different colors, hence the “paint box” cartons.
For fresh loaves of multigrain, oatmeal-molasses, and anadama breads, wander over to Leaven Beer and Bread House. Sugarmomma’s Maple Farm is the spot for maple syrup and maple-coated nuts and popcorn. Nottingham Orchard offers fresh and hard cider.
For a fruity-spicy sauce to perk up everyday meals, try Marcia Chin’s Jamaican Anyting Sauce. “That’s any-ting,” the native Jamaican says. Try it with pork, chicken, burgers, beans and rice, even scrambled eggs.
On a chilly day, The Soup Guy draws a crowd. Dover-based soup maker Curtis Gould offers hot vegan and gluten-free soups as well as frozen containers to take home. On a recent visit, he was dishing out smoky mushroom corn chowder, “bootleg” chili, and carrot-apple soup.
Nonfood items include aromatic goat-milk soaps from Joy Lane Farm, lambskins and wool yarn from Riverslea Farm, and leather accessories from Nomad Leatherworks.
Besides good nibbles, abundant produce, meats, and specialty items, market shoppers also get to enjoy weekly live music. If you make the trip, go hungry, armed with sturdy shopping bags, and call ahead for those eggs.
PORTSMOUTH FARMERS’ MARKET City Hall parking lot, 1 Junkins Ave., Portsmouth, N.H. Through Nov. 1, Sat 8 a.m.-
1 p.m. www.seacoastgrowers.org/portsmouth-farmers-market.