Farmers Market Update: Early Spring

by | Feb 19, 2012
Daikon Radish

Daikon Radish

Normally in San Francisco we lament our lack of summer. Despite being in California, this city is notorious for being buried under a 300 ft blanket of fog from June til August. But this year, winter is oddly lacking.

We’ve had some rainy days here and there, but they haven’t lasted long and have been interrupted with unapologetic bursts of sunshine. As you can imagine, this is affecting our crops.

Broccoli

Broccoli

Even though we’re only half way through February, winter produce has dwindled dramatically, and we’re already seeing spring vegetables like fava beans and green onions.

Spring Onions

Spring Onions

I don’t know if this makes me happy or sad, but it is definitely odd. I mean, isn’t there something wrong with this picture?

February Tomatoes

February Tomatoes

But the nice part is walking through the market is a pleasure. The sun is out, but I haven’t seen the thick crowds we get in the summertime on those rare nice days.

Romanesco

Romanesco

Today I focused largely on green vegetables, but also brought home some seasonal goodies like mandarins and walnut oil.

Roasted Walnut Oil

Roasted Walnut Oil

I’m not sure what to make of the weather, but at least I’ll be eating well.

Today’s purchases (~$40):

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Farmers Market Update: Autumn

by | Oct 16, 2011
Winter Squash

Winter Squash

Alright Mother Nature, you win. It’s autumn now and I’ll accept it, even if San Francisco only had about five days over 80 degrees this year. I don’t need summer when I have produce like this.

Thompson Grapes

Thompson Grapes

Bring on your autumn grapes. Grapes have never been my favorite fruit, but they are so sweet and crispy this year I can’t resist them. I like wine too, and harvest is soon. Grapes are ok with me.

Flame Grapes

Flame Grapes

I’ll take your apples too. These heirloom varietals don’t taste anything like the overly sweet fujis I grew up with. These apples remind me of what I’ve always wished apples tasted like whenever I have apple cider.

Autumn Apples

Autumn Apples

And these little wickson apples, the size of golf balls, are as complex as a glass of wine.

Wickson Apples

Wickson Apples

Of course I don’t mind the sweet white pomegranates, with their pink seeds and delicate flavor. They aren’t as sour as the red ones are this early in the season, and the seeds aren’t nearly as tough and woody.

White Pomegranates

White Pomegranates

I finally gave in and got some brussels sprouts too. Sure I used to hate them, but once I learned the secret to cooking these little guys they became a welcome guest on my dinner plate. I’m especially fond of the smaller sprouts like the ones I found today, because they are almost never bitter.

Early Brussels Sprouts

Early Brussels Sprouts

With Halloween approaching not even the winter squash offend me, but these days I eat them instead of carve them.

Sugar Pie Pumpkins

Sugar Pie Pumpkins

Yes I’ll miss summer—or at least the idea of it. I’ll miss the peaches and plums.

Peaches

Peaches

I’ll revel in the last of the figs and melons.

Brown Turkey Figs

Brown Turkey Figs

Maybe if I’m lucky you’ll give me a few more weeks of eggplant.

White Eggplant

White Eggplant

Perhaps the sweet peppers will last until my birthday next month.

Sweet Peppers

Sweet Peppers

Or maybe the spicy ones will?

Hot Peppers

Hot Peppers

What always breaks my heart most is the tomatoes. I can live a few months without strawberries, but the tomatoes really get me. Everything is better with a dry-farmed early girl tomato on it. It will be hard to see them go.

Organic Cherry Tomatoes

Organic Cherry Tomatoes

But I love my cauliflower. (Pretty much everyone loves my cauliflower). And it will keep me company as fall rolls in and winter approaches.

Cauliflower

Cauliflower

I’ll embrace your root vegetables as they sweeten in the cold.

Beets and Carrots

Beets and Carrots

I’ll give you some time on the persimmons though, I don’t think they’re quite ready yet.

Hachiya Persimmons

Hachiya Persimmons

Today’s purchases (~$40):

  • Heirloom kabocha squash
  • Savoy cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Leeks
  • Red Russian kale
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Wickson apples
  • Daikon
  • Ginger root
  • Garlic
  • Dahlias

Is your farmers market still running?

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Farmers Market Update: Summer Tomatoes!

by | Aug 14, 2011
Gigantic Tomato

Gigantic Tomato

This is by far my favorite time of year to go to the farmers market, it’s truly amazing. (If you’re interested in joining me next week, there are still a few slots left in my two market tours, 8am and 10am).

More than any other time of year the market is overflowing with life and bounty. The fruits are sweet, juicy and abundant, making it hard to decide which delicate morsels to cradle into my bag and try to get home undamaged.

O'Henry Peaches

O'Henry Peaches

Sea of Strawberries

Sea of Strawberries

We’re finally entering late summer, which means all the best summer tomatoes are finally here. The dry farmed early girls are my favorite, because they’re easiest to get home and amazingly sweet and rich in flavor.

Early Girl Tomatoes

Early Girl Tomatoes

But today I was also blown away by these giant heirloom tomatoes. They were as big as pumpkins!

Heirloom Tomatoes

Heirloom Tomatoes

While we’ve had sweet peppers for several weeks now, the spicy chilies are just starting to appear. I got some jalepenos, but I’m excited to see Thai chilies are available as well.

Thai Chilies

Thai Chilies

Eggplants, my gateway vegetable, are also a late summer delicacy. As a former eggplant hater, I find that the long thin plants are easier to work with and often taste better than their rounder cousins. The light purple color of these were particularly striking this week.

Eggplant

Eggplant

Late summer is also the time for corn, which not coincidently pairs exceptionally well with all the above vegetables. I love it raw off the cob or pan cooked quickly with summer squash and peppers. But I’m going to experiment with some new techniques using the ones I bought today.

Corn

Corn

Summer Squash

Summer Squash

Of course cooking is more fun with the abundance of summer herbs. This time of year I always have cilantro, dill and basil on hand.

Fresh Dill and Cilantro

Fresh Dill and Cilantro

If you love basil, look around your farmers market for vendors that sell it with the roots attached. You can bring it home and put it into a vase with water. I’m still using one I bought several weeks ago with one of my market classes. Just be sure to change the water 1-2x per week, and that the plant has access to light. I tried keeping some in my kitchen but it always wilted in one day if I didn’t move it near a window.

Rooted Basil

Rooted Basil

This is also my favorite time of year for salads. I make a big one most days for lunch, and the huge variety of greens like spinach and radicchio help mix it up and allow me to make something that tastes different every day. I love how the bloomsdale spinach is so deeply colored that it almost looks blue.

Radicchio

Radicchio

Bloomsdale Spinach

Bloomsdale Spinach

Fresh legumes including peas, green beans and shelling beans are staples in my kitchen this time of year as well.

Cranberry Shelling Beans

Cranberry Shelling Beans

Though I don’t talk about it much, melons (particularly the heirloom varieties I often find at the market) are a completely different experience when I get them directly from farmers. The rich complexity of the smell alone is intoxicating, and the flavor is nothing like the typical honeydew, cantaloupe and watermelon I’ve had from the grocery store.

Watermelon

Watermelon

Lastly, the grapes are finally here. They’re particularly sweet and crisp this year, which is how I love them.

Red Flame Grapes

Red Flame Grapes

Today’s purchases (~$55):

What did you find this week at the farmers market?

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For The Love Of Food

by | Jun 10, 2011

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

All in all, today’s links are really depressing. Industrial food will be the death of us. Luckily Stephen Colbert is around to make it funny.

Want to see all my favorite links? Be sure to follow me on on Digg. I also share links at Twitter (@summertomato) and the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you.

Links of the week

What inspired you this week?

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Farmers Market Update: Best Cherries Ever

by | May 29, 2011
Mountain of Cherries

Mountain of Cherries

I’ve been doing this farmers market thing for awhile now, and I have to say that cherries are without a doubt some of the most difficult fruit to photograph. They’re so bright red that it washes out nearly every detail on the fruit, and drowns every other color in the frame.

Consequently I rarely feature my cherry images, and today would have been no different if I didn’t think leaving them out would be a crime. Because anyone who went to the San Francisco farmers market this weekend knows that the cherries were the star of the show.

Tasty Strawberries

Tasty Strawberries

And that’s no small feat this time of year. Today I tasted a strawberry so good I thought it had been injected with sugar, because it reminded me more of the sweetened agua fresca drinks from the taquerias in the Mission district than it did any natural fruit.

But still the cherries were better. Not only that, they’re better than they were last year and possibly the year before that. Honestly it was difficult to not buy some from every farm I stopped at, and I do regret not coming home with more. Don’t miss the cherries this year folks.

Brooks Cherries

Brooks Cherries

Of course there were other notable spring treats as well. Rhubarb is here, and before the season ends I’m determined to try to figure out how to use it. Most of the recipes I’ve seen for it are sweet, which I’m not so excited about. If you know of any good savory recipe, please let me know.

Rhubarb

Rhubarb

Generally all the spring vegetables are still amazing. I’m especially loving the sweet spring onions, though I’m normally not a huge onion person. This year I’m adding green onions to everything from eggs to salad. The leeks are excellent too.

Spring Vegetables

Spring Vegetables

Oddly even summer produce is starting to appear. I was stunned today to see watermelon and peppers this early in the season. The vendor told me it was from their farm in Southern California, which makes a bit more sense.

First Watermelon

First Watermelons

But as much as I love summer, I’m not ready to skip ahead just yet. I still haven’t tried any of these beautiful blueberries on my morning muesli.

Blueberries

Blueberries

Nor have I found anything to do with green almonds yet this season.

Green Almonds

Green Almonds

And the last of the citrus fruits shouldn’t be ignored either. This late in the season tangelos, navel oranges and kumquats are the best. Though we had some spectacular blood orange juice this weekend as well.

Kumquats

Kumquats

It’s truly an amazing time of year for the farmers market. Don’t miss it.

Big Tomatoes

Big Tomatoes

Today’s purchases:

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Farmers Market Update: Spring Showers

by | Mar 20, 2011
Miner's Lettuce

Miner's Lettuce

Sometimes I’m less excited to go to the farmers market in the rain, but after spending last week in Austin consuming nothing but meat and alcohol I was ecstatic to get back to the market today, even if it meant getting a little wet.

Rainbow Umbrella

Rainbow Umbrella

Luckily my efforts did not go unrewarded. To my astonishment I found stunningly beautiful, deep red heirloom tomatoes today. Tomatoes! I was floored and can’t wait to find out if they taste as good as they look.

First Heirloom Tomatoes

First Heirloom Tomatoes

Also remarkable was the appearance of strawberries. Granted they weren’t as pretty as I know they will be next month, but it’s always wonderful to see a splash of color on an otherwise gray and gloomy day.

First Strawberries

First Strawberries

I had a blast at the farmers market this weekend, stocking up on asparagus, kale, collards, spring onions, and adorable little carrots.

Thumbalina Carrots

Thumbalina Carrots

Green Garlic Bunches

Green Garlic Bunches

I also found some more rare spring delicacies, like miner’s lettuce and fiddlehead ferns.

Fiddlehead Ferns

Fiddlehead Ferns

And don’t forget to get the best of this amazing citrus season while you have the chance.

Whole Blood Oranges

Whole Blood Oranges

Happy spring everyone!

Today’s purchases ($38):

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Farmers Market Update: Fleet Week

by | Oct 10, 2010
Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge

San Francisco is a zoo this weekend, but it’s awesome. It’s Fleet Week, which means we have the Blue Angels buzzing over our heads several times a day. And the weather couldn’t be better to hang out on rooftops and watch the action.

Because we are in the middle of changing seasons, the farmers market is a new adventure every week. As summer produce wanes, autumn produce is ramping up. Some of the new items will last all winter, and others are only around a few weeks during the interim.

Pumpkins and Tomatoes

Pumpkins and Tomatoes

White pomegranates are a special treat only around for a couple weeks this time of year. They are sweeter and their pink, translucent seeds are softer than the more typical red pomegranates. Definitely try one if you get the opportunity.

Shin Li Asian Pears

Shin Li Asian Pears

White Pomegranates

White Pomegranates

Asian pears are another temporary item at the market. They’re delicate, watery flesh and subtle flavor make them easy to over look, but it’s fun to bring a few different varietals home and experiment with their unique flavors while you have the chance.

Organic Quince

Organic Quince

Fresh Chestnuts

Fresh Chestnuts

Chestnuts and quince will also be around for a short time and are fun to experiment with. I also saw persimmons for the first time this week.

Cherry Tomatoes

Cherry Tomatoes

First Persimmons

First Persimmons

At this time of year though, my favorite foods are still the late summer produce. I can’t get enough tomatoes and peppers. I adore them. And they pair so beautifully with fresh herbs and almost anything.

Fresh Herbs

Fresh Herbs

Hot Peppers

Hot Peppers

And let’s not forget about vegetables. It’s last call on winter squash and eggplant. But you can also find fall favorites like brussels sprouts and artichokes.

Artichokes

Artichokes

Baby Brussels Sprouts

Baby Brussels Sprouts

Also notable is that Warren pears are now available at Frog Hollow, and you can pick up some fresh whole wheat tortillas at Massa Organics.

Whole Wheat Tortillas

Whole Wheat Tortillas

Warren Pears

Warren Pears

I’m leaving for Hawaii early this week so I only picked up some white pomegranates and padron peppers.

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Farmers Market Update: End Of Summer

by | Oct 3, 2010
Bronx Grapes

Bronx Grapes

End of summer is always a confusing time in San Francisco, because it is inevitably the nicest weather we’ve had in the city since early May. For the first time all year we pull out our shorts and sandals, while the rest of the country is whining about humidity and getting their pumpkins ready for halloween. It happens every year.

The local produce plays these tricks on us as well. Right now we’re seeing the best of the summer’s fruits. The peaches are perfect, the melons magnificent, the plums spectacular. And of course we’re now getting perfect summer tomatoes.

Sweet Corn

Sweet Corn

Perfect Summer Tomatoes

Perfect Summer Tomatoes

Summer vegetables are equally as awesome. The eggplants, peppers, corn and squash are impossible to ignore with their bright colors and lovely aromatics.

Peppers

Peppers

Eggplants and Peppers

Eggplants and Peppers

But the signs of fall are no longer subtle here in San Francisco. Not only are grapes and apples some of the best fruits available this month, but pomegranates and pears are here as well.

First Pomegranates

First Pomegranates

Winter Banana Apples

Winter Banana Apples

We’re also seeing brussels sprouts and winter squash.

Cauliflower and Broccoli

Cauliflower and Broccoli

First Brussels Sprouts

First Brussels Sprouts

Without a doubt this is one of the best times to eat in San Francisco, but it won’t last long. Get it while the gettin’s good.

Rainbow Chard

Rainbow Chard

Today’s purchases:

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Farmers Market Update: Living Easy

by | Sep 12, 2010
Black and Green Figs

Black and Green Figs

It’s finally summertime in San Francisco. Woohoo! And what a beautiful day to return to my beloved farmers market.

Since I was sick and working on finishing my thesis I hadn’t been to the market in weeks, a lapse I haven’t made in years. It was terrible. But now that those things are behind me I was thrilled to return to the market today and stock up on delicious foods to get my healthstyle back on track. Life is good.

White Nectarines

White Nectarines

Sungold Tomatoes

Sungold Tomatoes

We are currently at the peak of summer: tomatoes are ripe, stone fruit is juicy and greens are plentiful. Now is your chance to get the best peaches, nectarines, figs, melons and pluots. I was so taken by the iridescent pink glow of these pluots I forgot to look at the name of the varietal (or maybe I’m out of practice).

Pluots

Pluots

I was sure to grab enough lettuce, cucumber and tomatoes for salads this week. I also got some kale for dinner, and green beans for more pickling.

Sharlyn Melons

Sharlyn Melons

Green and Yellow Beans

Green and Yellow Beans

I am also seeing the beginning of some of the fall fruits like grapes, pears and apples.

Comice Pears

Comice Pears

Grapes

Grapes

The apples looked amazing today. There are so many heirloom varieties I’ve never heard of, I grabbed a few different kinds just to get myself acquainted. I’m particularly excited about these pink pearl apples I found at the Apple Farm.

Jonathan Apples

Jonathan Apples

Pink Pearl Apples

Pink Pearl Apples

Nature never lets us forget that the next season is right around the corner. I spotted potatoes today and *gasp* winter squash. As delicious as they are, I don’t think I’m quite ready to make that leap yet, I’m going to enjoy the rest of my summer first.

Potatoes and Winter Squash

Potatoes and Winter Squash

There were a couple other interesting finds today in San Francisco. Langier Ranches was offering a fruit called paw paws, which look like a mango but taste more creamy and less acidic. I was also ecstatic to see my favorite bean company Rancho Gordo has started offering heirloom corn tortillas. Yes, I bought some.

Heirloom Corn Tortillas

Heirloom Corn Tortillas

Paw Paws

Paw Paws

Today’s purchases:

What did you find at the market this week?

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Farmers Market Update: Salad Time

by | Jul 18, 2010
Tokyo Turnips

Tokyo Turnips

At this time of year, salad might be my favorite food. I know, salad sounds boring. It sounds cold, tasteless and painfully healthy. The kind of healthy that no one really wants to be.

But in early summer health is the last thing on my mind when I choose to make salad. Truth is I just can’t wait to eat all the beautiful greens and fixings I find each week at the farmers market. Food like this is a treat, and probably not at all what you think of when you think of salad.

Any good salad starts with greens. The little gem lettuces, arugula, spinach, mizuna and even more untraditional greens like purslane.

Purslane

Purslane

Salad Mix

Salad Mix

Purslane is a succulent green that is supposedly high in omega-3 fatty acids. Personally I eat it for its lemony flavor and unique texture. It’s a great addition to any salad mix.

After greens I like to layer flavors and textures into my salads. Cucumbers from the farmers market are completely different from the flavorless, waxy beasts I remember from childhood salads.

Armenian Cucumbers

Armenian Cucumbers

I love the long, curly Armenian cucumbers, but you can also find Mediterranean cucumbers, lemon cucumbers and several other varieties I’ve never tried. Most don’t require peeling. If you don’t have cucumbers, raw sweet summer squash are delicious in salads too.

Zephyr Squash

Zephyr Squash

Lemon Cucumbers

Lemon Cucumbers

Turnips, radishes and carrots are particularly good salad additions in early summer, contributing a distinctive crunch and deeper flavor than the delicate lettuces and cucumber. If you choose good quality turnips and radishes, their greens can be added to your salad mix as well.

Rainbow Carrots

Rainbow Carrots

French Breakfast Radishes

French Breakfast Radishes

Summer tomatoes add both sweetness and brightness to salads, because of their relatively high sugar and acid content. For salads I prefer the deeply flavored heirloom varieties such as cherokee purple and brandywine varieties. Roasted peppers can serve a similar function.

Sweet Peppers

Sweet Peppers

Summer Tomatoes

Summer Tomatoes

To add substance I turn to foods that are higher in fat and protein, like avocados, nuts, eggs, grain or meats. Today I picked up some avocados and eggs from the farmers market. My favorite salad green of late is the chewy and rustic farro grain. If you haven’t tried it yet I highly recommend it.

I like to finish my salad with summer fruits and herbs. Any stone fruit is fantastic and pairs nicely with balsamic vinaigrettes. Figs are also delicious if you can find them.

Pluots

Pluots

Other things I loved this week include the Ruby grand nectarines from Frog Hollow and organic cauliflower.

Organic Cauliflower

Organic Cauliflower

Frog Hollow Ruby Grand Nectarines

Frog Hollow Ruby Grand Nectarines

Today’s purchases:

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