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Farmers Market Update: Citrus Season

by | Jan 9, 2011
Blood Oranges

Blood Oranges

This week was my first farmers market trip of 2011, and it’s great to be back. I’m happy to see that in the few weeks I was away the full array of winter citrus fruits has now become available, from brilliantly colored blood oranges to giant pomelos.

Blood oranges with their deep red flesh have a much richer juice than their navel counterparts, and are a fantastic addition to winter cocktails and elixers.

Pomelo

Pomelo

Navel Oranges

Navel Oranges

Here in San Francisco you can also find several varietals of mandarins, the satsuma being the most prevalent. These are great easy snacks because they are small in size and their skin is particularly easy to peel. You can also find grapefruit, lemon, lime and citron, and we’ll be exploring these more in the coming weeks.

Besides citrus, you can also find pears, persimmons, pomegranates and kiwi this time of year. The persimmon I tasted this week might have been the best I’ve ever tried (at Kashiwase Farm), and I recommend getting them while you can since they will only be around a few more weeks. Same for the pears and pomegranates.

Persimmon

Persimmon

Shun Li Asian Pears

Shun Li Asian Pears

I also really love winter vegetables. This season my attention usually turns to hearty greens like kale and chard, as well as winter squash (delicata are my favorite, followed by kambocha–neither of which require peeling).

Delicata Squash

Delicata Squash

Swiss Chard

Swiss Chard

I’ve also really been enjoying cabbage lately, playing around with recipes for coleslaw, sauerkraut and kimchi.

Organic Cilantro

Organic Cilantro

Winter Produce

Winter Produce

And though I tend to forget about them (but totally shouldn’t), now is the time for root vegetables like radishes, potatoes, sunchokes and fennel. I made an effort this week to bring some home with me.

Fennel

Fennel

Sunchokes

Sunchokes

I can’t get over how pretty these watermelon radishes are.

Watermelon Radish Slice

Watermelon Radish Slice

This time of year I also cook a lot of beans and lentils. The heirloom beans at Rancho Gordo have received national attention for their amazing flavors and textures. I have an impressive collection of them in my pantry.

Scream Sorbet

Scream Sorbet

Rancho Gordo Beans

Rancho Gordo Beans

Finally, though I’m not a sweets person these days (I have completely given up sugar in January) I was happy to see Scream Sorbet has now set up a booth at the Saturday farmers market (previously they only sold on Thursdays). Scream is amazing because they create local, seasonal sorbet flavors that will blow you away. It’s pretty common when inquiring about an ingredient in one of their sorbets to have them point at a nearby produce stand and say, “we’re using those grapes right there.” How awesome is that?

As always I had a wonderful time and it was totally worth dragging myself out of bed, even on a Saturday.

If you’d like to share your farmers market experience at Summer Tomato, please read this.

Today’s purchases*:

*I overslept a bit and the market was pretty picked over. My bad.

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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: Embracing Winter

by | Jan 10, 2010
Purple and Green Cabbages

Purple and Green Cabbages

Winter is a subject I usually prefer to ignore, and in California this is pretty easy to do.

Although temperatures approach freezing at night, rarely do things actually freeze. We have our farmers market here in San Francisco year round, and overall I realize I am utterly spoiled.

But that doesn’t make it any easier to get excited about winter.

It’s still cold. It’s still gray. It gets dark early and the nights are long. Everything and everyone seems to want to hibernate, especially me.

But this weekend I decided to embrace winter and all its glorious produce. I think I was inspired by all the delicious recipes around the blogosphere. Who knows. But today I was excited about parsnips, braising greens, mushrooms and citrus, and barely even noticed that my pomegranates and peppers are out for the count.

White Carrots

White Carrots

Winter greens and root vegetables are especially exciting to me right now. I know this sounds weird, but until you’ve tasted them at the height of season (as we are now in), it is hard to know what I mean.

The difference is that during a lot of the year hearty greens and root vegetables like turnips and kohlrabi can be very bitter and spicy. They are edible in this state, but require a lot more work to be delicious. Right now all these vegetables are sweet, almost like candy.

Cabbages and Kale

Cabbages and Kale

Watermelon Radish

Watermelon Radish

If you don’t believe me, head down to the market and try some of the samples. People’s ooos and ahhs from their surprise at the delicious flavor of daikon and kohlrabi is audible throughout the market. Nobody expects vegetables to be this sweet.

The same is true for the brassica, things like cabbage, kale and collards. All these vegetables can be bitter and pungent when eaten out of season, but now they are as sweet and delicious as fruit.

Trumpet Mushrooms

Trumpet Mushrooms

Yukon Gold Potatoes

Yukon Gold Potatoes

Another thing you don’t want to miss this season is the mushrooms. Truffles are expensive, but a small domestic white truffle can be purchased for around $10 or less and can make a spectacular treat for a weekend brunch. The chantarelle mushrooms are also big and flavorful this time of year. Personally I am loving the flavor and texture of trumpet mushrooms cooked up in a little olive oil and parsley.

Citrus fruit are the stars of the fruit scene, though you can still find some lingering pears and persimmons. I love the size and flavor of the clementines this time of year, but am looking forward to the grapefruits, pomelos and navel oranges sweetening up.

Citron

Citron

And it is hard to complain too much if there are Meyer lemons around.

Now is also a great time to get heirloom beans, dried chilies, sustainable meats, dried spices, tropical fruits, walnut oil, dried fruit and artisan cheeses.

Asian Pears

Asian Pears

Limes

Limes

Today’s Purchases:

Have you embraced winter?

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Farmers Market Update

by | Nov 15, 2008

romanesco broccoli

I must start by saying it is 80 degrees here in San Francisco and absolutely beautiful outside. In November! The farmers market at the Ferry Building was spectacular today, and for me few things are as inspirational as nice weather.

So I will just come out and say it: I went nuts.

Last week a Thought for Food reader asked how much I normally spend at the market, and some people were surprised to hear my weekly costs hover around $30. This week I admit I went over $40. But I had very good reasons, I assure you.

For one thing, as another reader pointed out my roasted vegetables were not really enough (alone) to sustain me for lunch the entire week. I noticed this after about two days, and ended up making a supplementary quinoa dish (recipe on the way) to fill the gap. With those two things I was good to go, but the moral of the story is that I want to make a bigger batch of roasted vegetables this week.

Another thing is that I have become very excited about the prospect of roasted root vegetables. I never know what to do with those funny looking round things, but they are affordable and I imagine that their sweet, earthy flavors will really shine in a roasting pan. But I do not yet know which kinds I like best, so I figured I should just try them all.

Consequently, the theme for today was buying things I do not know how to use.

Ever heard of quince? I hear you cannot eat quince raw, but since they were available I bought one to play around with. Quince is a yellow fruit that is related to pears and apples. The smell is fantastic, and I am excited to see what I can do.

I also bought both black and watermelon radishes for the first time. They looked so neat in this Whole Foods Blog post that I knew I had to get them if I ever saw them. It is amazing to me that although I go to the market nearly every week, there are still things I manage to overlook until someone points them out to me.

Another special appearance today was baby Romanesco cauliflower. My bag was already really full, but how could I ignore these beautiful things? (see pic)

I also really wanted to buy one of the winter squash I read about in the San Francisco Chronicle, but I already had too much stuff to carry home. Next time!

Today’s purchases:
  • Romanesco cauliflower
  • Red and white Tokyo turnips
  • Black radish
  • Watermelon radishes
  • Candy-striped beets
  • Parsnips
  • Multi-colored carrots
  • Fingerling potatoes
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Dinosaur kale
  • Pomegranates
  • Fuyu persimmons
  • Warren pears
  • Fuji apple
  • Quince
I am really going out on a limb this week, so any serving suggestions are appreciated!
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