Farm-Fresh Winter Foods in San Luis Obispo

San Luis Obispo County is blessed with both its own bounty of farm-fresh produce and its proximity to California’s Central Valley. The county is literally surrounded on all sides by agricultural havens that produce plenty no matter the season. Shoppers don’t need to go far to take advantage of great food, though: farmer’s markets and local food sellers abound.

Farmer’s Markets
San Luis Obispo county has an incredible array of farmer’s markets. Most notably, the city of San Luis Obispo is renowned for its weekly Thursday night market, which runs the length of the downtown’s main street (Higuera). Rain or shine, this market happens every week throughout the year, only stopping when it falls on a major holiday. Here, vendors from both in and out of the county gather to sell their wares while entertainers line side streets and local restaurants serve up their best hand-held dishes. It’s incredibly easy to walk through the market and gather everything you need to go home and create a full meal – with plenty left over for leftovers.

Other local cities have their own markets at least once a week throughout the year. Morro Bay has a small farmer’s market on Saturday and a more comprehensive gathering on Thursdays. Los Osos has a market on Monday, Paso Robles has one on Tuesday, Arroyo Grande has one on Wednesday, and San Luis Obispo has another on Saturday. There are plenty more around the county as well, so shoppers can easily gather fresh, seasonal produce every day of the week if they choose to.

Fish Markets
The county is blessed with its beautiful beaches and plentiful Pacific waters. Morro Bay is the last large fishing port of the county, and regularly brings in tons of local fish. Black Cod is the most plentiful catch off San Luis Obispo County’s coast, and the buttery, healthy fish is a perfect savory winter meal. Pair it with steamed spinach, grainy wild rice and a dry local Chardonnay.

Seafood lovers can purchase fish from a number of waterfront markets, including Dockside and Giovanni’s Fish Market in Morro Bay and Olde Port Fish and Seafood in San Luis Obispo.

Cal Poly
California Polytechnic State University, located within the city of San Luis Obispo, is one of the nation’s few remaining major agricultural schools. The university produces meat, eggs, dairy, produce and other products like honey, chocolate, wine and jams, most of which can be purchased on campus. Students regularly attend local farmer’s markets to sell their produce, much of which is organically grown. Additionally, many local markets and retailers sell the university’s wares (and lots of restaurants use their fresh food as well!)

The university also has a U-Pick field with seasonal produce like pumpkins in the fall and citrus in the spring.

What’s Good?
As winter rolls around, the best seasonal foods include squash, beets, brussels sprouts, cauliflower and apples. California’s fairly temperate climate means that most favorites are available year-round, like strawberries from Santa Maria or lettuces from Monterey County. Farm stands like Avila Valley Barn and corner markets typically sell whatever is growing on their farm – and that’s about as close to the source as you can get!

Don’t forget the region’s reputation as a wine mecca. Local vintners offer up stunning whites and reds to compliment any winter meal. In San Luis Obispo, it’s both possible and amazingly simple to eat local, seasonal food every day of the week, all year long.

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