FARMERS' MARKET REPORT: WEEK OF MAY 10, 2009

Santa Monica Farmers Market:  Beylik Farms

WHEEL OF LIFE:

“Good farmers use land according to its livelihood.  They are careful students of its natural vegetation, soil depth, structure, slope and drainage.  They are not appliers of generalizations, theoretical, methodical or mechanical.  Nor are they active agents of their own economical will, working their way upon an inert and passive mass.  They are responsive partners in an intimate and mutual relationship.
The attitudes and values of traditional agriculture still survive in our time and are supported by the experience of our time.  Their survival is marginal but survivors do exist.  Farmers are people of principle, both stubborn and adventurous, independent enough to trust their own experience and strong enough to hold in considerable isolation of truths not officially or popularily favored.  Their farms stand for their principles and prove them.”
– Wendell Berry, agrarian prophet, writer,  lifetime farmer and one of my heroes.  This excerpt is from his book “The Unsettling of America:  Culture and Agriculture”.
One does not follow the words of Wendell Berry without great shadows looming.  Wendell Berry gets it.  He has been been preaching the gospel of local eating since 1960.  His passion and focus are unwavering, his arguments and observations are more relevant today than ever.  Amid your culinary adventures, research, etc.  look him up.
In the meantime, find out what is happening in the word of produce right here at home.
~Melissa

MARKET UPDATE:

On the horizon:  42 million heirloom tomato varieties including Heirloom Cherry tomatoes from Coastal Organics.  Just a few less varieties of every size summer squash imaginable and stone fruits of every shape, size and texture.  Landing in the market from here through summer’s end!  As each variety appears the 411 will come your way!
Entering:  Cherries from Simms Cherry farm, First Lady Peaches from Fitzgerald Farms,  Baby Green Artichokes from Life’s a Choke, Green Onion Chives from Yasutomi Farm, Radishes, Radishes, Radishes and Black Plum Tomatoes from Jaime Farm, Meyer Lemons, Gold Nuggets and Murcott Tangerines,  from Garcia Organics, Russian Red Kale, French Leeks (slim, sweet and savory all in one!) and Oriental Mix (red and green frill!) from Windrose Farm, and All blues Potatoes and Red Spring Onions from Weiser Famly Farms.
Gapping:  Fiesole Artichokes from Life’s A Choke and Bloomsdale Spinach from Weiser Family Farms
Exiting:  Paige Tangerines from Garcia Organics, Black Kale, Baby Turnips (Coastal Organics) and Watermelon Randishes from Mcgrath Farms

MARKET TOUR:

Baby Green Artichokes – round, meaty and mild, more heart than other varieties, as it is simply a tinier version of its larger counterparts that get more sun.  100% edible!

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!

Gem Lettuces:  Red and Green from Coastal Organics – these lettuces are unparalleled in their sweetness, rich colors,  crisp textures and succulent leaves

French Leeks from Windrose Farms
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.

Meiwa Kumquats

Jerry’s Berries Strawberries (Galante variety) from Rutiz Farm – sweeter than candy!!
Jerry's Berries Strawberries from Rutiz Farm
Continue reading “FARMERS' MARKET REPORT: WEEK OF MAY 10, 2009”

FARMERS' MARKET REPORT: WEEK OF MAY 3, 2009

"visually Distressed Apples" at the Santa Monica Farmers Market

MOTHER NATURE:

She has a way of reminding us who really is in charge.  Amid the conversations I have been having with the farmers this week, I got the clear impression that we are at Nature’s mercy.  Crops fail, field’s lose fertility, the heat forces herbs to flower and lettuces to get a sunburn.  While the last paige tangerine falls off the tree, cherries are showing their first true sign of maturity.  Chives are blossoming and all those tomato plants that flowered are now expressing fruitful bounty.  Late winter root vegetables are finally giving way to the spring and the last of the baby carrots have been plucked from the earth…for now…
Farmers work miracles in their fields.  They have a special relationship with Mother Nature that garners the utmost respect.  They are aware that they must work together to keep our land’s fertile offerings abundant and strong.  Farmers understand nature’s seasonal desires and her need to replenish the earth responsibly.  When the time comes to close one door and open another, farmers have already gotten the signal and the new buds are in the ground.  All we have to do is be patient and the seasons will continue to reveal themselves brilliantly.
Happy Artichoke Month!
~Melissa

MARKET UPDATE:

May is here and it is peak artichoke season!  From anzios to baby green artichokes, the small globes with stem to the larger than life Lyons, there is no time like the present to let these ancient thistle plants show off their delicious culinary awesomeness.  Braise, grill, saute and love the outcome!  As for their agricultural contribution, they contribute a hearty amount of cash to the California economy.  99% of artichokes grown in America are grown right here in our state’s soil. Never underestimate an artichoke…
Entering:  Wild Mushrooms from Clearwater Farm!  Baby Green Artichokes from Life’s a Choke, Small Globe Artichokes with Stem from Tutti Frutti, Green Onion Chives from Yasutomi Farm, Radishes, Radishes, Radishes and Black Plum Tomatoes from Jaime Farm, Meyer Lemons, Gold Nuggets and Murcott Tangerines,  from Garcia Organics and Russian Red Kale, French Leeks (slim, sweet and savory all in one!) and Oriental Mix (red and green frill!) from Windrose Farm.
Gapping:  Fiesole Artichokes from Life’s A Choke, Bloomsdale Spinach, Fingerling Mix Potatoes and Baby Carrots from Weiser Farms
Exiting:  Paige Tangerines

MARKET TOUR:

Baby Green Artichokes – round, meaty and mild, more heart than other varieties, as it is simply a tinier version of its larger counterparts that get more sun.  100% edible!

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!

Gem Lettuces:  Red and Green from Coastal Organics – these lettuces are unparalleled in their sweetness, rich colors,  crisp textures and succulent leaves

French Leeks from Windrose Farms
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.

Meiwa Kumquats

Jerry’s Berries Strawberries (Galante variety) from Rutiz Farm – sweeter than candy!!
Jerry's Berries Strawberries from Rutiz Farm
Continue reading “FARMERS' MARKET REPORT: WEEK OF MAY 3, 2009”

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
Continue reading “FARMERS MARKET REPORT: WEEK OF APRIL 25TH”

FARMERS MARKET REPORT: WEEK OF APRIL 19th

Santa Monica Farmers Market 4/16/2009
Garcia Organic Farms: Santa Monica Farmers Market 4/16/2009

“Did you see any movie stars?!” This was the most popular question asked of me upon my return from the Santa Monica Farmers Market on Wednesday.  I replied with “No.  I was looking for produce.”  After touring the market, dozens of farmers and over 200 pictures later, I was dizzy with excitement and marvel over the raw energy this excellent scene of honest commerce was producing.  If there were any stars that I saw throughout that day, they were the hard working farmers and the produce glistening on display that they harvested for their livelihood and the pure enjoyment and sustenance of thousands of people coming out to support them week after week.
The farmers are in transition mode, as are all the chefs waiting for the next wave of fresh produce to spring into season.  If you were a farmer at the market this past week, you sold lots and lots of fava beans, beets and carrots!  Spring lettuces were abound but the air is getting warmer and arugula, red frill mustard were all flowering faster than they were growing.  Pea tendrils are waving goodbye for now, but thanks to the abundance of fava beans, we have fava tendrils!!  Thicker than pea tendrils and tasty raw or sauteed, they are so delicious and unique, a valuable item to embelish any plate and disarm the most highfalutin of eaters.  Fava tendrils will only be around for the next couple of weeks, so don’t delay your desires to play with these meaty leaves!
fava tendrils from McGrath Family Farm
The red frill mustard was a fleeting romance.  Those of you who had the chance to use its spicy tendencies to tempt palates – you are the lucky ones!  Red Frill – we’ll see you next year*
Harry’s Berries (Gaviota Variety) are peaking right now and they are super sweet, dark and juicy!
A visit to Yasutomi Farms proved my suspicions right!  Jake, the grower has a bounty of hydroponic herbs, lettuces and veggies.  Most notable are the Baby Celery and the Chinese Garlic Chives.  We will be picking up some baby celery this week.  Anyone interested in the delicious and delicate chives, let me know. They are remarkable!
Life’s A Choke Farms isn’t just about artichokes.  Their Pencil Asparagus is beautiful top to bottom!  They also have squash blossoms which will be available next week.  They inject water into each blossom to ensure longer life after picking.  That is some serious TLC!
Jaime Farms also has squash blossoms!  Small zucchini with flowers the size of a hand, a good-sized hand at that!  I have never seen such extravagant squash blossoms in my life! Put down the pastry bag; you won’t need it to fill these beauties!
jumbo squash blossoms from Jaime Farm
Tutti Frutti Farms English “Shelling” Peas have been fantastic this year and the season is still abundant and strong.
Rutiz Farm is still rocking “Jerry’s Berries” along with the Persian Watercress and Savoy Spinach.
Coastal Organics has baby white turnips with purple shoulders (old-school!) and perfect gleeming green gem and red lettuces (available by the case: 30 heads). These lettuces are so beautiful, yet with this heat wave lurking in, lets enjoy them while we can!
So while we anticipate stone fruits, heirloom tomatoes, summer melons and squashes, creating summer menus in our heads, let us not look too far ahead and revel in the fertile bounty April has still to offer.  In meeting each farmer, from Coastal Organics’ Mark to Coleman Family Farms Romeo, I immediately felt respect and appreciation for their work and their dedication.  They enrich our tables, take us to our food’s roots and allow chefs to transcend the dining experience with food of true value.  Simply put, they help chefs make eating worth eating.
Cheers!
Melissa Mayer

AT THE MARKET:



Tom’s Terrific Tangerines from Polito Family Farm
Tom's Terrific Tangerines



Jerry’s Berries Strawberries (Galante variety) from Rutiz Farm – sweeter than candy!!
Jerry's Berries Strawberries from Rutiz Farm
Continue reading “FARMERS MARKET REPORT: WEEK OF APRIL 19th”

FARMERS MARKET REPORT: WEEK OF APRIL 12TH

My First Official Farmers Market Report!!
As a chef and a true food lover I get really giddy as spring sprouts beautiful nourishment from the earth. All across the state seeds have been sewn and the early birth of spring produce is being harvested. Strawberries are abound in many varieties: eat-from-the-basket fresh to perfect for a strawberry tart. Lettuces are peaking and blushing, varieties so special they scream star salad. Shallot shoots are tender sweet, savory and sexy, spring onions with bulbs bursting the size of baseballs and to round out this season’s onion fashion, garlic green tops are the opposite of “slow-aged” black garlic, rather bright, fresh lively and proof that spring IS in the air…
Farmers Market headstands this week:
“Jerry’s Berries” strawberries!! If I had a dollar for each thought I have had about these strawberries since sinking my teeth into one after another last Wednesday, I could buy 100 flats of them!  If you have yet to give Jerry’s galante variety a try, you really should.  They are bring-you-to-your-knees GOOD!
Red Frill Mustard Greens had chefs’ heads spinning last week!  Gorgeous and peppery:  it is the designer mustard green for chefs!
I’m in love with the Red Arrow Baby Broccoli and the Persian Watercress!!  All of the Farmers Market lettuces are beautiful and tasty, especially the Freckles Lettuce (It has freckles!! C’mon!)
English Peas are sweeter than candy and The Lyon Artichokes with Stem are bigger than my head and probably yours too!  The baby Artichokes are still rocking and as you know, super versatile!!  Principi’s Pizza’s Andrew is throwing down a Baby Artichoke, Green Garlic and Sage pizza at the Little Italy Mercado on Saturdays.  I indulged in several pieces and I’m hooked.  I am 99% sure he made a green sauce with the artichoke hearts.  It was amazing.  If you are at the Little Italy Farmers Market, check his wood-burning pizza oven booth out.  It is awesome!!!
I am heading to the market on Wednesday to see what’s new, what is on the cusp of landing in our hands and if there are some more adventurous produce out there that can continue to elvate our guests’ palettes and push our creative juices.
I welcome all special requests and questions that each of you may have regarding the Farmers Market and I hope to keep bringing you the special produce that continues to bring value to your menus.  “In these times” value is priceless.  A little McGrath Farm Red Frill Mustard here with a handful of Polito Family Farm Tom’s Terrific slices there can translate into guests feeling like they are in on something great!
For those of you who had the chance to order the shallot shoots last week, congratulations!! due to the holiday, no shallot shoots were harvested this week so if you haven’t tried them yet, next week is a good week to do so.
Farmers Market is going to start peaking soon with so much yummy produce on the horizon.  Get ready because if this spring is any indicator of summer’s fertile offerings, your menus could revolve around the freshest produce in town!!
On a personal note, thank you to everyone who participates in the Farmers Market with Specialty.  It is the Farmers Market where we find all this special produce that was just harvested and plucked from the earth and trees.  It just doesn’t get any fresher than that, unless you are plucking it form your own garden.  The farmers who bring us these goodies that enhance our menus and raise the bar are the true rockstars of our industry.  Thanks to you, they get to keep on keepin’ on!
Happy Post-Easter Monday and Happy Cooking!
Melissa Mayer

WHAT’S NEW:

Tom’s Terrific Tangerinesfrom Polito Family Farm
Tom's Terrific Tangerines
Red Frill Mustard Greens sexy and frilly on the outside, spicy and no-frills on the inside!  My pick of the week!
Red Frill Mustard Greens from McGrath Family Farm
Jerry’s Berries Strawberries (Galante variety) from Rutiz Farm – sweeter than candy!!
Jerry's Berries Strawberries from Rutiz Farm
Continue reading “FARMERS MARKET REPORT: WEEK OF APRIL 12TH”

Farmers' Market Report – Week of April 1st

Happy Monday!
How did everyone like their Fava’s? Amanda (our microgreen queen and your FM packer) made the mistake of eating one without removing the 2nd shell!! Ha ha, priceless! But yes, under that waxy shell, they are super sweet and fresh; not ONE BIT mealy. McGrath Farms and Coastal has more this week, supplies are goin’ good!
Another great new spring item is Polito Family Farm’s “Tom’s Terrific” Tangerines!! Trust me, you’re going to want this. I am not bringing in anymore Paige tangerines and bringing in these instead, that’s how TERRIFIC they are. We tried a sample last week and were in heaven. They are technically the Tahoe variety, originally developed via UC Riverside’s famous citrus breeding program. Easy to peel, 99% seedless, and JUUIIICCCYYY. Eat it over the sink and don’t say I didn’t warn you. $2.70 per LB, a little cheaper than the Paige. 🙂
Also, Weiser’s Bloomsdale Spinach was too small to cut, so this week will be Rutiz Farm! SNOW Peas available this week from Tutti Frutti Farm – SUPER SWEET!
The not-so-good news: Purplette Scallions from Rutiz Farm is gapping for the next 2 weeks. Harry’s Berries Baby Roma and Yellow Cherry Tomatoes will be gapping for about 3 months. Romanesco from 2 Peas in a Pod now will not be available for several weeks. The weather destroyed his new planting, and we must wait for the other field to come in. 🙁Baby Pink Turnips from Coastal Farm are still not available for 2 more weeks (I know I keep saying 2 weeks, sorry!), and Baby Broccoli is N/A for 2 weeks as they await their new planting. BUT, I am bring in the Weiser Farm Baby Green AND Purple Broccoli, which is a little larger than Coastal’s but equally delicious.
Until next week,
Laura
Note: All pre-orders must be placed by Tuesday at noon to [email protected] Emergency orders or add-ons will be accepted, but we can longer guarantee availability. If there are any special requests please feel free to ask!

WHAT’S NEW:

  • Tom’s Terrific Tangerines from Polito Family Farm
  • Snow Peas from Tutti Frutti Farm
  • Red Spring Onions from Jaime Farm (not quite confirmed, but we’re hoping)
  • Red Spring Onions from Jaime Farms
    Continue reading “Farmers' Market Report – Week of April 1st”