Text and photos contributed by Naramata-based writer Jennifer Cockrall-King

Every Saturday morning, South Okanagan locals and visiting foodies have a ritual. Buy a cup of freshly brewed coffee from Backyard Beans — handed to you in a ceramic mug, no paper or plastic cups — and then begin to wander one of the best outdoor markets in Western Canada.

Every vendor in the Penticton Farmers’ Market, in the 100 block of Main Street, has to either make the product they are selling, bake it, or grow it. And a high percentage have their organic certification. From May to October, it’s the best place to buy the highest quality local foods from your free-range eggs to organic honey, to gourmet preserves and freshly cut, locally grown flowers. Now, you can even sample and purchase local wines, spirits, ciders, and beers. How’s that for a fresh air Okanagan culinary experience?

If you need a few suggestions, join the lineup at Joy Road Catering. Its seasonal fruit galettes, cinnamon buns, and naturally leavened sourdough breads are legendary. Or, find Farmersdotter for wood-fired oven breads, and its incredible artisan garlic scape sea salt. Fill your cloth market bags with ultra-fresh seasonal organic vegetables at Honest Food Farms, Food from the Sun, or at Medley Organics. And buy a jar of the best honey you’ll ever taste from Cheryl and Blair Tarves of Similkameen Apiaries.

At the intersection of Main and Westminster / Front Street, the Downtown Penticton Community Market continues where the farmers market ends. Hundreds more booths stretch north especially in the thick of the summer. Here you’ll find everything from fresh blueberries from the Lower Mainland to clothing and crafts. I don’t normally recommend bottled salad dressing, but Okanagan Wineland Dressings’ garlic balsamic is a staple in my house.

Once you reach the end of the Community Market, make your way back north. As you return back to the farmers’ market, stop by Nummers! Gourmet. Chef and owner Carolynn Pawluk combines incredible flavour combinations in her Mexican ice treats called paletas. Essentially they are gourmet popsicles

Before you go, remember to make your way back to Backyard Beans. There’s a big blue Rubbermaid bin for that ceramic cup. You’ll need it again, next Saturday. And the Saturday after that till October.

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