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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: Brassica!

by | Dec 6, 2009

Turnips

Turnips

This weekend was the Brassica Festival at the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers Market.

Brassica

Brassica

Brassica Bash!

Brassica Bash!

Brassica is a genus of vegetables in the mustard or cabbage family that includes cabbages, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, turnips, bok choy, kohlrabi and Brussels sprouts. They are also known as cruciferous vegetables, and I adore them.

Curly Kale

Curly Kale

Broccoli Crowns

Broccoli Crowns

In honor of the festival I stocked up on two kinds of kale, collard greens, broccoli and kohlrabi. I resisted Brussels sprouts since I got them last week. The great thing about brassica vegetables is they are very affordable, usually less than $2/bunch.

Kohlrabi

Kohlrabi

Generally I am spending a lot less money at the farmers market now that summer is over. I attribute this largely to the lack of berries and stone fruit. Oh, and my $10/week tomato habit has now dried up. But I can’t complain at all.

Daikon, Kohlrabi and Sunchokes

Daikon, Kohlrabi and Sunchokes

Baby Bok Choy

Baby Bok Choy

Citrus, especially the mandarins, are marvelous this season and getting better every week. Pomegranate seeds are by far my favorite thing on my breakfast. Pears from Frog Hollow Farm are freaky good.

Persimmons. Almonds. Walnuts.

I think I’m falling in love with autumn in San Francisco.

Kiwi

Kiwi

Mandarins

Mandarins

Hachiya Persimmons

Hachiya Persimmons

Almonds

Almonds

I finally got some kiwi this week. If you’re a kiwifruit fan, you absolutely must go try the ones from Four Sisters Farm, they have an unbelievable flavor that is almost floral. I had no idea kiwi could be so complex. These are really special.

Many of the farms are offering gift wrapped items for the holidays. Most of these things are pretty cute, probably delicious and something to consider if you’re shopping for any foodies.

Holiday Foodie Gifts

Holiday Foodie Gifts

Or for that person who has everything, you could always just get one of these giant parsnips. They are about the size of your head. Who doesn’t need jumbo parsnips?

Giant Parsnips

Giant Parsnips

Exactly.

Today’s Purchases:

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Farmers Market Update: Holiday Weekend

by | Nov 29, 2009

Leeks and Beets

Leeks and Beets

Probably my single favorite thing about Thanksgiving is that no matter what, it is always on a Thursday.

This simple temporal restriction gives us three full days to recover from too many mashed potatoes and that extra slice of pie we really didn’t mean to have. It also gives us time to stock up on healthy foods for the following week.

The San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers Market tends to be relatively empty after a holiday, which is nice for regular shoppers. I used this opportunity to sleep in a little and stroll slowly through the market once before going back and making the bulk of my purchases.

As expected, peppers, tomatoes and all other remnants of summer are now virtually non-existent, while signs of winter are undeniable.

Mandarins

Mandarins

Mandarins, lemons and oranges are widely available, and today I found the first pomelo of the season.

Pomelo are like huge grapefruit with thick skin, except they are not sour. I first learned to appreciate these fruits in Thailand, where vendors will cut and clean them for you right on the street. These big green pomelo with pink flesh are probably my favorite variety (but don’t hate me if I change my mind 2-3 times this season as new ones come out).

Early Pink Pomelo

Early Pink Pomelo

Meyer Lemons In Basket

Meyer Lemons In Basket

As much as I love citrus though, it is still tough for me to get too excited about it when pears, apples and persimmons are so unbelievably perfect.

Fuyu Persimmon

Fuyu Persimmon

In the vegetable world, the rockstars this week are roots, stalks and hearty leaves. I’ve been loving Tuscan kale (the dark, bumpy variety), chard, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, fennel and Brussels sprouts.

Celery, leeks, beets, onions and sweet potatoes are also worth playing around with this time of year.

Organic Celery

Organic Celery

Taylor Gold Pears

Taylor Gold Pears

And of course, I’m still obsessed with winter squash. With nothing but olive oil and sea salt, roasted red kuri squash tastes like pumpkin pie only better.

Lastly, it seems that the weekend after Thanksgiving is also the best time to go to the farmers market if you happen to be Super Mario.

If you live in SF, it is worth a trip to the Ferry Building just to see these GIGANTIC porcini mushrooms. I wouldn’t even know where to start with one of these bad boys, but I can’t help but marvel at them with a twinge of envy.

Giant Porcini

Giant Porcini

Seriously, what could you do with a mushroom like this besides grow super big or get a 1UP? If I had a few of these I could definitely save the princess.

Chantarelles, trumpet mushrooms and several other normal-sized fungi varieties are also in season.

Did any of you make it to the farmers market this week?

Today’s Purchases:


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Farmers Market Update: Last Call

by | Nov 15, 2009
Last Call On Peppers!

Last Call On Peppers!

It’s getting really cold in the Bay Area, especially at night. That means the last of the late summer produce will be disappearing completely in a week or two: this is your last chance for peppers, tomatoes and eggplants until next summer.

To capitalize on this situation I got myself a big bag of tomatillos, the green tomato-like fruit in a husk. If you aren’t familiar with tomatillos think of green Mexican salsa, which is made with them. They are kind of like a tomato but a bit more tangy and acidic. Tomatillos are wonderful in sauces and with meats. I bought some poblano peppers and cilantro to pair with them, but haven’t decided yet exactly what I’m going to make. Suggestions?

Grapes

Grapes

Organic Tomatillos

Organic Tomatillos

In addition to the poblanos I was also sure to pick up a final bag of padron peppers, since I love them so dearly. I got 3 other pepper varieties as well. I can’t help it, I adore peppers. I will miss them a little every day until they appear again next year. Luckily I dried a bunch of different Thai chilies this summer to tide me over.

Grapes are another thing to stock up on while you can. They are sweet and abundant right now, but will start disappearing in the coming weeks.

But don’t worry, not everything is on it’s way out. Lots of new stuff is turning up as well.

I spotted some black walnuts at Glashoff Farms today, which I’m told is a special treat. Has anyone tried them?

Black Walnuts

Black Walnuts

Interesting varieties of garlic and onions are also popping up. I found 2 varieties of shallots today–French and Dutch–as well as sweet cippolini onions at Dirty Girl Produce. Leeks are awesome now too.

Baby Leeks

Baby Leeks

Red Garlic

Red Garlic

At Frog Hollow there was a new variety of pear today, the seckel pear, which is tiny and bursting with flavor. After a sample I couldn’t help but buy as many as I could carry. And of course I got a Warren pear for the road.

Hachiya Persimmons

Hachiya Persimmons

Seckel Pears

Seckel Pears

It’s definitely time to start buying persimmons too. Just be sure you eat them when they are ripe, since unripe persimmons can be dangerous. The kiwi are looking good, though I haven’t tried them yet. Apples are still mind-bogglingly amazing.

And did I mention that citrus is starting to appear? Mandrins, grapefruits and lemons are all available now, although they are still a bit tart for me.

Star Ruby Grapefruit

Star Ruby Grapefruit

Early Mandarins

Early Mandarins

Last but not least, it’s truffle season. If you have piles of money laying around that you don’t know what to do with, these Italian white truffles could be yours!

per OUNCE!

per OUNCE!

Today’s Purchases:

  • Fuyu persimmons (Paredez Farms)
  • Tomatillos (Paredez Farm)
  • Poblano peppers (Happy Quail Farms)
  • Padron peppers (Happy Quail Farms)
  • Pimento pepper (Happy Quail Farms)
  • Piquillo pepper (Happy Quail Farms)
  • Other random hot pepper (Happy Quail Farms)
  • Seckel pears (Frog Hollow Farm)
  • Warren pear (Frog Hollow Farm)
  • Black twig apple (The Apple Farm)
  • Philo apple (The Apple Farm)
  • White winter permain apple (The Apple Farm)
  • Dutch shallots (Dirty Girl Produce)
  • Cippolini onion (Dirty Girl Produce)
  • Tuscan (dinosaur) kale (Capay Organics)
  • Dry-farmed Red kuri squash (Little Organic Farm)

Is your farmers market still open? What does it have?

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Farmers Market Update: Grand Lake Oakland

by | Oct 25, 2009
Tomatoes

Tomatoes

I’m delighted to introduce you to Stephanie Stiavetti who agreed to step in and cover the Grand Lake farmers market in Oakland while I was away this week.

Stephanie Stiavetti is a Bay Area freelance food and nutrition writer. Besides writing for magazines and radio, she also blogs about living a healthy gourmet (and gluten-free!) lifestyle at Wasabimon.com. Her top priority in life is eating well in every sense of the word and making sure people know that eating healthy can be a delicious endeavor.

You can also follow her on Twitter under the name @sstiavetti.

Thanks so much Stephanie!

Farmers Market Update: Grand Lake Oakland

Hello everyone!

This is Stephanie from Wasabimon, and I’m excited to be guest posting today on Summer Tomato. Darya’s asked me to take care of the weekly Farmers Market Update while she’s in Vegas, and since I live in the East Bay, today you’ll be getting a tour of Oakland’s Grand Lake Farmers Market.

For those not in the know, Oakland has a thriving farmers market community. With over ten markets throughout the week, East Bay residents have a lot of opportunities to buy organic, locally grown produce. Here’s just a sampling of what you can find at the Grand Lake market, which happens every Saturday from 9am – 2pm year round.

I love the colors of the market this time of year. So many bright colors as summer comes to a close! First I picked up a few of my obligatory (though no less lovely) squash and peppers from Capay Farms:

Peppers

Peppers

Squash

Squash

Right across the way was Rodriguez Farms, who have some of the best potatoes and strawberries around – and who doesn’t love the fact that we can get local strawberries this time of year? Yay California!

Strawberries

Strawberries

Potatoes

Potatoes

Next up were the gorgeous radishes and carrots at Ledesma Family Farms. There is always so much color in this booth and I need to wear sunglasses when I go inside:

Radishes

Radishes

Carrots

Carrots

After wandering around a little bit (and indulging in some kettle corn, my favorite treat), I hit the jackpot at Toscano and Sons. They have the sweetest cherry tomatoes ever! They make such a perfect addition to salads, and I can never resist them.

Cherry Tomatoes

Cherry Tomatoes

Toscano also had baby shallots and young leeks, which are just about my favorite things ever. I’m such an allium nut – I don’t cook with them all the time, but I love how there are so many different levels of flavor within the onion family:

Leeks

Leeks

Baby Shallots

Baby Shallots

Happy Boy Farms was full of lovely winter and summer squash, and as usual their herb table was full of the freshest, most fragrant greenery. Their heirloom tomatoes were off-the-charts colorful, though I had to resist the urge to buy any since I already have some at home. Happy Boy also has my favorite salad mix, with edible flowers mixed in with the rest of the greens. I mean, how could you resist this beautiful display?

Salad Greens

Salad Greens

I also discovered something new at the farmers market this week. I’ve seen jujubes before but hadn’t ever stopped to inspect further. These little Chinese dates are really good and I highly recommend you grab a handful if you ever see them!

Jujubees

Jujubees

Then how could I not stop and smell the roses at Western Sun Floral?

Roses

Roses

And on the way out the door, I stopped by my favorite stand, Marshall’s Farm Honey. Since I avoid refined sweeteners, honey is a mainstay in my kitchen:

Honey

Honey

I had a fabulous time at the Grand Lake Farmers Market today, and I hope you enjoyed my little photo tour. Thanks, Darya, for letting me share!

<3
~Steph

What did you find at your farmers market this week?

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Farmers Market Update: SummWinter

by | Oct 18, 2009
Hot Sauce

Hot Sauce

If I were only going to talk about one thing today it would have to be the peppers. What a season we are having! There are so many varieties I’m having trouble deciding what to buy each week.

Saturday I learned that ancho chilies–which I have only had dried–are actually just mature poblano peppers. Poblanos are the big dark green peppers (left in the photo below) that come stuffed with cheese and breaded in egg batter when you order chile relleno. (A good chile relleno might be my favorite Mexican food ever, but only from here. Half my family is Mexican, so I’m a little picky.)

This is the first time I’ve seen red Japanese Shishito peppers as well. They are usually green.

Red Japanese Shishito Peppers

Red Japanese Shishito Peppers

Ancho Chilies

Ancho Chilies

Anyway, I didn’t know you could ever find fresh anchos. For some reason I thought ancho defined some specific preparation of chili like chipotle, which is a smoked jalepeno. But it seems they are a type of pepper unto themselves, but also a version of a pepper I was familiar with. Confusing, I know.

Since poblanos are often spicy I expected the anchos to be even more so (peppers get hotter with age), but they were actually really sweet with only a hint of spice. I had them in eggs. It was amazing.

I also found a new variety of eggplant today, the como eggplant. These eggplants are small and dark, almost black, and very firm. This is because they have very little water and thus do not require the pre-salt that most eggplants need. They are supposed to be very sweet, creamy and not at all bitter. I couldn’t help but buy a few from Allstar Organics.

…Not sure what to make of this other eggplant I found….

Nixon Eggplant or Tricky Dick?

Nixon Eggplant or Tricky Dick?

Como Eggplants

Como Eggplants

But despite the prevalence of all this beautiful summer produce, the signs of imminent winter are not subtle.

I saw the first early citrus this week, including Meyer lemons (not quite ripe) and sweet limes. If you’ve never had a sweet lime, imagine if you tasted a lime that wasn’t sour at all. Then imagine it tasting a little bit like fake lime flavor. It’s weird. You probably wouldn’t want to eat it like you would any other sweet citrus fruit, but it is fabulous in cocktails. They are certainly worth playing around with.

First Sweet Limes

First Sweet Limes

First Meyer Lemons

First Meyer Lemons

But let’s not jump too fast from summer to winter. Autumn is providing us with spectacular heirloom apples, pears, pomegranates and grapes. And today I found quince!

Quince is a very old fruit that is like a mix between an apple and a pear, except you can’t eat it raw. But bake it in the oven or into some dessert and quince takes on a sublime flavor and creamy consistency almost like jelly. I’m not much of a pastry chef, but I like to cut a quince in half and bake it for dessert now and then.

Quince

Quince

Swaar Dutch Apples

Swaar Dutch Apples

I’m also delighted to announce that the first chocolate persimmons of the year have appeared! They are at Hamada Farms, so go get some while you can. I didn’t buy any today because there was a huge black spider on them (not pictured…she was hiding) and I’m a wimp, but I totally would have. Totally.

Spinach

Spinach

First Chocolate Persimmons

First Chocolate Persimmons

Also notable is that Green Gulch Farm called it quits for the season today, they will return next spring. I bought some spinach to remember them by.

Despite the rain, the dry-farmed early girl tomatoes from Dirty Girl Produce were…wait for it…even better than usual this week. I realize this makes no sense, but I swear.

I was happy to find that I could still get Soul Food eggs from Prather Ranch. I wasn’t sure they would be available after the devastating fire a few weeks ago. Happy to see they are still truckin’ along 🙂

And last but not least, I couldn’t say no to these beets from Capay Organics. Beets are always a great deal because you get 2 dishes out of a bunch: the roots and the greens.

The broccoli is looking pretty darn good these days too.

Organic Broccoli

Organic Broccoli

Beautiful Beets

Beautiful Beets

Today’s Purchases:

What are you eating?

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Farmers Market Update: Early Autumn

by | Oct 11, 2009
Mini Pumpkins

Mini Pumpkins

It never ceases to amaze me how quickly the seasons change. Just last week there were figs everywhere, but I couldn’t find any today. Instead there were piles and piles of persimmons, a sharp contrast to the one sad looking crop from last week.

But you can’t say I didn’t warn you about this. Summer is ending and autumn is in full swing. How often do you get to see oranges sitting next to nectarines? Not very often, I can assure you.

Early Fuyu Persimmons

Early Fuyu Persimmons

Oranges and Nectarines

Oranges and Nectarines

The main attractions right now at the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers Market are winter squash, peppers, pomegranates and grapes. You can also find nice rainbow chard, apples, pears, green beans, melons, eggplant and tomatoes. The first crop of walnuts and almonds have arrived, and the stinging nettles at Star Route looked pretty good (if you’re into that sorta thing).

Stinging Nettles

Stinging Nettles

Walnuts

Walnuts

I definitely learned a few new things while shopping today:

Apparently these Spitzenburg apples were Thomas Jefferson’s personal favorite. (say wha?)

Spitzenburg Apples

Spitzenburg Apples

Kabocha squash–my favorite as of last year–comes in both orange and green (I only knew about the green ones).

Orange & Green Kabocha Squash

Orange & Green Kabocha Squash

I also stumbled upon these funky looking jelly melons at Lucero Organic Farms. I had never seen these at the market before, so naturally I bought one. Also called “horned melon” and “blowfish fruit” I would have guessed these were native to Southeast Asia, but Wikipedia says they’re African. The sign up at Lucero claims they might be a good diet food too, whatever that means. If the one I got is any good I might get some more next week.

Jelly Melon

Jelly Melon

Following up from last week, I bought myself some of the sweet pepper chips from Happy Quail Farms, which were just too good to resist. And to spice things up I snagged two Scotch bonnet peppers from Tierra Vegetables. I think I’ll have to bring home a pair of nitrile gloves from the lab to handle these things, but hopefully I can turn them into something delicious.

Scotch Bonnet Peppers

Scotch Bonnet Peppers

Pepper Chips

Pepper Chips

And finally, I think I might have found my Halloween costume 😉

Today’s Purchases:

Fig Leaves

Fig Leaves

What are you eating?

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Farmers Market Update: Changing Seasons

by | Oct 4, 2009
Bosc Pears

Bosc Pears

Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t help but feel like there wasn’t much of a summer this year. In fact, if it weren’t for the amazing produce at the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, I wouldn’t believe it had been summer at all. Shouldn’t I have tan lines by now?

Yet somehow it is October.

And despite the confusing weather, it is clear that the market is moving on to fall. There is still plenty of summer bounty to be found, but make no mistake about it: this is your last chance for stone fruit, tomatoes, summer squash, corn, eggplant and melons.

Zucchini

Zucchini

Sweet Organic Melons

Sweet Organic Melons

The Sungold cherry tomatoes (the little orange ones) are especially awesome. But the most impressive thing I found at the market today was the chili peppers.

I never cared much about peppers before I started shopping at the farmers market, but I can assure you that nothing smells better in my market bag than the peppers. (Maybe the basil. But not really.)

Extra Hot Peppers

Extra Hot Peppers

Chili Pepper

Chili Pepper

A fellow market goer was blown away that Tierra Vegetables had these Scotch Bonnet peppers, which she said are necessary for making Jamaican jerk sauce. I had already spent over $10 on peppers, so I held off buying them until next week. But aren’t the beautiful?

Pepper Chips

Pepper Chips

Scotch Bonnet Peppers

Scotch Bonnet Peppers

I also got to try these funny looking pepper chips from Happy Quail Farms, and they were delicious! Sweet, flavorful and crisp without a drop of oiliness. They had a spicy variety as well, but the woman scared me off from trying them because she said, “I mean really hot.” Again, maybe next week.

Also peaking now are figs, grapes, pears and apples.

Flame Grapes

Flame Grapes

Kadota Figs

Kadota Figs

But how we really know fall is here are the winter fruits and vegetables that are appearing. I saw the first persimmons this week at Twin Girls Farm. I also bought one of these adorable white and green baby pumpkins. I was told they are really sweet and easy to cook.

Pumpkins

Pumpkins

First Persimmons

First Persimmons

Pomegranates are also fantastic right now. I’ll let you in on a little secret of mine (shhh, don’t tell anyone): the white pomegranates at K & J Orchards are worth getting to the farmers market early for–before they sell out. They are sweet and amazingly flavorful, but the seed is much more tender than in a red pomegranate. Plus they are a beautiful pink color, amazing in salads or on cereal. Their season is shorter than the red pomegranates, so get them while you can.

(Read: How To Clean A Pomegranate)

White Pomegranates

White Pomegranates

White Pomegranate Seeds

White Pomegranate Seeds

I have another not so well kept secret for you today as well. The pears at Frog Hollow Farm have, against all odds, reached new heights. I’ve been obsessed with their Warren pears for years, and they are just coming into season. But right now I cannot get enough of their Taylor Gold pears. These things are amazing! What’s a girl to do?

Taylor Gold Pears

Taylor Gold Pears

Warren Pears

Warren Pears

Today’s Purchases:

What are you eating?

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Farmers Market Update: Santa Monica

by | Dec 30, 2008


I finally made it to the big Santa Monica farmers market on the 3rd Street Promenade. Woohoo!

It was a beautiful, freakishly sunny December morning, exactly what I would expect out of L.A. I didn’t buy a lot because, well, I’m on vacation and actually live in San Francisco. But it was a great experience and I hope to make it back one day for their Wednesday market, which is apparently twice as big.

In a future post I will give all the details of how to navigate this particular market, including maps, parking info and what days not to go.

For now I will just say that if you are in the neighborhood it is definitely worth the trip. The pomelo I bought was by far the best I’ve had in this country (Thailand pomelos still win).

There were a bunch of things I would have loved to try if I could have brought them home with me.


Santa Monica purchases:

  • Fuji apples
  • Meyer lemons
  • Pomelo
  • Giant fuyu persimmon
  • Empress dates
  • Hydroponic baby bok choy
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The Chocolate Persimmon

by | Dec 7, 2008

Ever since I mentioned the chocolate persimmon the questions have been rolling in. Are there really chocolate persimmons? What do they taste like? Where can I find them?

I even know someone who dreamt about them.

This weekend I finally got a hold of some chocolate persimmons of my own, the first I have seen this season.

Officially called Tsurunoko, chocolate persimmons are of the non-astringent variety, similar to fuyus. However they are unique in that the flesh inside is more brown than orange and the flavor is sweeter. These are highly sought after fruits; when ripe they do indeed possess subtle notes of chocolate flavor.

Like the fuyu, the texture of a chocolate persimmon is firm (not jelly-soft like the hachiya).

Keep your eyes out for Maru, or “cinnamon persimmons,” and Hyakume, “brown sugar persimmons” as well.

The vendor at the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers Market said that the weather has not been favorable for persimmons this year because it is too dry. The season will be short, so be sure to get yours next week.

Has anyone else been able to find chocolate or other specialty persimmons?

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