Farmer’s Market Finds: Heirloom Tomatoes and Boysenberries

I skipped the farmers market last week, because I was in LA. If I had more time, I would have made it a point to go to the Main Street Farmers Market in Santa Monica. Not to buy groceries, but just to visit an old favorite from when I lived in LA.  Usually, my time in LA is spent eating with friends at the latest hotspots or at my sister-in-law’s place. This time, we just decided to stroll Abbot Kinney (one of my favorite places) and go with the flow. My friend Katrina suggested we eat at Axe, a restaurant supporting local farmers and sustainability. The food was exactly what the body and soul needed that day. I love eating out at restaurants that inspire me to replicate the meal at home, which is exactly what we did a few days later.

restuarantA soul satisfying brown rice bowl with fresh vegetables, wild Alaskan salmon, and sesame lime dressing. I am going to make this over and over again until I can perfect the taste. I will try it will all sorts of protein sources- tofu, garbanzo beans, chicken, and other types of fish.

veniceAbbot Kinney in Venice, CA.

A few friends, Satish, and I went to Half Moon Bay yesterday, a scenic 45 minute drive from the city. On the way to a brunch, we ended up stopping at a farm stand.

farm stand

We were a little surprised to find fruit like mangos and bananas (not local) at the stand, but they did have plenty of local, non-organic produce too. Most people assume that cute, farm stands off-the-road are all organic, but it’s always a good idea to look for the organic sign or label and ask about the farming practices. This farm stand was situated right next to a farm, but it was unclear if they were related. Half Moon Bay is really beautiful!

farm

Lately, I have been craving green leafy vegetables and blueberries more than usual. I actually managed to get to the farmers market early today and was rewarded with plenty of eggs, asparagus, and squash blossoms. There were even boysenberries, which I don’t normally see at this farmers market. Boysenberries look just like blackberries, but they are larger and more tart. They are also a cross between blackberries, raspberries, and loganberries, thus having a reddish color to them. The tartness makes them less popular and are not commercially available. I think they make great desserts.

berries

As we are edging closer to summer, more and more stone fruits are available and the first of the heirloom tomatoes. I couldn’t resist getting some of the tomatoes, despite knowing that it is a little early for their season. Tomatoes taste like sweet fruit when they are harvested in July-September, when the weather is dry and hot. Nevertheless, I already used up half of them to make a delicious, thick tomato sauce to eat with eggs for Sunday brunch. I call the sauce my Magic sauce, because I can use it a thousand different ways.

tomatoes

tomato sauce

My tomato magic sauce.
plumsPlums are a purple food. I love the darker, juicier versions, where you have to eat them over the kitchen sink.

Green Beans

I am not a fan of green beans. For some reason, I just cannot get the bland taste from the school cafeteria out of my head. Truthfully, the real problem lies in the fact that I don’t know any good recipes for green beans. I love it at restaurants, just not to cook with. At my husbands request, I bought a couple of handfuls of them. I just don’t know what to do with them. Please share any recipes! 

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Farmer’s Market Finds: The Color Purple and Antioxidants

All I could notice at the farmers market this weekend was the color purple. It reminded me of my high school English teacher, who asked us to look out for the color in nature. We were reading The Color Purple by Alice Walker in class. All of us agreed that purple was a rare color in nature. Though, I completely disagree with that conclusion now.

purple turnipsPurple turnips

I have always kept Mrs. Kindle’s observation in mind and subconsciously seek out the color purple wherever I go. The color purple is everywhere, especially at the farmers market – year round. Fruits, vegetables, and plants get the purple pigmentation from anthocyanins, which are antioxidants. Antioxidants are molecules that prevent oxidation (which is what happens when a sliced apple turns brown). Oxidation causes free radicals to form and free radicals cause damage and death to cells. Some free radicals are formed through natural processes, but free radicals can “spiral” out of control and disrupt living cells. To put it in a very simple manner, when the levels of free radicals in your body become disproportionate (due to aging, poor eating and lifestyle choices, and environmental triggers) disease and cancer happens.

purple radish asparagusPurple asparagus, chive flowers, and purple radish

Antioxidants protect your body from the harmful effects of free radicals. Eating foods rich in antioxidants prevent and delay cell damage, which in turn prevent cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and immune dysfunction. Luckily, there are plenty of fruits and vegetables that are rich in antioxidants available year round. It’s important to eat a variety of foods, because not all foods contain all the antioxidants your body needs. Supplements do not provide the same benefits as eating whole foods do. Antioxidants in purple foods particularly help boost memory, slow down the aging process, prevent heart disease, and prevent and shorten the duration of colds.

Purple lettucePurple lettuce

Purple foods in the Spring
ArtichokesAsparagus, blueberries, chive flowers, chocolate mint, purple top turnips, radishes, and spring onions

herbs Chocolate mint and chive flowers

Other purple foods by season: 

Summer
Basil, berries, eggplants, figs, lavender, peppers, pluots, plums, and tomatoes

Fall/Winter
Dates, grapes, potatoes and olives

Year Round
Beets, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, endives, kale, kohlrabi, lambsquarter, lettuce, orachi, and radicchio

purple asparagusWhat are your favorite purple foods? Which purple foods did I leave out? Please add in the comments. 

Farmers Market Finds: An Orange Proposal

I decided to break away from my usual farmers market routine and visit the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. There are so many reasons why I love this farmers market. It is hailed as one of the best farmers markets in the country and the diversity of farm fresh food is astounding. I believe in the summer, you will be able to find over 75 varieties of tomatoes! For all the reasons listed below, it can get very crowded and even hard to move when the weather is nice. Therefore, it is wise to go on the earlier side if you want to get the best selection.

ferry buildingThe location is magnificent. There is an intermingling of locals, tourists, chefs, and celebrities. The farmers are all verified and have sustainable farming practices. CUESA’s website has detailed information about the farmers,  seasonality charts, and recipes. They also send out a free weekly eletter highlighting the current seasonal food, upcoming events, recipes, and spotlights on volunteers and farmers.

rampsThe ever so rare and coveted ramps. 

The farmers who sell at this market go through an application process and only those who meet CUESA’s guidelines on sustainable agriculture are accepted when there are openings. I definitely feel more comfortable and safer when I buy from these farmers.

Photo Apr 20, 12 07 55 PMCrowd sourced marriage proposals.

Sawn, the gentleman pictured, enlisted his farmer friends to recruit shoppers to help him out on the proposal. The crowd recited a question to the unsuspecting girlfriend in unison and Sawn got down on one knee to propose. The girlfriend was in disbelief, but did say yes! Oh, yeah, the ring was inside of the Cara Cara orange!

horseradish root

The diversity of food is incredible. Chefs and serious cooks come here early in the morning to pick up things like horseradish root (pictured), green strawberries, and ramps for their restaurants.

schoolyard to market

I know, many locals complain that this farmers market is too expensive. I agree, most things cost a bit more at Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. One of the reasons for the higher cost is that farmers pay a higher stall fee to set up and sell at this market. This fee is not for profit, but goes back into all of the amazing and positive things CUESA does for the food system. Each week, CUESA puts on educational demos, classes, and exhibits for people to learn about food and agriculture. CUESA is a nonprofit organization and largely run by volunteers.

fiddlehead fernsFiddlehead Fern- Far West Fungi

The awesomeness of SF is that we have roughly 22 farmers market each week! We are lucky to be choosy about where we get our local, seasonal food.

Farmers Market Finds: Thorny Artichokes

My Instagram feed has been flooded with pictures of cherries, rhubarb, purple artichokes, and naturally pigmented cauliflower from other farmers market goers, which got me curious about what I would find. It was another, unusually sunny Sunday morning and I knew the good weather crowd would be at the farmers market too. Satish joined me today, which is something I always welcome since he can help me carry my bags back home!

Photo Apr 14, 12 04 37 PM

The cauliflower had a pinkish-purple pigment, which is naturally occurring from an antioxidant in the purple vegetables and fruits. 

Photo Apr 14, 11 58 02 AM

I did find these gorgeous artichokes, which were not at the market last week. The purple ones had really sharp thorns, which I pricked my thumb on! 

I was especially eager to go to the farmers market after being inspired by what the students at Mission High school (where I volunteer) made in class. The high school has a nutrition and leadership program, where the students learn healthy cooking and eating skills, teach their peers, celebrate cultural recipes, and tend to their school garden. The students harvest fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers to use in the cooking portion of the class. Every week, they make something impressive and extraordinary. I certainly did not learn about kale or romanesco in my Home Ec class nor did I grow up eating these foods. Last week, the students made strawberry short cake using whole wheat flour, homemade whip cream, and just picked strawberries. They also made a stunningly beautiful Three Pea Radish Salad, which I couldn’t resist Instagramming. Actually, I was not the only one, the teacher and other students also whipped out their cell phones to take pictures of the beautiful food.

Pea Salad

After this class, all I wanted to do was rush to a farmers market to pick up these ingredients and make this for dinner.

Mission High School school food
The students made farro with asparagus, arugula, crispy pancetta and herbs along with the pea salad and strawberry short cake.

What did you find at your farmers market?

Farmers Market Finds: A Few Basics

I am participating in San Francisco’s very first food hackathon this entire weekend. Thus, no trip to the farmers market for me. I will have to stock up my fridge with fresh produce tomorrow. I will leave you with a few snaps of veggies and fruits I always keep stocked. Happy Sunday!

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Tatsoi- is a cross between broccoli and spinach. Tastes amazing steamed and sprinkled with salt and pepper.

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I always keep mixed cooking greens on hand. They are versatile and make great main and side dishes.

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Kale- need I say more!

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Lemons brighten up any dish and are handy to keep around. I also drink warm water with a squeeze of lemon every morning to get my system going.

Which vegetables do you normally keep around?

 

Farmers Market Finds: Strawberries!

It was a slow, quiet morning at the farmers market today. Partially because of the intermittent rain and the Easter holiday. Even though, I literally only had 30 minutes to get to, shop, and return from the farmers market, I decided it was worth the hustle. The alternative would have been to make time to shop at the grocery store for the week. I resist going to the grocery store, because the quality and prices of the produce just are not as good as what I get at the farmers market. Let’s just say I have been spoiled by shopping consistently at the farmers market for over 3 years now. Plus, I like to see all my farmer friends weekly.

It’s definitely full-blown spring now. Strawberries, artichokes, English peas, asparagus, avocados, fava greens, spring onions, green garlic, fresh herbs, and ramps are just some of the vegetables and fruits you will find at the stalls and stands. I’ve already pinned many recipes to include these vegetables in our diet. Photo Mar 31, 11 12 12 AM

Organic strawberries are just coming into season. Serendipity Farms

Strawberries are one of the fruits I refuse to buy non-organic. The 54 or so pesticides sprayed on strawberries are outrageous and dangerous for your health, the health of the farm workers, and the health of the environment. Tokyo-based Arysta LifeScience Inc, the company producing the fumigant pesticide methyl iodide, decided to pull out distribution in the United States after a year-long battle with farm workers, consumers, scientists, and environmentalist. However, Arysta still continues to market methyl iodide in other countries for strawberries and other crops. This means methyl iodide can still end up in the United States, which is another reason to eat local fruits and vegetables.

I liked eating strawberries as a kid, but most of the time ate them because my parents made us. I am pretty sure I was not eating local, seasonal, or organic strawberries most of the time. Some of the times the strawberries were super sweet and delicious, but other times the strawberries left a bad taste in my mouth. I remember telling my dad one day to stop buying strawberries and he was really surprised. Maybe, he thought all kids like the cute fruit and should eat them. Aside from the bad taste in my mouth, I started experiencing a tingling sensation on my lips, inside of my cheeks and tongue. It was not until I discovered farm fresh, seasonal, organic strawberries that I fully enjoyed them again. I have not experienced the tingling sensation again. I really do think it has to do with all the pesticides that are sprayed on conventional strawberries.

Photo Mar 17, 12 42 19 PM

There are many varieties of avocados other than Haas, something I only learned by shopping at the farmers market. The produce at the grocery store can get monotonous. Avocados really come into season during spring through autumn. They are not natural in the winter as they need warm climates to grow, something to keep in mind when you eat those guac and chips at Super Bowl parties.

Photo Mar 31, 11 14 18 AM

Beautiful, colorful radishes at Happy Boy Farms.

Photo Mar 31, 11 33 05 AMThe market basket, my Instagram post of the day.

What do you plan to cook this week?

 

Farmers Market Finds: Cusp of Spring

Today was the perfect Spring day. Bright and sunny, without the iconic San Francisco fog. The farmers market was bursting with activity and I feared I was too late for the first crop of the asparagus. Things like asparagus, pasture-raised eggs, and squash blossoms always go super fast at the markets.

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There comes a certain time each quarter of the year when I begin to anticipate the arrival of new crops as I become bored with the current selection. Subtle signs like hearing more birds chirp outside the window and cherry trees blossoming throughout the city, get me thinking about all of the recipes I can revisit. As I walked through the market, I was mesmerized by the subtle changes taking place at each stand.

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The cusp of a seasonal change is the best time at the farmers market. Vegetables such as rainbow chard and broccolini are still available as the pea shoots and asparagus become abundant. This kind of availability can really kick up the creativity in the kitchen and lend to more variety in your meals.

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Nevertheless, I was able to get a few of the remaning stalks and texted my friends to come over for brunch. I made grilled asparagus topped with sautéed onions and fried eggs. We also had a salad made out of roasted watermelon radish, arugula, walnuts, and feta cheese. My husband did the honors of pouring freshly squeezed Cara Cara orange juice.

Photo Mar 15, 3 40 20 PM
Real eggs are supposed to be this rich in hue. Pale, neon yellow eggs are the biggest signs of low-quality, factory-farmed eggs. Eat vibrantly!

What are you anticipating for the Spring season?

Farmer’s Market Find: Raspberries, Cherries and Babies!

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Satish and I met up with a really good friend and her baby at the Thursday Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market. We were having a nice heat wave so we thought it would be fun to get breakfast there, before Satish and I had to get back to work. We shared Namu’s Okonomiyaki and Pizza Politana’s Margherita pizza with a farm fresh egg. After breakfast, we walked around the marketplace and played with my friend’s baby. It was my first time at the Thursday market. The pastured eggs looked so good, but we were going straight to our office so I couldn’t get them. Which, I am still a little bummed about.

Since we celebrated Mother’s Day early, we had Sunday to ourselves. We met up with another good friend at the Fort Mason Farmer’s Market with his baby. They were giving mommy alone time for Mother’s Day.  We hadn’t seen their baby in awhile and it was so much fun playing with him. He was so sweet and playful.

Brook Cherries- Hamada Farms

Sugar Snap Peas- Happy Boy Farm

The tiniest cauliflowers! – Happy Boy Farm

First sighting of raspberries!

Zucchinis already?! I am taking out the grill this week.

The yummiest thing at the market today!

I also bought raw, unpasteurized almonds (Cipponeri Family Farms), red flame raisins (Hamada Farms), red onion, cheddar cauliflower, and cluster tomatoes (Swank Hill Farms). I still have produce from last week so I didn’t need to stock up as I usually do. Bumper from Swank Hill Farm was really sweet and gifted me a container of their shelled English peas. I am really excited to try out a few recipes with them! Right now, I am thinking a cheddar cauliflower and English pea curry served with a quinoa pilaf. I will keep you updated on Twitter and Facebook!

Club Dine In! is on Twitter and Facebook. Follow @clubdinein for daily health, fitness, and social news, recipes and delicious tips! Join the Club Dine In! community on Facebook to connect with like-minded individuals and find out about exclusive Club Dine! events. Be sure to sign-up to receive posts and updates straight into your inbox!

Farmer’s Market Find: Lavender and Mint

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San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market on a Saturday afternoon.

It’s been two weeks since I made it to the farmers market and almost a month since I’ve been to the Saturday Ferry Plaza Market. I like to visit this market once a month to stock up on things that I can’t normally find at the Fort Mason Farmer’s Market. After a really stressful workweek, I was looking forward to hanging out at the market yesterday. Though, I made a rookie mistake and went one hour before closing time. Almost everything was picked over or just gone. Also, there were more people then usual at the market since the weather was super nice. Short spring dresses and sandals nice.

I was being hard on myself for showing up so late to farmers market and started to explain the farmer at Eatwell Farm about my morning. All he said was “It’s okay, it doesn’t really matter.” I smiled and agreed. He then asked to see my wrists and dropped a few droplets of lavender essential oil onto them. That just made my day.

I love cooking with lavender. It adds magic to food. Even though culinary lavender isn’t expensive, it tastes luxurious. And  you only need a little bit for flavor. I discovered the power of lavender in food while in college when I made a simple meal for a friend using Herbs de Provence, which has lavender as one of the herbs in it. He was really impressed and couldn’t put his finger on that flavor. Lavender has been my secret ingredient eversince. Lavender has also long been used for its medicinal properties in Eastern medicine. I suffered from Irritable Bowel Syndrome  (IBS) in college and natural remedies were my best cures. I used lavender in a variety ways to soothe and calm my system. Lavender helped me sleep easier, reduced my stomach spasms, and aided  in concentration. (Ayurvedically, IBS is experienced by Vata constitutions and lavender is balancing for Vatas.)

Unfortunately, I didn’t any pictures of the lovely lavender Eatwell Farms had. I did buy a bunch and will save 1/3 of the flowers for cooking and put the rest on my bedside stand.

I also got my hands on really fragrant herbs.

Flowering sage- Eatwell Farms

Spearmint- Star Route Farms

Sadly, I found out that last week was the last of the Cara Cara oranges. They were my best fruit find in the entire last year. If I had known, I would have had Satish stop by the market last week and grab as many of the Cara Caras as possible. At least cherries are here now.

I went a little late, so the cherries were practically all gone.

Since we have been working around the clock, popcorn has become our go-to snack. I would never eat processed, microwaveable popcorn. We pop ours over the stove. It takes two minutes and we can flavor it with whatever we are in the mood for: extra virgin olive oil, Irish butter, lavender salt, smoked paprika, etc.

Blue popping corn makes a for a great, whole grain snack.-Tierra Vegetables

I also bought hummus to snack on with vegetables -Affi’s Marin Gourmet

Sweet William flowers, the same ones Kate Middleton used in her wedding bouquet to marry Prince William at the Royal Wedding. (We also released the Royal Wedding game.)

The warm weather made me crave a refreshing, crisp salad. -Twin Girl Farms

Fiddlehead Fern- Far West Fungi

Club Dine In! is on Twitter and Facebook. Follow @clubdinein for daily health, fitness, and social news, recipes and delicious tips! Join the Club Dine In! community on Facebook to connect with like-minded individuals and find out about exclusive Club Dine! events. Be sure to sign-up to receive posts and updates straight into your inbox!

Farmer’s Market Find: Fava Greens, Snow Peas, Pea Tendrils

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This weeks farmer’s market was definite evidence that Spring has arrived. Aside from all of the great new fruit and produce, everyone was out! The last couple of weekends were a stormy nightmare. It was cold, wet, and gray. It seemed like Spring would never arrive. It was making me depressed. I even contemplated moving back to Santa Monica (only being dramatic). Then all of the sudden we had a mini heat-wave. The ladies dusted off their bright dresses, the guys got out their aviators, and with an extra bounce in each step, everyone was out and about. I love seeing people all dressed up, strolling on streets lined with shops and cafes, or lingering over brunch. Also, the active ones were out on Crissy Field, jogging, playing soccer, walking their dogs, or going for a bicycle ride across the Golden Gate Bridge. This morning, I put on my gym shorts and ran to the market, only stopping to take a couple of pictures. It felt so great to take in the fresh Spring air.

I’m grateful to call this my backyard!

Red and Green Lettuce from Rio de Parros Organics. Continue reading