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Farmers Market Update: Early Winter

by | Dec 5, 2010
Watermelon Radish

Watermelon Radish

I’m loving the changing seasons. Winter is moving in fast, but fall produce is just peaking in flavor.

Pomegranates are amazing right now. They are sweet and don’t make you pucker with tartness like they do early in the season. We’ve been stocking up on the juice and freezing it in ice cube trays to add to sparkling water spritzers for the rest of the year.

Big Hachiya Persimmons

Big Hachiya Persimmons

Pomegranate Ice

Now is also the best time to get persimmons, because they lack the chalky astringency they can have before they’re quite ripe. Remember, fuyu persimmons are eaten while firm (find a dark orange color) and hachiyas are ripe and edible when soft. I’ve noticed a lot of restaurants adding fuyus to salads and even savory dishes.

Colorful Carrots

Colorful Carrots

As winter approaches, we’re also seeing the emergence of root vegetables. Members of the radish family are less spicy and more sweet this time of year, making them perfect for winter salads. Today I stocked up on watermelon radish (aka watermelon daikon) and kohlrabi. I like to eat both of these raw.

Green and Purple Kohlrabi

Green and Purple Kohlrabi

Watermelon Daikon

Watermelon Daikon

But radishes aren’t the only root vegetables to experiment with this time of year. Celery root has a subtle taste like celery but a consistency more like a potato. It’s great to puree, roast or add to soups. Sunchokes (aka Jerusalem artichokes) are another of my winter favorites. They’re flavor is remarkable, reminiscent of artichoke but more like a delicate potato in appearance.

Organic Sunchokes

Organic Sunchokes

Celery Root and Carrot

Celery Root and Carrot

Parsnips are another delicious root vegetable great for cooking. They look like white carrots but with a more herbal flavor. They are also great for roasting and purees.

Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells

Large Parsnips

Large Parsnips

Although it is fairly late in the season, there are still some peppers around. Though the selection is limited, you can still get beauties like these Christmas bells.

Winter is also a great time for greens. Chard, collards, kale, cabbages all get sweeter this time of year, and are a great accompaniment to roasted winter squash with beans or meat dishes.

Cabbages

Cabbages

Winter Greens

Winter Greens

Brussels sprouts and broccoli are also sweeter than usual.

Organic Broccoli

Organic Broccoli

Brussels Sprouts

Brussels Sprouts

I also found a few more exotic ingredients this week, including Indonesian lemon leaves (any relation to kafir lime leaves?) and aloe vera.

Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera

Indonesian Lemon Leaf

Indonesian Lemon Leaf

Oh, and crab season has started!

Dungess Crabs

Dungeness Crabs

Today’s purchases:

If you would like to share your own local farmers market with Summer Tomato readers please click here.

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Farmers Market Update: Thanksgiving Leftovers

by | Nov 28, 2010
Romanesco and Sweet Potatoes

Romanesco and Sweet Potatoes

Is Thanksgiving the official end of autumn? Because it sure feels like it.

The farmers market felt very different today than it did just a few weeks ago. Most of lingering summer vendors have finally packed up their wares for the winter. The only autumn fruits left are apples, persimmons, pears, quince and a few grapes. Luckily, citrus is poised to jump right into its place.

Fuyu Persimmons

Fuyu Persimmons

Hachiya Persimmons

Hachiya Persimmons

Naturally the weekend after Thanksgiving few people opted to visit the farmers market in the rain. These are my favorite days at the market, since it’s so quiet it is easy to talk to vendors and discover new things. A calm day at the market is a rare and wonderful treat.

Autumn Citrus

Autumn Citrus

There are a few special items available right now that will only be around for a little while. Feijoa, or pineapple guava, are delicious little green fruits that grow locally this time of year. I also found someone selling fresh ginger roots, stems and all.

Ginger Root

Ginger Root

Pineapple Guava

Pineapple Guava

Now is also a great time to get fresh seasonal nuts like walnuts and chestnuts.

Fresh Chestnuts

Fresh Chestnuts

Fresh Walnuts

Fresh Walnuts

One of my favorite things about the approach of winter is all the delicious winter veggies that are on the horizon. Vegetables tend to be overshadowed by the abundance of sweet berries and stone fruits in the summer, but in the winter vegetables are really the stars of the show. The cold stresses the veggies, causing them to condense their flavors and natural sugars.

Pumpkins and Padrons

Pumpkins and Padrons

Cauliflower

Cauliflower

Brassica, also known as cruciferous vegetables, are truly special this time of year. Examples of brassica are broccoli, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts, etc. Root vegetables (like fennel and potatoes) and winter squash are also awesome right now. I included my favorite cauliflower recipe in this year’s Thanksgiving feast.

Winter Squash

Winter Squash

Fennel

Fennel

In the late fall I’m particularly excited about the Brussels sprouts that you can sometimes find still on the stalk. If you have never liked Brussels sprouts, try giving them another chance this year. Make sure you get very fresh ones (on the stalk if you can find them) from the farmers market, and buy the smallest ones you can find. Then try this recipe for Brussels sprouts with walnuts and bacon and come back and tell me what you think. Even Toaster likes Brussels sprouts.

Toaster With Sprout

Toaster With Sprout

Brussels Sprouts Stalks

Brussels Sprouts Stalks

Last but not least, now is your chance to get Super Mario sized porcini mushrooms. Fresh porcini are a delicacy, and worth experimenting with if you can get your hands on them.

Giant Porcini

Giant Porcini

What are you eating this weekend?

If you would like to share your own local farmers market with Summer Tomato readers please click here.

Today’s purchases:

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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: Santa’s Secret

by | Dec 20, 2009
Santa Claus

Santa Claus

Looks like I’m not the only one doing some last minute Christmas shopping this year.

I spied Santa Claus himself having lunch at the farmers market in San Francisco. You can’t really blame him either, because I doubt they are getting much good winter produce at the North Pole. He looks like he may have even lost some weight!

Hopefully he found some of the awesome citrus fruit available this time of year as well as these red Livermore walnuts from Hamada Farms, since they match his outfit.

Livermore Red Walnuts

Livermore Red Walnuts

Clementines

Clementines

And I wonder if Santa is the one responsible for hanging mistletoe all over the city? San Francisco residents BEWARE!

Mistletoe

Mistletoe

As for my own shopping, I actually didn’t buy much since I’m leaving town in a couple of days. I’m loving the Tuscan kale and other thick winter greens right now. And, as always, the Meyer lemons.

Greens & Fennel

Greens & Fennel

Kale, Radishes & Lemons

Kale, Radishes & Lemons

I also grabbed what will likely be my last bag of Padrones until next summer.

Carrots

Carrots

Pimientos de Padron

Pimientos de Padron

Unfortunately I had to skip this challenge guaranteeing the best cabbage ever, because I already had too much food. If it’s still available in two weeks though, I’m totally on it.

Persimmons

Persimmons

Best Cabbage Ever

Best Cabbage Ever

The San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers Market will be closed next week, December 26, so I’ll be taking the day off.

Spanish Onions

Spanish Onions

I hope you all have a delicious holiday!

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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: Autumn Sunshine

by | Nov 8, 2009
Frog Hollow Warren Pears

Frog Hollow Warren Pears

It rained yesterday, but today is spectacularly beautiful. I love San Francisco.

I didn’t have much time to spend shopping this trip–all food was bought and photos snapped in just about 10 minutes. Hopefully I didn’t forget too many things.

Persimmons

Persimmons

Black Twig Apples

Black Twig Apples

Pears and apples are in truly rare form right now, so I highly recommend finding a farmers market near you and getting some of the interesting heirloom varieties. You won’t regret it, I promise.

Persimmons are great right now as well, but I expect they will only get better as the season progresses. Hachiya persimmons in particular–the soft ones–tend to be better later in the season. For more information on the difference between fuyu and hachiya persimmons check out How To Pick A Persimmon. I’ve also written an article about chocolate persimmons and other varieties.

Colorful Bell Peppers

Colorful Bell Peppers

Winter Squash

Winter Squash

I noticed that the amazing Four Sisters Farm kiwis appeared this week and Twin Girls Farm had feijoa, also known as pineapple guava. My photos of these didn’t turn out well so I’ll try to get better shots next week.

Winter squash are still my favorite thing to eat right now and I’m happily making my way through all the varieties. I was not terribly impressed with spaghetti squash which hardly had any flavor, but I’m loving delicata because they are so easy to cook. And, of course, kabocha are amazing–like pumpkin pie only better. I love to pair them with greens like chard and kale, roasted peppers and black beluga lentils.

Napa Cabbage

Napa Cabbage

Today’s Purchases:

What’s at your market?

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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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How To Pick A Persimmon

by | Nov 2, 2008

There is something of an art to picking and eating persimmons. Though the number of varietals are small compared to other fruits in season this time of year (apples and pears come to mind), the few that are available have very different properties of color and ripeness.

Two types of persimmons are common in California. Fuyu persimmons are firm, light to dark orange and more flatly shaped, like a tomato. Fuyus are easier to pick than the other most popular persimmon, hachiya, because they are eaten when firm and are more forgiving if you cut them open a little early.

Hachiya persimmons are trickier to pick out. When ripe, hachiyas are soft and heavy. However, unlike fuyus, unripe hachiyas have very high tannin levels which make them sticky and dry on the tongue. Some people refer to this property as astringency. Others call it bitter.

As someone who generally prefers firm fruit, I learned this lesson the hard way. I strongly advise exercising patience when it comes to hachiyas. When ripe, these persimmons are a deep, red-orange in color and often have black streaks on the skin. Hachiyas also have a more tapered bottom than fuyu persimmons, making them heart-shaped.

Rarely are hachiyas ripe when they are for sale, so I usually leave the fruits on the counter for several days until they become soft. While they are ripening, set them top-down on the corolla so their tender flesh does not get damaged under their weight.

Occasionally I have found other persimmon varietals at my local markets. One of my favorites is the chocolate persimmon, which is similar to a fuyu except the flesh inside is brown. These persimmons have a rich and spicy flavor that is reminiscent of, well, chocolate. Definitely try one if you can find them.

Good, ripe persimmons are sweet and have an almost warm flavor. They taste amazingly like autumn, with notes of cinnamon and brown sugar. Persimmons can be eaten raw or cooked into a dessert, but you should not eat them before they are ripe.

Most people do not consume the skins of persimmons, but I usually do. If the skins are tough, however, I will cut them off. The center usually contains a few dark, hard seeds that should not be eaten.

What are your favorite tips for picking and eating persimmons?

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