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Farmers Market Update: The Great Outdoors

by | Apr 18, 2009
Strawberries

Strawberries

Today is the first truly nice warm day of the year, so I am not going to spend the rest of it writing this blog post. Instead I am going to quickly mention what’s hot at the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers Market and let the pictures speak for themselves. Then I’m going outside to enjoy the sunshine!

First Pick Organic Strawberries

First Pick Organic Strawberries

Rhubarb

Rhubarb

Strawberries ruled the market today. They are officially everywhere and consistently delicious. I bought these lovely stemmed berries from Lucero Organic Farms, which has recently moved into the former slot of Ella Bella farms (source of the now infamous “Please don’t squeeze our tomatoes” photo I love to use). It turns out Ella Bella has relocated to Hawaii; I am a little heart broken.

Morel mushrooms finally dropped below $40/lb, so I gave in and bought some (don’t worry, they don’t weigh very much).

English Shelling Peas

English Shelling Peas

Tree Tomato and Lemon

Tree Tomato and Lemon

Tamarillos, or tree tomatoes, made an appearance today as well. They didn’t seem particularly ripe so I didn’t buy them, but it is an exciting prospect that they are back already.

English shelling peas and fava beans are both at the height of season right now. This week I chose the peas, since they are a little easier to work with. Fava beans will have to wait until next week.

Chili Powder

Chili Powder

Huge Leeks

Huge Leeks

Marin Roots Farm has kale rabe, which you could describe as a being similar to broccoli except ridiculously beautiful. The kind I bought is purple.

Eggs from Happy Quail Farms are back.

Jumbo leeks seem to be all the rage.

I bought tomatoes!!!! I got some yellow ones and a few heirlooms because they finally smelled good enough to eat. I couldn’t resist and had one for lunch today. They could be sweeter, but what Bruins Farms is offering is already vastly superior to anything you can get in a grocery store.

Hint of the day: The line at the Acme bread stand in the back is much shorter than the line inside the Ferry Building.

Purchases:

  • English shelling peas (Iacopi Farms)
  • Strawberries (Lucero Organic Farms)
  • Morel mushrooms (Far West Fungi)
  • Ramps (Far West Fungi)
  • Red kale rabe (Marin Roots Farm)
  • Eggs (Happy Quail Farms)
  • Assorted tomatoes (Bruins Farms)
  • New Mexico chili powder (Tierra Vegetables)
  • Asparagus (Zuckerman’s Farm)
  • Kiwi (Four Sisters Farm)
  • Fennel (Star Route Farms)
  • Arugula (Star Route Farms)
  • Tatsoi (Star Route Farms)
  • Thyme (Star Route Farms)
  • Swiss chard (Eatwell Farms)
  • Meyer lemons (Hamada Farms)
  • Tangelos (Hamada Farms)
  • Rio grapefruit (Hamada Farms)
  • Organic mandarins (Twin Girl Farms)
  • Epi loaf (Acme Bread)

Tell us what you found at the market today!

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What Is A Tamarillo?

by | Jan 14, 2009

Tamarillos or tree tomatoes are egg-shaped fruits native to South America. Being from San Francisco I had never heard of them until two weeks ago when I found them at my favorite farmers market.

That day I only bought one. The next week I got a full bag of them.

I will not deny that these little fruits are strange. The color alone could be the topic of an entire post. Their flesh is orange like a persimmon, but the soft black seeds are nested in a deep red gel, making it seem as if they are bleeding when you cut them open. Although that sounds kind of gruesome, they are actually beautiful to behold. If I were a food painter, I would certainly seek out some tamarillos to be my subjects.

The taste of my first tamarillo surprised me even more than its appearance. I had expected it to be, well, I’m not sure, but the person I bought it from said it is usually served with either sugar or salt, like a tomato. I guess I was expecting it to be more savory or acidic. In my estimation it was closer to sweet, and seemed to perfectly meld the flavors of passion fruit, kiwi and tomato.

Strange, but delicious.

Unfortunately the skin does not lend itself to palatability. It is tough, bitter and very sour. Best to do away with it completely. The seeds, however, are edible.

Unripe a tamarillo can lean toward sour and bitter, so I am told it is best to eat them when they are dark red and softer rather than harder (they never get very soft).

Tamarillos are high in potassium, manganese, copper and vitamins A, C, E and B6.

All I know is that I am going to keep buying them until I can’t find anymore.

Do any of you have experience with tamarillos?

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Farmers Market Update

by | Jan 10, 2009
fennel

fennel

Lucky be the ones who found their way to the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market this morning. It was bright and sunny, so naturally I expected a bone-chilling cold down at the Embarcadero. But by global warming some miracle it was actually pleasant today, approaching 70 degrees. T-shirt weather if I’ve ever seen it.


It would be hard to imagine a more beautiful mid-January morning at the market.

This week the produce was very similar to what I found last week. Fennel is starting to become more abundant, as you can see by the main photo. And the pomelos seem to just keep getting bigger and bigger.

As for my purchases, the kohlrabi I bought last Saturday got me excited about root vegetables that are edible raw. So today I got a couple lo bok, a green relative of the daikon or Japanese radish (sorry I didn’t get a good picture). These vegetables are super crisp and moist, with a texture similar to jicama. They are relatively sweet for a vegetable and make a great appetizer or side dish when cut up into slices or sticks.

I also tried to buy some kaffir limes, but the guy said he forgot them this week and will definitely have them next week. I got an assortment of other citrus fruits to make up for it.

The most notable new purchase I made today was a whole free range chicken from the Golden Gate Meat Company. That’s right, I bought meat! I want to make a soup this weekend to take with me to work for lunch. As always, I will keep you posted on my experiments.

I also stocked up on tamarillos.

Today’s purchases:

  • Free range chicken (whole)
  • Tamarillo
  • Lo bok
  • Rio red grapefruit
  • Cara cara orange
  • Blood orange
  • Meyer lemon
  • Kiwi
  • Romanesco
  • Chinese broccoli
  • Traditional broccoli
  • Kabocha squash
  • Dino kale
  • Pink lady apples
  • Pomegranate
  • Shallots
  • Garlic
  • Yirg coffee

Any of you find anything interesting today?

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Farmers Market Update: Citrus!

by | Jan 8, 2009
citrus

citrus

Winter fruits are different from summer fruits and the undisputed king of winter is the citrus genus. Here in San Francisco we should feel thankful to have such a great bounty to start the New Year. Don’t forget the freeze that killed California’s citrus crop back in January 2007.

This week the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market had all the basics–oranges, grapefruits, clementines, lemons, limes–but half the fun is trying all the unusual varieties available.

Pomelos look like giant grapefruits with super thick skin. They come in several different varietals, each with a unique flavor and juiciness level. Interestingly, I find the less juicy pomelos to be the sweetest. You can eat them without making a complete mess of your hands and each individual pulp is like a little balloon filled with liquid candy.

At the farmers market you can find yellow, white, pink and green pomelos, and the skin color does not necessarily correspond with the color of the flesh inside. I think the green pomelos with pink flesh are my favorite, but they are all great. Eat them plain or add them to a refreshing winter salad, just be sure to remove the thick membranes that separate the sections.

Even oranges become deceptively interesting when you get them from local farmers. On the outside Cara cara oranges are virtually indistinguishable from navel oranges, but inside the flesh is pink like a ruby grapefruit. Blood oranges–great for juicing–are prized for their deep red flesh and richer taste.

For me one of the most surprising things I have discovered about citrus fruit is that lemons and limes are not always as pucker-inducing as you might guess. Meyer lemons taste like they have already been sugared and baked into a meringue pie. The juice is a little tart (though still drinkable) but the skin is so sweet and flavorful you have to try it to believe it. I zest it into everything this time of year.

One of the truly bizarre fruits of winter is the Fingered citron. Also known as Buddha’s hand, these large, tentacle-covered citrus fruits are primarily ornamental but can be used for their zest. Wikipedia claims that in Chinese and Japanese cultures they are sometimes used as air fresheners. Their white pith is not bitter as in most citrus fruits, so the “fingers” can be cut off and used in cooking. You might want to pick one of these up if you are entertaining or decorating your dining room or kitchen. They would make an interesting and unique centerpiece for a table.


Winter cruciferous vegetables are also abundant right now at the market. The cruciferous (Brassica) family is extremely diverse.

The term cruciferous means “cross-bearing” since the four petals of their leaves resemble a cross. Popular cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cabbage and kale, but also root vegetables such as turnips and rutabaga. Cruciferous vegetables are usually what we are talking about when we say “green leafy vegetables,” and they are thought to have anti-cancer properties.



One of the best things about going to the farmers market is discovering new things. At McEvoy Ranch today I stumbled upon something called a Tamarillo, or Tree tomato. Tamarillos are native to South America, but are also common in New Zealand and a few other countries. I have not yet busted open the one I bought, but I was told it can be eaten raw with either salt or sugar (similar to a tomato). The skin is thick, tart and not usually consumed.
And in case you have forgotten, it is still crab season!

This winter do not be afraid to stare cold weather in the face and make your way to the farmers market whenever you get the chance. You will certainly not regret your trip, particularly if you are adventurous. If you see something you are unfamiliar with ask the vendor what it is like and what you can do with it. You just might find yourself a new favorite food!


Today’s purchases:

  • Green pomelo
  • Cara cara oranges
  • Sweet lime
  • Satsuma mandarins
  • Meyer lemons
  • Kiwi fruit
  • Shinko Asian pear
  • Kohlrabi
  • Sunchokes
  • Baby bok choy
  • Romanesco
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Treviso (radicchio)
  • Shallot
  • Assorted small potatoes
  • Scharffen Berger chocolate (Tomé-Açu)

UPDATE: This article is also available at Synapse.

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