FARMERS MARKET REPORT: WEEK OF APRIL 25TH

McGrath Family Farm, Santa Monica Farmers Market
McGrath Family Farm, Santa Monica Farmers Market

AGRICULTURAL ECONOMY

Farming is at the root of American cultural development and at its truest is a spiritual discipline and a significant provider of both rural and urban communities.  The farmers that provide us with the goods from their land exemplify just that.  For several decades our country emphasized big agribusiness which de-emphasized community and estranged people from the land and knowing their food source.  The burgeoning of farmers markets across America in the last decade alone is a warming sign that we collectively desire a closer connection to our farmers and the foods we eat.  Today there are over 4600 farmers markets from coast to coast and agricultural commerce is thriving through greater personal connections once again.  Even more importantly, the connection between the chefs within the restaurants demanding food from its source has created an agricultural revival.  They have raised the collective standards for fresh produce for their guests and increased the ultimate value of their dining experience.  Our farmers are doing the best they can to provide sustenance and livelihood via the produce they harvest.  They are the redemptive forces at the wheel propelling our communities together in the name of food, bridging the miles between us into acres and feet.  There is little more to say than that.  It is an invaluable valuable that brings better meaning to the bottom line.



OUR FARMERS’ GOODS
I cannot get over the Japanese tomatoes from Beylik Farms.  They are some of the best tomatoes I have ever eaten, ever.  I consider myself quite the tomato connoisseur.  I have been eating them and loving them since I can remember.  Beylik Farms has taken a truly resilient tomato variety dubbed the “Tough Boy” and grown it hydroponically, which allows vines to reach as high as TWELVE feet tall.  With the assistance from bumblebees for pollination, they produce these meaty, succulent stand-out tomatoes that can hold their own against an heirloom variety any day.

Japanese Tomatoes from Beylik Famliy Farms
Japanese Tomatoes from Beylik Famliy Farms

I truly cannot say enough about the Coleman Family Farm.  Everything they grow seems to come from magic!  From their premium heirloom lettuce varieties to the best green garlic I have seen and tasted at the market, they have turned growing into an art form.  Even through the heat wave their crops have sustained themselves and continue to thrive.  The Piret Butter Lettuce and Freckles Lettuce are the perfect canvas for a salad, the Broccoli Spigarello is begging to be braised and their green garlic is spring at its finest: young, bright and alive!
Green Garlic from Coleman Family Farm
Green Garlic from Coleman Family Farm

For your radish fix, Jaime Farm is bringing us nearly every radish variety in the book:  Icicle Radishes, French Breakfast Radishes, Easter Egg Radishes and my personal favorite Baby White Belly Radishes.  They are also growing some SUPERB jumbo sweet red and white Spring Onions, that are harvested before they reach their full size and packed moist, not dried.  They also have the most amazing sweet and flavorful Black Cherry Tomatoes ever.
Life’s A Choke makes artichoke growing look easy!  Daisy bring dozens of forty pound bins to the market full of her signature varieties, Anzio, Fiesole and Lyon and blazes through them before 9 AM!  But never underestimate a great farmer!  In her repetoire she also has purple-tipped Pencil California Asparagus and Squash Blossoms that are glowing form the recent burst of water they have been injected with!
Purple-Tipped Pencil California Asparagus from Life's A Choke Farm
Purple-Tipped Pencil California Asparagus from Life's A Choke Farm

Garcia Organic Farm and Polito Family Farm are still harvesting some of the juciest citrus at any market!  Growing unique varieties like Meiwa Kumquats (Garcia), Tom’s Terrific Tangerines (Polito) and some of the sweetest Meyer Lemons (Garcia) I have ever tasted, these farmers know citrus!
McGrath has the Firecracker lettuce along with Wild Arugula.  Rutiz Farm has just introduced some Cherry Victoria Rhubarb into the lineup!  A perfect marriage for their Jerry’s Berries, chefs???  And English Peas get their California plates from Tutti Frutti Farm, picking young, tender and SWEET!
Coastal Organics is harvesting choice fava beans that have been sleeping tenderly in their comfy pillowy blankets, but now it’s time to eat them!  A labor of love and worth every shelling!  They also grow the best Green and Red Gem Lettuces that if were put into a contest would win the blue ribbon!
Green Gem Lettuce from Coastal Organics
Green Gem Lettuce from Coastal Organics

As May nears, warmer season produce appears and the horizon is looking sweet, succulent and soon, ripe for the picking.  Seasons ebb and flow.  New life brings new ideas and creative offerings.  Stay tuned!
PIONEER

On a final and humbling note, this week San Diego lost one if its greatest culinary pioneers, George Munger.  He was a man of stature, vision and inspiration.  He and his wife, Piret brought culinary class and idealism to San Diego.  In the 1970’s, through their restaurants, they introduced San Diego to the best food it had ever seen yet.  In 1975 they opened the Perfect Pan, which served as a cooking school that brought in such legendary chefs as Julia Child, Paula Wolfert and working chefs alike.  They offered a prix-fixed lunch menu serving classic French countryside fare daily to sixteen guests.  The school inspired their restaurant, Pirets, which opened in Mission Hills in 1979.  The food was innovative and absolutely everything was fresh.  Pirets became a local culinary institution and legend.  Many current chefs and restaurateurs made their way in the ranks, whether on the line or in the dining room, through the walls of Pirets.  George Munger’s personal and absolute desire to bring quality and fresh ingredients to San Diego and his manifestation of those desires is a true legacy.  We, as chefs owe a great deal of gratitude to him for paving the way and opening San Diego to the fresh bounty that is available to us.  He injected a mindset into the culinary landscape that prior to was not fully there.

I had the personal pleasure of knowing George and cooking for him.  He was a regular guest at my restaurant.  He challenged me, inspired me and made special requests of me sometimes weeks in advance of dining.  We kept a special case of his favorite white burgandy in the walk in for him and I always made time to sit with him and listen to his advice and stories.  His experience, his generosity and his remarkable passion commanded everyone’s attention.  Although San Diego has lost a true culinary hero and visionary, it has gained a bounty of inspiration and credibility thanks to George.  So, thank you George for mentoring so many culinarians, opening our eyes and changing the food landscape of San Diego for good and forever.

Melissa

MARKET TOUR:

Baby Green Zucchini with Flower – Life’s A Choke Farms inject water into each squash blossom’s stem to ensure their freshness and livelihood.  A wonderful and glamorous spring and summer menu accoutrement!!

Pencil California Asparagus – Skinny, tender, tasty purple-tipped and LOCAL! So thin it cooks in a flash!

Japanese Tomatoes – I just love these meaty tomatoes!  They are the most beautiful tomatoes at the market right now.  Great pre-heirloom season variety nicknamed the “Tough Boy” for its heat-resilient texture and succulence!

Baby White Belly Radish – sweetest radish out there with edible greens too makes these 100% delicious.

Baby Celery – from Yasutomi Farm, more leaves than stalk, hydroponically grown, slender and almost herbaceously tasty stalks.  The best baby celery available. Period.

Jerry’s Berries Strawberries (Galante variety) from Rutiz Farm – sweeter than candy!!
Jerry's Berries Strawberries from Rutiz Farm

Red Spring Onions –  Jaime Farm – big juicy bulbs! Great for multiple applications!

Fava Beans from CoastalMcGrath Farms
Fava Beans from Coastal Organics
Tom’s Terrific Tangerines – Polito Family Farm
Tom's Terrific Tangerines

Beylik Family Farms – Fillmore, CA

Persian Cucumbers – petite and crunchy! No seeds=sweet!
Japanese Tomatoes – a deep red tomato that’s flesh is equivalent to a hearty beefsteak.
Yellow Tomatoes – these are really special and they are sweet and tangy!

Coastal Organics – Oxnard, CA

Black Kale– also known as Tuscan kale, black cabbage or cavalo nero!
Fava Beans – beautiful, plump younger and non-starchy perfect beans.
Baby White Turnips – delicate pepper flavor, marble-sized gems!
Gem Lettuces – Green and Red, these are the perfect lettuce.  Sweet, succulent and crispy center.

Coleman Family Farm – Carpinteria, CA

Green Garlic – These are spring super stars!  Use the whites in sauces, on pizzas, sauteed for a steak! The greens are great for soups and stocks!  Once again 100% savorily edible!
Broccoli Spigarello – Leafy broccoli with ALL the broccoli flavor, but more delicate and beautiful!
Red Butter (Piret) Lettuce – you won’t find this anywhere else!  Awesome texture and buttery flavor!
Freckles Lettuce – Freckles! Sweet leaves, crispy inside.  Perfect lettuce carrier for salads!
Lollo Rossa Lettuce – great for mixed salads, beautiful deep purple-red.
Treviso – so young, you’ll barely recognize it. Deep green with a deep blush.
Radicchio – note: small heads! Perfect for plate garnishes.

Garcia Organic Farm – Fallbrook, CA

Meiwa Kumquats – a Japanese variety that has a sweeter pulp than conventional kind.
Paige Tangerines – sweet, juicy and easy to peel!

Harry’s Berries – Oxnard, CA

Strawberries – Gaviota variety, deep dark red with a soft and sweet flavor appeal!

Jaime Farm – Ontario, CA

Mixed Baby Bunch Carrots – beautiful baby yellow, orange, red, and purple haze carrots with tops
Baby White Belly Radish – sweetest radish out there with edible greens, too makes these 100% delicious.
Shunkyo Radish – Shaped like a baby pink carrot:  one moment it’s hot, the next it is sweet!  My personal favorite!
Easter Egg Radish – mild, snappy flavor, vibrant color bouquet of pinks, reds and white.
Icicle Radish – looks like a white carrot (except the leaves)!  Rich spicy flavor can be smoothed out with a little saute and butter!
Rainbow Chard – striking colors, hearty leaves.
White Spring Onion – large sized and absolutely beautiful! Attached to hearty, fresh green tops
Red Spring Onion – big juicy bulbs!
Small Zucchini with Flower – great stuffed and sauteed!  You have never seen any squash blossoms like this.  Show-stealers!
Chive Blossoms – all the great mild chive flavor with a decorative bonus!! AND The flowers taste great too!

J.J.’s Lone Daughter Ranch- Bryn Mawr, CA

Cara Cara Oranges– a grapefruit and navel orange hybrid  gives it its signature salmon colored flesh with all the great sweet juicy orange taste!

Life’s A Choke – Lompoc, CA

Baby Anzio Artichokes – a cross between green and purple artichokes, and very meaty!
Baby Purple (Fiesole) Artichokes– not as meaty, but beautiful color, nutty flavor and nearly 100% edible!
Lyon Artichoke with stem– large and in charge! This is a very jumbo, round, meaty variety from Southern France that yields a whole lot of heart!!
“California” Pencil Asparagus
Baby Green Zucchini with Flower – Life’s A Choke Farms inject water into each squash blossom’s stem to ensure their freshness and livelihood.  A wonderful and glamorous spring and summer menu accoutrement!!

McGrath Family Farm – Camarillo, CA

Wild Arugula – 3 Pound bag
Firecracker Lettuce – deep red,  a bit frilly! Great for mixed salads!
Baby Bunch Candy BeetsRed BeetsGold Beets, and White Beets
If you want beets, right now they are beautiful and priced to sell!!!
Baby Watermelon Radish
Fava Tendrils – sweet, soft and meaty flavor, great fish and meat accoutrement!!  Only available for a couple of weeks!!
Red Okami Spinach – a uniquely shaped leaf with a deep red stem and veins – great for sauteeing!
Baby White Japanese Turnips

Mike and Son Egg Ranch – Ontario, CA

Brown Eggs farm fresh eggs that are unequivocally delicious with gleaming yolks! Each egg is individually candled!  (5 doz case only)

Polito Family Farm – Valley Center, CA

Oro Blanco Grapefuit – golden-flesh, sweet and juicy – still going strong!
Tom’s Terrific Tangerines –  juicy squared, easy to peel, and almost seedless – terrifically yummy!!

Rutiz Farm – Arroyo Grande, CA

Sugar Snap Peas

Persian Watercress– a unique variety, with a wonderfully spicy-sweet kick
Jerry’s Berries Strawberries– (pre-order only) worth every penny!! A must try strawberry!
Savoy Spinach – cut in small clusters of 3-4 leaves – beautiful!!
Romanesco – Jerry grows the perfect-sized heads, nicest ones at the market!

Weiser Family Farm – Bakersfield, CA

Red Thumb Potatoes – red skinned on the outside, and pretty in pink on the inside
Russian Banana Fingerlings – baker size, but oh so creamy..
French Heirloom Fingerlings – red-skinned, baker-sized and white-fleshed, has a very silky texture ( I love these!!)
La Ratte Fingerlings – nutty flavors, stand out fingerling, one of the best potatoes, ever!!
Mix Baby Carrots – all heirloom varieties!
Micro Mix Baby Carrots – tiny tiny sweet and tender carrots for those creative chefs who like things small* (pre-orders only)
Baby Purple Broccoli – aka Red Arrow Broccoli, which is the specific variety. It’s not purple all the way through, but the green stem and leaves contrast it very nicely. It has a mild flavor and the farmer recommends slicing thinly and serving raw, or do a very quick saute if desired to keep the color!!
Baby Broccoli – it’s green counterpart – may be going away soon…..
White Beets – the big ol’ ones, great for roasting and pairing with other beets for a milder, sweeter flavor
Bloomsdale Spinach – green and crinkly leaves with a tender and sweet buttery flavor!  (Friday delivery)

Yasutomi Farm – Pico Rivera, CA

Baby Bok Choy – amazingly tender, great flavor, good for braising and hey, even the grill…
Baby Celery – more leaves than stalk, hydroponically grown, slender and tasty stalks.  The best baby celery available. Period.

3 Replies to “FARMERS MARKET REPORT: WEEK OF APRIL 25TH”

  1. A great lost, George Munger. Along with Piret, Jack Monaco (and a host of others) this visionary, bon vivant, gourmand, chef, and amazing restaurateur created some culinary magic here in San Diego, Pirets. Way ahead of it’s time! They and he, were responsible for giving me a break, sparking my passion, something I will never forget. We’ll miss you George, every time I say/write “Greetings!” I will think of you!

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