Fresh food, fresh ideas draw crowds


Shrimp, caught a couple days earlier, rests on  ice to maintain freshness. Photo by Nathan Brown Silva

BERKELEY, Calif. — Produce, performers and cultural foods are typical sights at farmers’ markets, but in the Downtown Berkeley Farmers’ Market on Center Street, year-round on Saturdays, there are less-common choices,  including seafood and mushroom booths.

Hudson Fish, a staple for more than 11years at farmers’ markets throughout Northern California, is a husband-and-wife fishing enterprise that has gained popularity and recognition from denizens and tourists alike.  Although the stall is a constant in the farmers’ market environment, there is the underlying challenge of unstable results: depending on the time of year, the fish change accordingly.  Some, such as rock fish, are year-round, while others, such as the salmon, are seasonal to protect the fish population.

Fishermen and women determine which days are off-limits for fishing specific products, finalize it by a vote and label them closures.  However, this instability does not deter the customers from visiting this stall.  Saturday stall worker  Valerie Williams said, “More people want to go to the people who actually catch, opposed to [buying] the ones in the store, which have been in there for who knows how long.”

Williams said their fish are caught within two or three days before the market opens, and all the fillets are cut the night before, to ensure the freshness of their products.

Frequent customer Joel Spitzer is especially fond of this stall, and said, “I really like salmon because I know it’s good for you.  I come here Saturdays and Thursdays.”

The mushroom stand, a part of the market for many years, boasted an abundance of goods on a recent Saturday, as mushrooms are available year-round and include a wide variety — Portabello,   Crimini, Eryngii and Shimeji.  Suki Choe, one of the vendors, said their goal is “to provide healthy food for people… [they] grow naturally and certain mushrooms are certified organic.”

Berkeley resident Mary Kim is one Choe’s fans: “I come here whenever I need mushrooms because I use them often,” she said.