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West Palm Beach greenmarket a gift on a dreary day

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OK, so compared to the rest of the country, South Florida has no weather complaints.

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But it was not exactly Chamber of Commerce weather this Saturday, with low clouds and on-and-off drizzle. But the crowds of locals and visitors were unfazed as they filled the streets and jammed the parking garages for the weekly West Palm Beach greenmarket. Today's event featured the deconstruction of the city's giant sand holiday "tree" by any kid (or kid at heart) with the will and the ability to climb the 35-foot, 600-ton sculpture.

With everything from pickles and pie to bialys and macrobiotic foods, this is a market that offers anything you want to eat, plus flowers, crafts, soaps, candles and pet treats, plus an expanded antique and flea market located just north of the greenmarket. You could shop for several hours, have lunch, and keep right on shopping. Or stroll along the waterfront, looking at all the yachts your money cannot buy.

A few of the vendors to check out while you wander:

Palm Beach Pastry has incredible sweets: cookies in classic flavors like chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin and snickerdoodle, but how about double chocolate white chip pretzel and white chocolate cranberry pistachio? They turn out cookie pies and pizzas, tea breads and crumb cakes, a fruit-and-seed packed breakfast cookie and elegant classic cakes from six-inch to half-sheets. They do special events, including weddings, and they deliver.

Stephen's Produce, one of the original vendors at the market's beginnings is still here, still selling fresh produce from those big white coolers. And people are still lining up for whatever there is, from mung beans to leafy greens.

Swank Farms often hosts lunches and gatherings at their farm, and have famous chefs come out and cook. If you cannot make it there, you can always come to the market to pick up some of the same specialty produce items used by these chefs in their restaurants.

Pickled Pink joins the ever-growing number of pickle-makers in the area. Owner MaryLea Moffat, her mother Trudy McConnell, grandmother Mary McConnell and son Myles Cross work together to pickle everything from cukes to beets to olives and even berries.

The size of this market, now in its 19th year, guarantees wonderful variety. If you crave lobster chowder, a vegetable omelet, pickled vegetables or red velvet donuts, you can eat it here. All the 100+ vendors are locals, and many are cottage industry, or got their start that way. If you are visiting, this is a great place to start your Saturday downtown.

The West Palm Beach Greenmarket, 101 S. Flagler Drive, at Waterfront commons Park, West Palm Beach, FL. Hours: every Saturday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. through May 31. The flea market is located just two blocks north, between 1st Street (Banyan Boulevard) and 2nd Street, behind the old City Hall building. City garage parking is free until 4 p.m., but note that street meters are enforced on Saturdays until 7 p.m. There are private lots near the market, but their rates vary. The market welcomes leashed, well-behaved dogs.

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