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Farmers Market Update: Late Harvest

by | Nov 22, 2008

jumbo carrots

Another lovely day at the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. It is the weekend before Thanksgiving, and busy shoppers were scurrying about to pick up essential ingredients for the upcoming feast.

My time at the market was bittersweet today because although I am delighted to be taking most of next week off to visit family, I had to limit my shopping to the things I can eat in the next few days.

So as not to disappoint, what I did not buy I was sure to photograph.

Root and cruciferous vegetables are still the dominant forces at the stands, as well as pears and persimmon fruit. But this would not be one of the best markets in the country if our selection stopped there.

I wish all of you could have been with me today to see the GIGANTIC porcini mushrooms. They were incredible, like something out of Alice in Wonderland. What would someone even do with a 6 lb mushroom?

Another welcome highlight today was the nut selection. Fresh walnuts, almonds and chestnuts were available and I cannot wait to buy some when I get back.

Winter greens like bok choy, collards and kale are abundant and looking delicious. You can also still find green tomatoes and grapes if you want to try out Mark Bittman’s green tomato pizza recipe before they disappear.

Leeks have substantially increased in diameter in the past month, but now we are also seeing more traditional onions like shallots. These are small, almost purple onions that have a mild flavor. I love them because they are delicate enough to use in almost any dish and are perfect for single servings. Large, strong flavored yellow onions that are found at most grocery stores are less useful to me unless I am making something that cooks for a long time (like soup).

After last week’s controversy about parsnips, I decided to give them another try this weekend. I also bought some more sunchokes (a recipe will come eventually, I promise). I am thinking about making a parsnip-sunchoke soup. But I may wimp out on this idea if I start worrying too much about the flavor profile of those crazy parsnips. We’ll see. I would like to know what you guys think.

I made one rare find today that is worth mentioning: kaffir lime leaves. For those of you who are not familiar with them, these fragrant leaves give off a distinct lime-like smell and flavor that is the essence of Thai soup. At first glance they appear like a regular leaf, however they grow in a unique “double” leaved pattern. I have found these gems at a few Asian markets around the city, but this is the first time I have seen them at the farmers market. If you end up buying them, be sure to store them in the freezer to extend their lifespan.

In this picture there are a few kaffir limes (fruit) hidden in there too!

Last but not least–and this is huge–for those of you who do not know yet Scharffen Berger chocolate has finally come out with “baking chunks.” That’s baking code for chocolate chips! They are available in both bittersweet (70% cacao) and semi-sweet (62% cacao) varieties. Hooray!

If you are into baking you know that there is a tremendous shortage of quality chocolate chips on the market. (I’m a snob who thinks Ghirardelli should fall off the planet. Don’t get me started on Nestle and Hershey.) Until now, if you wanted to use high-quality chocolate chunks in your baking you would have to buy a bar of Scharffen Berger or Valrhona and cut them up yourself, a painful and messy process. Scharffen Berger chocolate chips are something I have been dreaming about for a long, long time.

Today’s purchases:

  • Parsnips
  • Sunchokes
  • Meyer lemons
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Leeks
  • Padrones
  • Fuyu persimmons
  • Fuji apples
  • Garlic
  • Oregano
  • Olallieberry jam
  • Scharffen Berger chocolate chunks (both kinds)

I hope at least some of you made it to the market today for your Thanksgiving goodies. I will not be in San Francisco for the market next week, but I do plan to visit one of the big markets down in southern California.

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