Between my vacation and a work trip to Southern California, my time in the Bay Area lately has been sporadic. The first thing I try and do when I return home to San Francisco is to visit a farmers' market. Farmers' markets ground me. Seeing the fruits and vegetables that are in season reminds where I am in the year, how much time has passed, and how the farmers are doing. The main thing that I took away from this week's trip to the Sunday San Rafael Farmers' Market is that SPRING IS COMING.
Though our produce is still heavily into kale, butternut squash, and root vegetables, the turning of the season has begun. Look hard and you will see tiny little green onions and green garlic. Green garlic looks a little like green onion with a small garlic nub at the end that gradually gets larger and harder as the season goes on. I use green garlic for everything that you'd use garlic for, but you'll learn your own favorite ways to try out this subtle, delicious vegetable.
Asparagus has started to make an appearance, foreshadowing our wonderful asparagus months of March and April. This week, I only saw asparagus at the Zuckerman's Farm booth, but it will soon be available through other vendors as well. Get your risotto recipes ready! If you look hard, you will also start to see glimpses of strawberries at different markets throughout the area.
The young greens throughout the market at the moment are stunning. Just perusing the market on Sunday, I noticed nettles, spring mix, baby chard, baby arugula, rapini and other greens. As we move further along in the year, these greens will be in even more abundance.
I was gone during much of the citrus freeze last month, and expected when I returned that I would not find any citrus products in the market. The opposite is true. While many farmers lost a lot of their crop, citrus is still widely available. According to Julie Cummins, the Director of Education at CUESA, many of the citrus growers were able to pick in advance of the freeze and are now selling their pre-picked fruit. Because the farms who attend our Bay Area markets are fairly small, they were able to mobilize enough workers on very short notice to save a lot of their crop, where the large farms were left with worker shortages and seemed to lose a larger percentage of their crop. This week I could choose from mandarins, pomelos, kumquats, Buddha's hand, blood oranges, and lemons.
Will Brokaw from Brokaw Nursery says that they lost a small percentage of their avocado crop due to this year's weather. Where we'll really notice the lack of avocados, says Brokaw, is next year in the late fall and winter. While we normally could expect Gwen avocados at that time from the nursery's northernmost orchard in Soledad, all those avocados "are toast" and we'll have several months without avocados and will have to wait until January or February 2008 when we can see the Haas avocado crop. Brokaw's guavas and cherimoyas from the Soldedad farm also were harmed, but we can look foward to kumquats, other citrus, and many more months of avocados from Brokaw Nursery.
I was surprised this week to see that Dave Little still has some potatoes from the fall crop. He has a couple weeks more of potatoes to sell, and then will take some time off to plant, returning in the late spring with a new crop. Be sure to check out Dave's cooking demonstration this Saturday at the Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market, where he will demonstrate that even sprouted potatoes are good for cooking and taste delicious.
Mariquita Farm is a popular vendor at the Saturday Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market. Julia and Andy, the farmers, put out a fantastic newsletter each week with essays by Andy and farm news. Mariquita has taken a big step technologically and Julia and Andy are now publishing a blog: The Ladybug Letter. If you are an RSS-geek like me, then The Ladybug Letter is going to be a worthwhile addition to your feeds.
The hottest ticket in town tonight is the John Mackey and Michael Pollan event at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism. Those of us who follow food politics watched with interest last summer as The Omnivore's Dilemma kicked off a series of letters between the author, Michael Pollan, and John Mackey -- the CEO of Whole Foods. The event is sold out, but you can watch the live webcast courtesy of UC Berkeley. With the number of bloggers who are planning to attend, you will surely be reading posts about the event this week.