Bangkok’s Organic Farmers Market at Bo.lan

The newest organic farmers market in Bangkok is worth a visit, both for the food and the company.
By Jessica Smith

These days, in some parts of the world, organic produce has become commonplace everywhere from chain grocery stores to local farmers markets.  In the United States, warehouse food stores sell organic cherry tomatoes in bulk and 10 pound bags of organic brown rice.  Slowly but surely, Thailand is picking up the trend, with a few locations in Bangkok providing evidence that farmers are moving away from the use of pesticides and embracing organic techniques.  Perhaps the most promising sign for those of us living in Thailand’s sprawling capital is the recent emergence of an organic farmers market at the popular restaurant, Bo.lan.

The market, having just opened in January, is hosted in the charming courtyard at Bo.lan (Sukhumvit 26) and is scheduled to be open on the first Saturday of every month.  The view of bright umbrellas and the buzz of friendly chatter were as inviting as the offerings on each table when I made my way to the market this weekend.  I was thrilled to find that the market not only contains the  organic produce that one would expect (tomatoes, cilantro, a variety of lettuces, cucumbers, chills) but offers a number of specialty items that compete for attention.  Soaps, flavored oils, unusual types of rice, eggs, and cheese were all naturally sourced and beautifully displayed.  Perhaps, most enjoyable of all, was the eagerness with which Bo.lan’s purveyors invite customers to sample and discuss the items for sale.

As I made my way through the market, filling my grocery bags, vendors offered samples of creamy, tart goat cheese from a small farm outside of Bangkok, or a spoon of fragrant black rice from the man who, himself, had grown it.  An enthusiastic vendor offered a taste of unusual and creative infused oils in every flavor imaginable, citing cooking tips and potential health benefits for each. Cinnamon oil – put it in a curry or rub it on sore joints!

Not only is Bo.lan making it realistic for Bangkok residents to find organic goods from small local farms, but the market is helping to prove that it is possible to offer organic food at a reasonable price.  Bags of organic lettuce were available for 25 baht (less than a dollar U.S.), a bouquet of aromatic cilantro came in at 10 baht, organic chicken and duck eggs ranged between 3-5 baht each (and the friendly family selling them packaged up a couple extra for free).

The Bo.lan farmers market is worth a trip if you are in Bangkok.  The food and cause are well worth supporting and, though Bo.lan still cannot manage to discourage the use of the ubiquitous plastic bags in which every food item in Bangkok tends to be served, they certainly are trying.  If you stop by on a Saturday, bring your own reusable bag.  Actually, bring two – you’ll surely find a way to fill them.

 

Bo.lan 
Sukhumvit Soi 26 (directions provided here)
Farmers Market – 1st Saturday of every month (9:30am – 2:30pm)

Jessica Smith

Jessica Smith is a native of the American Midwest, currently living in Thailand where she writes about food and travel throughout Southeast Asia. Jessica believes that the best way to understand a place is through its local cuisine.

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10 Comments
  1. Thanks for sharing information about the organic market in Bangkok. By any chance do you know where I could buy green plantains in Bangkok? I recently arrived to Thailand and I was under the impression that plantains were available everywhere. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen them.

    Your guidance will be greatly appreciated.

  2. Martha – unfortunately, I can’t say that I have bought plantains in Bangkok, but you might try Gourmet Market (there is a large one on the top floor of CentralWorld mall). The large chain grocery stores seem to have the best variety of produce from all over the world. The climate certainly seems as if it would be right for plantains, but I have never seen them cooked or sold here.

  3. Hi Jessica,

    Although I agree that there are very few, if any, organic farmers market available in central Bangkok. I cannot agree with the fact that organic farming has just started in Thailand. I think since I was very young, the idea of organic farming existed throughout Thailand since the early 1990s if not before. Some local farmers were supported by either governmental or royal institutions, such as the Doi Kham project, to grow sustainable food. Also if you visit local markets and able to ask the sellers, you will always find stalls with organic fruits and vegetables, though never advertised. I even felt that Thai people were early adopters to sustainability and organic farming, even earlier than those in Europe or the US.

    So, even though I believe that this blog is very intriguing and exciting. To say that Thailand has slowly but surely picking up the trend is not entirely correct. But rather the reason why there hasn’t been much awareness was due to the lack of information readily available to the public.

    I hope that you can take this comment as correction rather than accusation, as I also believe that public awareness should be promoted and local farmers should not be pressurized by capitalism that has driven many to ignore sustainability.

  4. Hi Tua, thanks so much for your informed comments. I think you are absolutely right that the challenge may be a lack of information rather than a lack of availability. I have had a very difficult time finding a full selection of organic produce at grocery stores in Bangkok, but I fully agree that many vendors may be carrying organic items, perhaps sometimes without advertising this fact. While I don’t find it to be as widely available that I can purchase it on a weekly basis, the Royal Project produce is absolutely fantastic, and I know has been promoting sustainable, organic production in Thailand for quite some time. Thank you again for reading and chiming in.

  5. What I didn’t realize was how much better Asian food could be than what my experience of it was. A lot of Chinese cuisine in America is actually nothing like the traditional style. It is much too greasy, and dominated by a simple array of flavors that doesn’t really capture the complexity of Asian cooking.`

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  7. Dear Jessica,

    Thanks for your information about the organic market in Bangkok, Could you give me the detail address for this market at Bo.lan? Do you have any trusty adresses for organic food store or suppliers in Bangkok since I will be visting Bangkok next week from 18 to 23 September and have the 2 first days to discover this aspect.

    Thanks
    Kim

  8. Hi,

    My Name is Prithvi I am planning to travel to bangkok for an assignment. While I am there I just though if I can meetup some Organic farmers or farmer unions near to bangkok to understand how organic works in Thai. I am coming from India and I also work with small farmers in Tamilnadu on sustainable living. On seeds zero chemicals etc.. I want to meet if we can interact and understand ideas on thai way of living and farming. Please let me know if I can meet someone near bangkok. I will be in Bangkok on 26th of february. your reply will be very helpful.

    Regard’s
    Prithviraj
    9841424349
    anprithvi@hotmail.com

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