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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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Farmers Market Update: Spring Treasures

by | Apr 17, 2011
Purple Spring Onions

Purple Spring Onions

I’m not sure I’ve done enough yet this year to illustrate what a truly special season spring can be. In the springtime, everything is new.

Breathtaking Tulips

Breathtaking Tulips

We get the first greens and fresh colors since the final harvest in autumn, but in the spring everything is sweeter and more delicate.

Bloomsdale Spinach

Bloomsdale Spinach

We don’t just have garlic, we have the sweeter and more subtle green garlic. Carrots, while large and husky in the winter are small and tender in the spring. These baby carrots taste nothing like the fake, flavorless “baby carrots” that come in big bags at the supermarket. These carrots are special.

Real Baby Carrots

Real Baby Carrots

Swiss and rainbow chard are better right now then they are at any other time of year. They’re so beautiful it’s hard to not bring extra home to put into a vase.

Rainbow Chard

Rainbow Chard

Artichokes and asparagus are also peaking right now. I was so overwhelmed by the sweet, earthy smell of artichokes when I walked up to the farm stand that I forgot to actually take a photo of the beautiful vegetables (there are plenty from previous weeks if you want a peek).

Though most people don’t think about eggs as a seasonal product, they are. Chickens don’t lay as many eggs when it’s cold. Plus, pastured grass is lush and filled with plump, tasty bugs once spring arrives. We got some pullet eggs this morning from Eatwell Farm. We had asked for the extra-large eggs, but apparently they sold out before the market even opened this morning. They’re that good.

Pasture Raised Eggs

Pasture Raised Eggs

For farmers market noobies, one of the most impressive things you can introduce them to is Meyer lemons. Lemons are sour and their peels are bitter, right? Not Meyers. While they aren’t exactly sweet, their acid is not harsh. And their peels are so thin and tender you can eat them raw. Meyer lemons are divine.

Perfect Meyer Lemons

Perfect Meyer Lemons

But one of the best aspects of spring is the hints of summer that sneak in from week to week. Now we have strawberries, and they’re actually getting good.

Endless Strawberries

Endless Strawberries

We also have some early tomatoes and ripe, creamy avocados, two of my absolute favorite summer ingredients.

Haas Avocados

Haas Avocados

As a last throwback to winter I plan to make a soup with one of these celery roots later this week.

Celery Root

Celery Root

Today’s purchases:

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Top 5 Foods For Maintaining 20:20 Vision

by | Feb 7, 2011

Photo by helgabj

Now you see me, now you don’t.

Today’s guest blogger Tim Harwood is a UK based optometrist who also writes for TreatmentSaver.com.

Top 5 Foods For Maintaining 20:20 Vision

by Tim Harwood

If you are lucky enough to have perfect vision, don’t assume it will last forever. As we get older the chances of us developing an eye disease increases dramatically–10% of people over the age of 65 have macular degeneration, and that increases to 30% over the next 10 years.

To preserve perfect vision, first you have to cover the basics:

  • Get regular eye tests: Have your vision tested at least every 24 months, as early detection increases the likelihood a disease can be treated. Although not all diseases are treatable (e.g. macular degeneration), certain diseases such as glaucoma respond excellently to medication when detected early enough.
  • Don’t ignore visual symptoms: Regardless of how recently you have had an eye test, you should never ignore visual symptoms. If you see flashing lights, floating specks or blind spots in your vision these could indicate an eye disease that needs urgent attention.

How can food help me maintain perfect vision?

The macula is in the center of our retina and is responsible for central vision, reading and recognizing faces. As we get older our macula shows signs of wear and tear, a process known as macular degeneration. There is no effective treatment for this age-related degeneration, which is why eating the right foods is extremely important.

Within the macula there are 2 key pigments:

  1. Lutein
  2. Zeaxanthin

Lutein and zeaxanthin are antioxidants found within the macula. These antioxidants reduce the amount of free radicals formed within our body as a natural consequence of our cells using oxygen (oxidation). These free radicals have degenerative effects on our eyes, which are thought to be the cause of macular degeneration. Lutein and zeaxanthin slow down this process and help preserve the macula.

Ophthalmologists are now recommending that people with early signs of macular degeneration take lutein and zeaxanthin supplements or change their diet accordingly.

What foods are high in lutein and zeaxanthin?

Here are the top 5 foods with the highest concentrations of these beneficial nutrients:

  1. Kale
  2. Spinach
  3. Peas
  4. Courgette / zucchini
  5. Brussel sprouts

Studies show that 6 mg of lutein and zeaxanthin should be eaten daily as part of your diet to provide the maximum benefit to your macula. This equates to about one large bowl of spinach or kale daily. Even if you can’t eat this amont every day, it is worth the effort to eat as much of these vegetables as you can manage.

Though these nutrients do not guarantee protection against macular degeneration, evidence suggests they at least slow the progression of the disease. In any case these vegetables are extremely healthy and may also protect against other conditions caused by oxidation such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

How’s your vision?

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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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