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Lunch at the Rogue Valley Growers Market

Each morning my husband, Ed, wakes me with a cup of coffee and a question, "What's for dinner?"

At 6 a.m., I'm not exactly on the ball, so I mumble something incoherent that must satisfy his interest. The question does its work though, as by late morning, I'm thinking about dinner and hungry for lunch. And because it's Thursday, I’m off to the Rogue Valley Growers and Crafters Market in Medford.

On Thursdays and Saturdays, Medford's farmers' market is in Hawthorne Park across from the Medford Center. The large grassy expanse is filled with big tents, people and produce. You can hear the laughter, shouts and music and smell the grills a block away. I'll walk around to consider my options, figure out dinner and then choose lunch. Choosing lunch is always a problem at the market.

The food vendors cluster toward Hawthorne Street, and usually once a vendor has a spot, that's where you'll find them every week. Nguyen Street Food, Rosa Maria's Tamales, Sultan's Delight, Pizza Mia. Bahn mi? Arepas? Gyros? Tamales? Pizza? Poke? Or maybe a smoothie would be better — vegetable or fruit? What about dessert? Four and Twenty Blackbirds has pies. Pennington's ginger cookies are my favorite. There are artisan chocolates by White Rabbit. Last week at the market I had pho, and the week before a gyro. What will it be today?

Josie and Megan work at a nearby dental clinic and come to the market every Thursday. In high heels and skirts, they line up at Sultan's Delight for gyros on greens with extra sauce. Sam shouts a greeting as he assembles their food, hot and fast, almost no waiting.

"We go to different places every week," says Josie. "There's so much to try."

Moms with strollers, men in ties and button-down shirts, elders in wheelchairs, kids chasing balloons — everyone's enjoying a fine hour or so outdoors. There's a group of four with hospital ID badges and sunglasses, stopping in for lunch, bantering as they wait for a colleague. Nguyen's has Clay Pot Pork Belly made with vegetables picked up from the market that morning. Fresh and seasonal produce determine Nguyen’s changing menu. Shari's Lemongrass Chicken, also from Nguyen Street Food, is fragrant with herbs, the rice steaming.

My choice for lunch this week? A demi-baguette from Rise Up Bakery made with Dunbar Farms wheat, crusty outside and tender within. I split the bread with my fingers and fill it with garlic curds from By George, though I almost choose the Buncom Brie, a soft buttery cheese, the rind tasting of mushrooms. Griffin Creek's iced coffee with a little cream to fuel my afternoon. Sultan's Delight apricot baklava, tender phyllo and nuts, drenched in honey. And one more taste to complete the meal and celebrate the sun, a sweet watermelon popsicle with a tart and chewy kiwi center made by Windborne Farm. Now I'm ready. I settle in the shade under a tree and eat.

And what's for dinner? Rosa Marie was almost out of chicken tamales before I got back to her stand, but I snagged a few of the last ones in the pot. The asparagus at DR's Garden is beautiful and so well priced that I drool thinking of a chilled asparagus and artichoke salad with a white balsamic vinaigrette. And for dessert? Fry Family Farm Store's Raspberry Champagne Jam will be just right with vanilla ice cream. By now, I'm pretty full though, so it may be just Ed eating supper tonight. Or maybe we'll have some friends over to enjoy the bounty of Medford's Rogue Valley Growers and Crafters Market.

The market is open in Medford from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Thursdays and Saturdays in Hawthorne Park between Hawthorne and East Jackson streets. There's plenty of parking in the lot at the Medford Center. There are a couple of picnic tables under the trees, or bring a blanket to sit on the grass. Don't forget a bottle of water to wash off fruits and vegetables that you want to eat on the spot.

The best way to track a food truck is on Facebook, where they'll appreciate your likes and photos. See rvgrowers.com for more information.

A demi-baguette from Rise Up Bakery made with Dunbar Farms wheat filled with garlic curds from By George, along with Griffin Creek's iced coffee with cream, Sultan's Delight apricot baklava, and a sweet watermelon popsicle with a tart and chewy kiwi center made by Windborne Farm. [Photo by Maureen Flanagan Battistella]