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Farmers Market Update: Perfect Day

by | May 30, 2010
Bay Bridge

Bay Bridge

Saturday was a perfect day in San Francisco. It was warm, clear and beautiful. The farmers market was full of cherries, peaches and strawberries, and I tasted the best apricot ever at Frog Hollow Farm.

Basically it was too nice to stay inside writing about it. Photos will have to suffice today.

Bing Cherries

Bing Cherries

Green Garlic

Green Garlic

Loquats

Loquats

Peppers

Peppers

Potatoes

Potatoes

Red Onions

Red Onions

Saturn Peaches

Saturn Peaches

Shallots

Shallots

White Peaches & Apricots

White Peaches & Apricots

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Farmers Market Update: Fruit Explosion

by | May 23, 2010
Apricots

Apricots

The San Francisco farmers market was a very different place this week compared to how I last saw it. Cherries, the first pitted stone fruit of the season, first appeared two weeks ago. But today fruit took over the market completely.

I must have tasted cherries from at least a dozen different growers this week, and they were all delicious. But the fruit explosion didn’t stop there. Apricots, peaches and nectarines were all available, and they tasted much better than I expected them to this early in the season. This week also marked the first appearance of local blueberries, which is very exciting.

First Blueberries

First Blueberries

White Nectarines

White Nectarines

The strawberries that had been somewhat elusive the past few weeks are now plentiful. And they are breathtaking.

Dirty Girl Strawberries

Dirty Girl Strawberries

If all this talk of berries and stone fruits is starting to sound like summer to you, I have some more good news. Summer squash is now available at the farmers market and looking delectable. I even found nopales (cactus petals), something that reminds me of the hot summers in Southern California.

Nopales

Nopales

First Summer Squash

First Summer Squash

I know all this is exciting, but let’s try to remember not to get too far ahead of ourselves. Spring is still dishing up delightful carrots, greens, peas, artichokes and delicacies such as green almonds. Enjoy them while you have the chance.

Fresh Almonds

Fresh Almonds

Little Carrots

Little Carrots

Today’s purchases:

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Farmers Market Update: Fruit Bonanza!

by | Jun 14, 2009
Red-Orange Apricots

Orange-Red Apricots

I was completely out of control at the farmers market this weekend. It’s embarrassing really. I have absolutely no self-control when it comes to NOT buying stone fruit and berries. None.

Consequently I spent way more money than I normally do at the market. But after thinking about this for a few hours I realized I would be crazy to have done otherwise.

Boysenberries

Boysenberries

Pluots

Pluots

There is no other time of year when you can get perfect, meaty, sweet and tangy cherries in 3 or 4 different varietals. Apricots come in all shape, sizes and colors, and a mushy one cannot be found among them. Plums and pluots are like the hand-picked candy of God herself. There are only a few weeks left in blueberry season, but boysenberries and blackberries demand your undivided attention. Strawberries are as sweet as they will ever be.

Strawberries

Strawberries

Rainier Cherries

Rainier Cherries

What else was I supposed to do?

But at $5-8 dollars a pound it put a serious dent in my wallet. The thing is though, these are real treats. I cannot buy them the rest of the year even if I wanted to. The cheaper ones at Safeway are not even worth discussing.

I easily spent $30 on fruit today, which I never do. Luckily the luscious kale I bought was only $1.75 and is 2-3 large servings. The baby savoy cabbages came in at under $2 as well.

The summer squash I bought last week from Lucero farms were ridiculously sweet and delcious, especially the yellow ones. They are even good raw! I bought a bunch more this week, as well as a few of the self-proclaimed “world’s best cucumber.”

Baby Eggplants

Baby Eggplants

Purple Onions & Cucumbers

Purple Onions & Cucumbers

A few eggplants are starting to show up too.

For those of you who are as excited about summer tomatoes as I am, Oliveto restaurant (Oakland) has started Tomato Watch 2009. Tomato Watch is an online video journal documenting the tomato crops of some of the best tomato farms in the Bay Area. Don’t miss the action!

For the first time I bought soy milk from Hodo Soy, the maker of my favorite tofu. I’m lactose intolerant and therefore prefer soy milk in my breakfast cereal and coffee (unsweetened, full-fat soy milk, of course). Traditionally I have bought Silk brand unsweetened soy milk, but I recently learned that since Silk was bought by Dean Foods they have switched from U.S. grown organic beans to conventional soy beans largely imported from China. I think it’s safe to assume everything from China is filled with lead and cyanide (kinda kidding, but kinda not), so I no longer buy Silk. I’ve been experimenting with Wildwood, but I thought I would try something new this week. I’m interested to see what Hodo can do.

There are so many amazing varietals of stone fruits at the market right now I can’t even pretend to keep up with them all.

Do you have any favorites? Please tell me about them in the comments!

Today’s purchases:

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Farmers Market Update: Cheapest Produce Ever

by | May 24, 2009
Avocado

Avocado

And now for something completely different.

In a break from my usual elitist glory San Francisco farmers market adventure, I took a field trip this weekend to sunny Southern California where I discovered the cheapest produce I have ever seen in this state. Seriously, it was crazy.

Normally I prefer to hit up either the Irvine or Santa Monica markets when I’m in the OC. But this Saturday wasn’t amenable to a drive across town so instead I visited the Orange County Marketplace at the fairgrounds in Costa Mesa on Sunday. It is open 7am to 4pm Saturdays and Sundays, admission $2.

The OC Marketplace is really more of a swap meet than a farmers market, but there is a whole section for fresh produce. At the vegetable stands I found what I consider typical Southern California fare–tomatoes, avocados, citrus, squash and peppers–with a few seasonal items mixed in. I saw nothing particularly exotic, and the quality of produce ranged from not-so-hot to pretty good.

What is truly remarkable about this place is the prices.

Cheap Berries

Cheap Berries

Cheap Asparagus

Cheap Asparagus

Asparagus is typically $3-7 dollars per bunch at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. At the OC Marketplace it was $0.99. Berries, typically $3-6 per basket (even at the supermarket), dropped in price while we waited in line from (I kid you not) a ridiculously cheap 3 baskets for $2, to a mind-bogglingly cheap 4 baskets for $2. And from what I could tell they were perfectly ripe and in excellent condition.

Have you ever seen 7 white peaches for $1? I have.

Cheap Apricots

Cheap Apricots

Cheap Peaches

Cheap Peaches

Honestly, I don’t get it. If any of you can explain to me how this market can practically give away groceries I would love to know the reason.

My best guess is these are simply whole sale prices. In other words, these are the same goods grocery stores buy and sell to you for a higher price. The quality of produce was certainly more on par with grocery stores than what I have seen at other Southern California markets. And I doubt much of it was organic, though few items were clearly marked.

Alternatively these vendors could be offering a mix of whole sale and local fare. It wasn’t clear to me if/how any of the offerings were locally grown. This being California, however, it seems logical that at least some of the goods come from the area. When I asked someone where the food was from the answer I got was “the L.A. market,” which obviously is not a farm.

My worst fear is that much of this produce comes from the horrible slave farms that are starting to be exposed. Hopefully that isn’t true.

The source of this produce may be a little dubious, but I cannot imagine you finding a better deal anywhere in Orange County. If organic and local are less important to you than simply affording fresh healthy food, a trip to the OC Marketplace is easily worth the price of admission.

For you Bay Area readers, I’ve seen similar deals at the Ashby market in Berkeley (no admission fee).

Do you know anything about these swap meet style produce vendors?

Note: Since it is Memorial Day there will not be a new post on Monday. We’ll be back Wednesday–same Tomato time, same Tomato channel.

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Farmers Market Update: BYOB (video post)

by | May 17, 2009

Bring your own bags is the new message from the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. As of next weekend, the Saturday farmers market at the Ferry Building will no longer be providing free plastic bags to shoppers. Instead they encourage you to bring your own bags or purchase the reusable or biodegradable BioBags they will be selling at the information booth. Their goal is to help the environment by cutting down plastic bag waste generated by the market.

The Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture (CUESA) that runs the farmers market is leaving it up to individual vendors to decide how to deal with the change. Most of the vendors I spoke to will offer BioBags–some will provide them for free while others are charging $0.20 – 0.25 per bag. For your convenience you should plan on bringing a large tote bag to carry your items. For things like lettuces and berries, you should consider bringing your own small bags or expect to purchase environmentally friendly bags at the market.

Apricots and Strawberries

Apricots and Strawberries

Blueberries

Blueberries

The farmers market is a completely different place than it was just 4 weeks ago. You can still find delicate greens and spring garlic, but we now have all kinds of berries, cherries and other stone fruits that make it feel more like summer every day. Do yourself a favor and go find some blueberries from Triple Delight!

Also this week was the first appearance of my favorite frying peppers in the world, Pimientos de Padrón! I bought some and they were AMAZING. I love them early in the season because the spiciness level is perfect for me.

Bagged Padrones

Bagged Padrones

Colorful Heirloom Tomatoes

Colorful Heirloom Tomatoes

Maybe the best news of all is that the tomatoes are finally sweet! The heirloom I bought this week from Bruin Farms was the first of the season where I actually had trouble getting it from the cutting board to a serving bowl without eating it all first. I didn’t even need salt. That’s how you know it’s good 😉

Organic Artichokes

Organic Artichokes

Squash and Dandelion Greens

Squash and Dandelion Greens

Let me know how you guys like my second attempt at video. I didn’t have a camera man this time, so I limited the filming to my kitchen after I got home with all my goodies. Feedback welcome!!

Today’s purchases:

What did you find at the market?

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Farmers Market Update: UCSF Mission Bay

by | May 9, 2009
Baby Spring Onions

Baby Spring Onions

If there is one thing I never do it is skip my weekend Farmers Market trip, but today I am skipping it. The weather is beautiful in Northern California and I am spending the weekend hiking, eating and drinking in Tahoe with family. It’s Mother’s Day, it’s springtime and, mostly, I really need a vacation. Don’t worry, when I get back I will be able to pick up enough vegetables at Bi-Rite Market to last me until the UCSF Mission Bay farmers market on Wednesday (10am – 3pm), so my healthstyle will not suffer.

In the meantime I want to share with you some details of the Mission Bay farmers market, which has been an absolutely splendid addition to our quiet campus since it opened on Earth Day. Although the market is rather small, the quality and variety of the vendors makes it always worth a trip.

I love the exotic Asian greens available at Her Farm, where I found these beautiful baby spring onions. Other vendors offer more traditional seasonal produce, like jumbo artichokes and purple cabbages.

Purple Cabbage

Purple Cabbage

Jumbo Artichokes

Jumbo Artichokes

Fruits are also plentiful, and I have found some amazingly sweet strawberries (3 different varieties) and juicy navel oranges (only $1/lb!!). New this week were apricots–still a little tart–which are the first stone fruits to appear at this market (cherries showed up at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market last week). Summer is so close I can almost taste it!

First Pick Apricots

First Pick Apricots

Huge Strawberries

Huge Strawberries

Probably the coolest thing about the new market is all the artisan vendors selling homemade pasta, cured olives, nuts, smoked fish, raw honey, fresh tofu, crusty breads, Mediterranean dishes and vegan cookies. Though some of these sellers only come every other week, their presence really transforms the market from a simple vegetable stand into a true artisan marketplace where you can compose full gourmet meals using high-quality local ingredients.

Raw Honey

Raw Honey

Il Pastaio Pasta

Il Pastaio Pasta

Tell us what you’re eating for Mother’s Day!

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