Northern California Dungeness Crab Season is Here!

The crab pots are out and the crustaceans are plentiful as the 2014 Dungeness crab season begins. Fishermen are optimistic this year about the quantity and the quality of the crab and we could be looking at a record-setting year. From mid-November to May you can find one of the Bay Area’s most iconic foods, fresh Dungeness crab, at your local farmers’ market.

kelly crabThe Dungeness crab takes its name from Dungeness Bay, east of Port Angeles on the northern tip of the Olympic Peninsula, in North-Western Washington State and most crab is found from the Bay Area and Pt. Reyes to areas off Eureka and Crescent City.

Since the area’s crab population uses the San Francisco Bay as their breeding ground and nursery, we don’t know if the current California drought will have any effect on the abundance of crab. The eco-system in the estuary may or may not have been affected. Only the male of the species can be caught, whether by commercial crab fishermen or by non-commercial crabbers so this helps keep the species available with such a high demand.

The 2013-14 Dungeness crab season brought new regulations that sought to level the playing field for commercial fishermen. A new law signed by Governor Jerry Brown set trap limits between 175 and 500 pots, depending on a fisherman’s catches from previous years. Advocates for SB 369, as the bill is known, said the limits would prevent large out-of-state boats with thousands of traps from decimating the crab population early in the season.

Learn how to clean a crab here.

New Farmers’ Market Postage Stamps Arrive!

stamp 2Stalls filled with gorgeous fruits and vegetables, flowers, bread, eggs, and herbs are the subject of the new set of four farmers’ market themed postage stamps. Each one is a colorful reminder of how important farmers’ markets are to our community, our farmers, and our health, and how they are much more than just places to buy fruit and vegetables. They support the local economy and provide us with a connection to what we eat.

stamp 3Each of the four stamp designs shows a group of special items you would find at your local farmers’ market. One has fruits and vegetables, another has colorful flowers, the third depicts fresh bread, artisan cheese, and eggs, and the last one has fresh herbs and potted plants. This community gathering place is how artist Robin Moline depicts a farmers’ market.

Earlier this year Daniel Best, general counsel for the California Federation of Certified Farmers’ Markets and Barbara Plunkett, the Postal Service’s district manager in Sacramento unveiled thestamp 1 series of stamps at Capitol Mall. Also in attendance was John Silveira, director of Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association. He says “Farmers markets can change the culture in a community and I think the stamp is a recognition of that.”

stamp 4Show your support for your local farmers’ markets and your community by purchasing some of these gorgeous stamps. These commemorative stamps and other related farmers’ market stamp products can be purchased at your local post office or at

November 2014 Market Thymes Newsletter

November 2014-1November 2014

This is the time of year to be grateful. We thank our farmers for bringing us fruits, vegetables, nuts, flowers, meats, eggs, and other California products, even in these trying times of drought. And we are grateful to those of you who have supported your local farmers’ market this year.

In this month’s Market Thymes we offer information on sweet potatoes, and a very informative article by our Cookin’ the Market chefs on shallots and how to use them. We are also announcing the launch of our “Brown is the New Green” campaign which offers thoughts on conserving water in this multi-year drought.

And we’d also like you to remember those who are less fortunate this time of year. Not everyone can sit down to a table laden with all the Thanksgiving fixings. Hunger is prevalent in every community in the nation and at all seasons of the year. PCFMA supports programs that help people access healthy foods so stop by your local farmers’ market and select fresh produce to donate locally.

Have a happy and bountiful Thanksgiving!

Drought, Regulations, and Olive Fruit Fly Affect Fall Olive Oil Production

Several factors have affected this winter’s new olive oil crop – the olive fruit fly, the drought, and the new stricter grading and labeling regulations that took effect in September.

The Drought
The drought will bring in the harvest a week or so ahead of schedule, and the crop is expected to be a third smaller than previous years. The olive buds froze in the cold snap we had last olio tree pruningDecember. The quality will still be very good and the first press should offer great flavor, according to some of the farmers’ market olive oil producers. Last fall, trees were trimmed back more severely than usual to lessen the amount of water they needed, thus leading to the smaller yield this year. Some smaller olive oil producers will not be bringing in their crop this year because they won’t have enough to press. They say that if we don’t get enough rain this winter and spring, next year will be a disaster for both small and large operations. Even though olive trees require less water than most tree crops, producers are still concerned about having enough water for irrigation.

Don Della Nina of Olio Bello d’Olivo says, “We usually pick around 18 tons of olives in a good year. This fall we only picked about 7 or 8 tons and it was a week or so earlier than normal. Some ranchers didn’t bother picking their olives at all.” He says he has two harvests per year, one in the fall of green olives that make a wonderful cooking oil with strong olive flavor and a bit of a peppery bite to it. His spring crop is from black olives that provides an oil good for dipping and dressings, with a smooth finish and flavor.

The Olive Fruit Fly
With almost 100% of the commercial olives produced in the US grown in California*, the olive fruit fly can cause major devastation if not controlled. Olive oil producers use mostly integrated pest management techniques such as bait traps, and other biologic methods to control this pest. It is currently under control, but it is a constant battle to contain the pest. They nest in the slowly ripening fruit and can spread larvae that will ruin the entire crop of olives. Olio Bello d’Olivo hasn’t had any olive fruit fly problems, but he still puts out his own traps to make sure it stays that way.

The New Grading Regulations
olio bello d olivoNew grading and labeling standards for olive oil took effect this September. These new standards require that producers of more than 5,000 gallons or more of olive oil test every batch of their extra virgin olive oil to ensure that it is not rancid, denatured, or mixed with other types of oils. In the California certification program, California producers submit their olive oil to the California Olive Oil Council (COOC) for sensory evaluation, where a panel of certified tasters conducts a blind tasting, chemical analysis, and rigorous lab testing to confirm that acidity levels and other aspects of the oil are on target. If the oil passes certification the producers earn the right to display the COOC seal. Purchasing olive oil with the COOC stamp of approval means you are buying fresh, California grown, 100% extra virgin olive oil.

Don says, “Customers should ask to see this analytical lab report when they buy California olive oil. The acidity can’t exceed .5% in California – ours usually runs at the .1% to .2% level. Our sales success is due to our transparency about what’s in our oil.”

The new regulations eliminate confusing labels like “light,” and “pure,” adulterated versions of real olive oil. Both of these must now be labeled as “refined” oils. And with these new regulations it is expected to give California olive oil producers a competitive edge because of the expectation of quality oils labeled properly.

Visit your local farmers’ market for real California olive oil, unadulterated, pure, and delicious!


Artichokes, the Official Vegetable of California

In 2013, Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom named the artichoke the official vegetable of California. Considering that virtually 100% of the artichokes in the US come from California and because of their rise in popularity over the years, it was a wise decision.

chokeNearly two-thirds of the state’s crop of artichokes comes from the area around Castroville and Salinas, with the remainder growing further south. The moderate climate with cool summers and mild winters, as well as the cooling fog make for ideal growing conditions. And with these conditions, California can offer two crops per year, the spring yield and the fall/winter crop. The Green Globe cultivar comprises the majority of commercial cultivation, but there are several varieties from which to choose at your local farmers’ market. The artichoke is offered in sizes from large to “baby” and even a purple artichoke variety is available.

Artichokes have to be harvested by hand, a very labor-intensive proposition. Baskets of artichokes are sorted by size and type, then packed and brought to the markets fresh each week. Harvesting for the spring crop is from March to May, while the fall/winter crop is from September to December.

Fall and winter artichokes may be darker or bronze-tipped or have a whitish, blistered appearance due to exposure to light frost. This is called “winter-kissed.” These frost-kissed artichokes are considered to be the most tender and with intense flavor. Spring varieties are tender and sweet.

Small farmers are developing new varieties all the time, but here are some of the more available cultivars you will see at your local farmers’ market:

globe artichoke Green Globe
This is the most common artichoke; globe-shaped, green with some purple as its base and has prominent thorns; mild and nutty in flavor. Peaks in March and April.


Desert Globe
Winter variety. Not as thorny, compact is size; nutty flavor. Peaks in early spring.

imperial star artichokeBig Heart
Thornless variety, conical in shape, with purple tinge at its base. Usually available year-round, but peaks in the fall. Good rich flavor with wide “heart.”


Imperial Star
Thornless variety with a glossy green color, conical in shape, well-developed hearts, good artichoke flavor. Peak production in the spring.

purple artichokePurple
Gorgeous purple color in a wide variety of different cultivars; rich nutty flavor; available in spring.


Jerusalem artichokeJerusalem Artichokes
These are not artichokes at all, but from a different group of the sunflower family. They are tubers, also called sunchokes. Generally available through the fall.


How to Buy:
Choose artichokes which are vibrant and free of discoloration. Make sure that they are tightly closed — an artichoke that has begun to open will have a tough and undesirable texture. To ensure a fresh artichoke always check the bottom of the stem as it is a good indication of when the vegetable was harvested.

How to Store:
For the best flavor eat artichokes within a few days of purchasing as they lose their flavor intensity over time.

How to Prepare:
Chef Mario Hernandez offers this article on how to “turn” an artichoke.”

TIP: Artichokes do not pair well with wines because they contain cynarin, a chemical that enhances the perception of sweet flavors.

Asian Citrus Psyllid Detected in San Jose

Leaf damage from Psyllid

The time for citrus is coming soon. The winter months provide us with local oranges and tangerines and more, but the crop could be in jeopardy with the significant finding of the citrus psyllid in Santa Clara County.

The Santa Clara County Agricultural Commissioner, in cooperation with the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), is beginning an extensive survey in response to the detection of Asian citrus psyllids (ACP) in the City of San Jose near Kelly Park.  This is the first detection of ACP in Santa Clara County and the Bay Area.

The ACP were detected in a residential neighborhood near Phelan Avenue and Roberts Avenue in San Jose. Treatment activities will be carried out on all citrus plants surrounding the sites where the insects were trapped.  Residents in the treatment area will be notified in advance of any activity.  Additionally, an increased number of traps have been deployed and a visual survey is ongoing on the surrounding properties in an attempt to determine if there is an infestation.

“The Asian citrus psyllid is a dangerous pest of citrus,” said Joe Deviney, Santa Clara County Agricultural Commissioner.  “We’re working to determine the full extent of this infestation so that we can protect our state’s vital citrus industry as well as our backyard citrus trees.  We want to emphasize citrus is safe to eat and the disease is not harmful to human health.  Working together we can prevent the harm this invasive species can cause.”

Adult citrus psyllid

The ACP is an invasive species of grave concern because it can carry the disease huanglongbing (HLB), also known as citrus greening.  All citrus and closely related species are susceptible hosts for both the insect and the disease.  There is no cure once a tree becomes infected, the diseased tree will decline in health and produce bitter, misshaped fruit until it dies. HLB has been detected just once in California – in 2012 on a single residential property in Hacienda Heights, Los Angeles County. HLB is present in Mexico and in parts of the southern U.S.  Florida first detected ACP in 1998 and the disease in 2005, and the two have now been detected in all 30 citrus-producing counties in that state.  The University of Florida estimates the disease has tallied more than 6,600 lost jobs, $1.3 billion in lost revenue to growers and $3.6 billion in lost economic activity.

Check your trees at home and be vigilant in letting the CDFA know if you have spotted what you think is the citrus psyllid. Check with your local Master Gardeners of Santa Clara County. Residents in the area who think they may have seen the pest are urged to call the Pest Hotline at 1-800-491-1899.  For more information on the Asian citrus psyllid and huanglongbing disease, please visit:

Old Apple Varieties are New Again

After almost disappearing, apple varieties that were popular 30 to 40 years ago are making a comeback! People were tired of uniformly shaped, waxed and shiny, generic and tasteless apples. Today there are more than 450 apple growers in the state of California. California currently ranks as the country’s fourth highest apple producing state. And many of these farmers are returning to growing heirloom (antique) varieties, full of flavor and texture. Hillview Farms, who participates in the Danville Farmers’ Market, offers over 100 varieties of heirloom apples. These heirloom varieties are prized for their flavor and not for their shipability and shelf life.Vallejo-new-years-34-apples

For many years there have been small pockets of heirloom apple growing regions, from the town of Julian  and Oak Glen in Southern California, to Lodi, to See Canyon near San Luis Obispo. Up in Northern California there is the famous Gravenstein growing region near Sebastopol and The Apple Farm near Philo. There’s even “Apple Hill” in Camino where all kinds of apples are grown. These areas have become major tourist attractions in the autumn months. Visitors have learned to discriminate between a delightfully sweet or tart heirloom and those that are abundant in the supermarkets. These apples have fun and interesting names like Limbertwig, Jonagold, Chieftain, Heaven Sent, Spitzenberg, and Black Amish, and they all have very distinct, very flavorful tastes.

This fall, visit some of the local heirloom apple farms and pick some of the wonderful antique apples that have been brought back to life. Or visit your local farmers’ market where they offer a nice range of these tasteful fall fruits.


Farmers’ Market Photo Contest Winners Announced!

Congratulations to our three 2nd Annual Farmers’ Market Photo Contest winners! All of the submitted photos were fantastic! We received 57 photos from about 30 different markets for the month-long contest in honor of Farmers’ Market Week. This is almost double the participation of last year’s first photo contest and the PCFMA staff had a tough time deciding on the winners!

The images we received covered a wide range of views on what your farmers’ markets means to you, from the fabulous produce, to the market atmosphere, to the community feeling the market creates. We thank all those who participated in this exciting contest. All of us at Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association appreciate your participation and support of your local farmers’ markets! We hope you all had as much fun taking the photos as we did viewing them!

1st-place-Winner-Joy-Yu-Zuchero-CSM - small for website1st Place Winner: Joy Yu Zuchero taken at the College of San Mateo Farmers’ Market. The Grand Prize is a one night stay for two at the Capay Valley Bed & Breakfast and tickets to the nearby Hoes Down Festival at Full Belly Farm.


Nithya Chidambaranathan Evergreen - small for website

2nd Place Winner: Nithya Chidambaranathan at the Evergreen Farmers’ Market. Second place prize is two tickets to the Farm to Fork Dinner presented by CAFF at the Guglielmo Winery in Morgan Hill.

Alison Kreft San Jose DT - small for website3rd Place Winner: Allison Kreft at the San Jose Downtown Farmer’s Market. Third prizes includes “Carrot Cash” (which is good at any farmers’ market that PCFMA operates) and a reusable bag filled with fresh seasonal produce.

Seasonal Supper: Field to Fork


Share an intimate evening with local farmers while you enjoy multiple courses highlighting the food they grow. The Seasonal Supper will be a true Field to Fork event hosted by the Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association at Hap Magee Ranch in Danville.

Each course, delicately crafted by Chef Mario Hernandez, will feature the seasonal harvest from Tomatero Farm, Frog Hollow Farm, Happy Acre Farm and more producers from the Danville Farmers’ Market. Glennhawk Vineyards will be generously providing tastings and menu pairings of their wine selection, grown right here in Danville, adding to this truly local experience.

Participating Danville Farmers’ Market Farms and Producers:
Achadinha Cheese Co.
CMC Farms
Frog Hollow Farm
Glennhawk Vineyards
Happy Acre Farm
Prather Ranch
Sunrise Nursery
Tomatero Organic Farm

Enjoy farm-fresh food, live music, fine local wine, and a raffle benefiting nutritional education programs for low-income families of the Bay Area made possible by our sister organization, Fresh Approach.

Proceeds from this event will go to Fresh Approach programming and support the participating farms. Extra donations are gladly accepted. Many thanks to Glennhawk Vineyards for sponsoring this event.

All of your donations will support Fresh Approach and their efforts to increase healthy food access in the Bay Area.

Tickets are limited! They are available now at the Danville Farmers’ Market or at Brown Paper Tickets. Check with the market manager for details.

What are Dry Farmed Tomatoes?

Dry farmed Early Girls
Dry farmed Early Girls

At the farmers’ market you may see a sign saying that the produce is “dry farmed.” In California, where rains hopefully saturate the soil in the winter and the sun dries everything out in the summers, dry farming is a natural. Dry farming is when new seeds or seedlings are watered until established and then water is cut off,  forcing its roots deep into the soil in search of water and focus its efforts on producing fruit. The resulting tomatoes are usually smaller and lower in yield, but are so intense in flavor and texture, they are coveted by high-end restaurants and small specialty grocery stores.

dry farmed tomatoes
Dry farmed tomatoes at Blue House Farm

Dry farming is also easy on the environment because it uses much less water than other conventional methods. And that’s a big issue for California right now, suffering through another year of intense drought. Following winter and spring rains (or, during drought, watering from wells or from irrigation), the farmer will cultivate and break up the soil to create a moist “sponge.” Then the top layer is compacted using a roller to form a dry crust. This three- to four-inch layer, sometimes referred to as a dust mulch, seals in water and prevents evaporation. Water needs to be held any way possible for long periods of time. Once established, thinning of fruit or vegetables in necessary to ensure each plant gets as much water through its roots as possible.

Other fruits and vegetables can also be dry farmed like melons, squash, and potatoes, leading to smaller product size with amazing flavor. But one problem with dry farming is reduced yield. It’s an unprofitable way to grow crops, but with the current drought, it’s sometimes the only way to  grow.

Mediterranean grape and olive growers have dry-farmed for thousands of years. The practice was common on the California coast from the 1800s through the early 20th century, but it became a lost art during the mid-century. Today, it is experiencing a modest resurgence along the coast, where temperate, foggy summers offer ideal conditions for dry farming grapes, tomatoes, potatoes, cucumbers, melons, grains, and some tree fruit.*

Dry farming could be an important agricultural practice in the future, when water will likely be a less abundant resource. Farmers are at the mercy of the weather and soil conditions to grow their crops as they have always been. Dry farming just makes us more aware of where water comes from and how to conserve it.


*, Brie Mazurek