An OLT Field Trip: Farmers Market at The Orange County Great Park

If April is the cruelest month, Sunday may the cruelest day. Mixing relaxation and subtle dread of the coming work week, stirring that border between living and making a living. Luckily, Orange County is ripe with Sunday morning activities that can wring every last drop out of your weekend. The Farmers Market at the Orange County Great Park in Irvine is just such an activity. Held on Sunday mornings, this food, farm and crafts market is worth the trip… a trip that OurLocaltopia recently made. Check out our Great Park Farmers Market report, the edible booty we plundered and the meal it inspired.

I had never been to the Great Park Farmers Market. A shameful fact, I know! But upon arrival, I took instantly to their set up. The market is located in the interior of the Great Park property, which many still know as the old El Toro Marine Base site. This square mile of relatively undeveloped (or possibly underdeveloped, by Irvine’s standards) property is a great location for a Farmers Market because there is ample space, plenty of free parking, adjacent agriculture and the historic precedent of farming and ranching in the area that can still be seen in the historic buildings of nearby “Old Town Irvine.” The biggest obstacle is, of course, getting there. While I found the Farmers Market and the Great Park well signed, I know plenty of people that have had trouble sorting out this location. (My advice: check your maps and follow the directional a-frames they put out for events. )

The market itself is set up in an open area, under the canopy of some large ornamental trees. This free and ample shade is a big deal for anyone used to the typical full exposure, parking lot locations of most Orange County Farmers Markets. The wide-open-spaces feel of this market (it’s in a direct line of sight to the OC foothills) makes the crowds easier to navigate and the booths more accessible. You can see from the pictures that it was a busy day, but at no point did I feel cramped, rushed or crowded.

As you have likely already determined, I normally leave the OLT culinary talent to the Jonathans. However, I still need to fend for myself and my husband on a daily basis. So, occasionally I agree to make Sunday dinner. This past Sunday, I had settled on egg sandwiches, and this trip to the Farmers Market was the perfect excuse to turn an ordinary meal into a monument of local abundance.

Since I was on this hunt for egg sandwich ingredients, an immediate stand out of the market was Kepner Farms and their beautiful baskets of free range chicken eggs. Kepner farms is located in Cleveland National Forest, which straddles the mountainous line between Orange and Riverside Counties. They were also selling whole free range chickens. I stuck with the eggs, snatching up a half dozen brown and white beauties.

Next purchase, Reed Avocados. These giant, meaty fruits have an amazingly buttery flesh. Perfect for slicing onto egg sandwiches. A single Reed avocado is big enough to serve at least 4 people.

While shopping for dinner, I made a short detour to visit with our friends at 5 Bar Beef. They produce the only locally ranched, grass fed beef in Orange County and run their cattle in Trabuco Canyon, not far from Cook’s Corner. 5 Bar Beef has been OLT’s choice for local beef on a number of occasions, include the Spring Farm Dinner we put on earlier this year.  For you conscientious meat eaters out there, you really can’t get more local than 5 Bar Beef.

The most visually stunning, but completely off track, purchase of the day had to be a hearty portion of Organic Cranberry Beans, from OC Produce,  which were grown nearby the Great Park. Though they have nothing to do with egg sandwiches, I was romanced by their gorgeous, mottled color. So photogenic! I must admit, now, though… I have no idea how to prepare them! Mr. Dye & Mr. Davis, any suggestions for a cranberry bean novice?

To round out the sandwich fixins, I picked up a half loaf of beautiful whole grain bread, from a local baker selling at the market, some heirloom tomatoes and a few honeycrisp apples (grown in Riverside). On the way out, I stopped by a booth with potted herbs, and grabbed a few to add to the garden. All in all, a successful and enjoyable trip. The resulting egg sandwich, which I dubbed the “Orange County,” received high marks from the husband, and was damn tasty, if I do say so myself.  I will certainly return to the Great Park Farmers Market!

The Great Park Farmers Market is open on Sundays from 10am to 2pm. Parking and admission is free.

Check out the gallery below for some pictures…

Good Shopping!

~ Evelyn

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