Best Thing to Buy Right Now – Sweet Cherries!

IMG_4387We love fresh sweet cherries, juicy and full of flavor, and perfect for jams, pies, and salads. The season is typically very short, early May to the end of June, so enjoy them now while they’re in season. California is home to over 600 cherry growers, farming over 26,000 acres throughout the state where nutrient-rich soil, sunny days and mild nights.

California grows mostly sweet cherries as opposed to tart or sour cherries grown in Michigan and the Pacific Northwest states, with Bing cherries having the most acreage. But small farmers grow a nice variety of other cherries with subtle taste differences, varieties that you won’t see in any supermarket! They come from Brentwood, Lodi, Stockton, Linden, down towards Gilroy and Hollister, and other northern California valleys. Try a bag of each and see which ones you like the best!

Bing cherries are the leading sweet cherry. They are firm, juicy, large, and a deep mahogany red when ripe. They have a distinctive heart shape. Bings are intensely sweet, with a vibrant flavor.
Rainier cherries are yellow inside and out, with just a bit of red blush on them, quite large, sweet and firm.
Burlat cherries are an early variety, arriving in the markets in May, and have a mild sweet flavor. It is a large, meaty cherry, great for snacking.
Brooks cherries are a large, uniform, dark red fruit. Flesh is firm and crisp with variable shades of red and pink. The stone is nearly free. This cherry works well for canning and baking.

5 Ways to Enjoy Meyer Lemons

MeyerlemonTrees are loaded with Meyer lemons right now. They’ll soon be disappearing so we have ways to save all this glorious citrus. These lemons are called Meyer because they were identified in 1908 by Frank N. Meyer who discovered they were a cross between Eureka or Lisbon lemons and a mandarin orange. They’re sweeter than other lemons, are rounder and a little more orange in color than others. The pulp is darker than other lemons, too.

Here are five delicious ways to use this fantastic lemon variety.

Lemon Marmalade: Tangy, tart, and sweet.

Meyer Lemon Curd: Awesome on biscuits, toast, or baked goods.

Lemon Bars: Take an old family recipe and exchange a tart lemon variety for a Meyer in your favorite recipe.

Meyer Lemonade: Summer’s almost here so make some homemade lemonade. Two cups sugar, 1 cup hot water, 2 cups fresh Meyer lemon juice, 1 gallon cold water, 1 sliced lemon. Mix sugar and hot water in a gallon container until sugar dissolves. Add remaining ingredients. Chill with ice.

Juice: Juice a dozen lemons and save in a mason jar in the refrigerator. Then it’s ready for adding to dinner recipes, drizzling on fresh steamed vegetables, fresh fish, or salad dressings.

There are so many other ways to enjoy Meyer lemons. Try some of your own ideas. We’ve tried infusing olive oil with lemon peel and fresh herbs, making lemon sorbet or candied lemon peel, adding to hot tea, and a host of other ways. Enjoy!

A New Vision for PCFMA

For over 25 years the Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association has been organizing farmers’ markets in the San Francisco Bay Area to help California farmers sell their products and sustain their farm businesses.

When a small group of farmers first got together in 1988 to form PCFMA they never imagined that one day their customers would be able to order fresh produce through their computer for home delivery, that major healthcare and educational institutions would have an interest in buying locally-grown food, or that Central Valley farmers would need to drill wells 100 feet down to have enough water to sustain their crops.

Earlier this year the PCFMA Board of Directors challenged itself to think creatively about how PCFMA can continue to evolve to meet the changing needs of local farmers while adapting to the changing local food system. Despite the evident challenges of the drought and increasing agricultural imports to the state, the PCFMA Board remains committed to an optimistic vision for California: “We envision happy and successful California farmers providing locally-grown food in vibrant markets.”

To pursue this vision the Board also crafted a new mission statement: “We empower California farmers to be enormously successful in Bay Area communities.” The new mission statement, while simpler than the previous one, sustains PCFMA’s core commitment to California farmers and their ultimate success.

Over the coming months the PCFMA Board of Directors and staff will continue to engage in a strategic planning process to ensure that PCFMA is well-positioned to adapt to changes in the food system, the regulatory environment, and the state’s growing conditions. This strategic plan will ensure that PCFMA is able to continue to be a leader in California’s agricultural direct marketing system.

AB 2413 – The Farm to Fork Bill

Governor Jerry Brown has signed a group of bills aimed at promoting the “farm to fork” movement in California that seeks to bring fresh produce and other foods closer to consumers, including many not served by traditional grocery stores.

In September 2014, Brown signed AB 2413, a measure that creates a state Office of Farm to Fork to promote food access and increase agricultural products available to schools and under-served communities. Assemblyman John Perez (D-Los Angeles) authored the bill, which puts the new office within the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

ftf_logoThe new Office of Farm to Fork will work with city councils and county supervisors to identify under-served areas for new farmer’s markets and other non-profit food delivery operations. This office will encourage food hubs, work with regional and statewide stakeholders to identify urban and rural communities that lack access to healthy food, and determine current barriers to food access. The bill will “identify opportunities and provide technical assistance for collaboration between farmers, regional and local food banks, partner agencies, and nonprofit charitable organizations in the gleaning, collection, and distribution of agricultural products for the purposes of reducing hunger and increasing access to healthy foods.”*

If you would like to get involved in the California Food to Fork movement visit cafarmtofork.com. There you will find ways to help and additional resources and publications.

Shelling Peas with Grandma

066I’ve always loved peas. I think it’s because they remind me of my grandmother. Of picking the peas from the field next to the house. Of sitting with her on the back porch with a glass of homemade lemonade and a big bowl of pea pods. Of feeling like we were special. And of course, watching her steam the peas to perfection for Sunday dinner.

Going to Grandma’s house on a sunny afternoon was an adventure for us. We would always join her for what she called a “shelling party.” She would sit in her rocking chair, we would sit cross-legged on the ground, all of us with big bowls of pods. We shelled and talked about what was going on in our small lives. Pull, string, snap, and pop, the peas went into our bowls.

We felt like we were part of the family, a part of helping with the big gathering. There was a sense of belonging. I don’t know if anyone still shells peas on the porch anymore. It’s sad that we have become so used to pulling a bag of peas out of the freezer that we don’t really connect with our food, with the seasons, and with the people who grow the food anymore.

Why don’t you gather family or friends, connect with your food and create your own memories? Visit the farmers’ market this spring to pick up several bags of garden peas and have your own shelling party. Pour a glass of lemonade, have a good gossip, and enjoy!

Grandma’s Spring Peas
1 pound shelled garden (English) peas
1 tablespoon real butter
½ teaspoon lemon juice
Salt to taste
Shell peas. Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan. When the water reaches a boil, add some salt and the peas. Cook for only a minute or two so they are still crisp but tender. Drain. Put in a warmed bowl and stir in lemon juice, salt and butter.

Debra Morris

Egg Production & the New Cage Law – Shelly’s Farm Fresh

You’ve probably noticed that egg prices in California are higher, with cartons costing as much as a dollar more than last year, and the state’s new chicken cage requirements are being blamed for the increases. The law requires that each egg-laying hen have at least 116 square inches in a cage to spread its wings. The voters decided that extreme confinement of laying hens is inhumane and unacceptable.

chickensThe law, Proposition 2, the California Standards for Confining Farm Animals Act, was passed in 2008 with a six-year window with which to comply (January 1, 2015). This has caused many growers to reduce the number of birds they house in existing facilities, or modify the caging systems they already have, which they say is expensive. This means the costs are passed to the consumer and eggs now cost more.

Shelly McMahon of Shelly’s Farm Fresh in Brentwood says, “The only change that we have made due to the new caging law is increased production. I appreciate that change is sometimes frustrating and will increase costs but in the long run it is so much better for the chickens and for the healthier eggs they produce.”

She goes on to say, “We have always raised our hens on pasture. We believe the hens are healthier and happier when allowed to forage naturally. It is more work for the smaller family farms and more land is required but it is worth it for the higher nutritional value and delicious flavor of the eggs, not to mention the welfare of the hens.

“Raising hens on pasture allows the birds to roam and perform their natural behaviors such as pecking and scratching for bugs and seeds, and taking dirt baths. Hens are given fresh water, nesting boxes and perches, and then rotated to new areas of pasture regularly so they always have access to fresh grass. We raise our birds on pasture not only because it makes ‘the girls’ happy, but because pasture-raised eggs are tastier and healthier. Our eggs have a rich flavor and dark yolks with beautiful shells of brown, blue or green.”

1551512_679790562080355_1961060669_nSo think of the chickens and the humane way they are treated when you pay a little extra for your eggs. They will thank you with delicious healthy eggs. Look for ‘CA SEFS COMPLIANT’ on your egg cartons for eggs compliant with the new law.

To learn about their egg production and pastured chickens visit Shelly’s website at Shelly’s Farm Fresh or on Facebook for updates.

Five Things We Bet You Didn’t Know About Fava Beans

Fava-Beans---Edited---April-2015-WEBSpring is a wonderful time to go to the farmers’ market and pick up some fresh spring veggies. Peas, fava beans, spring onions, and baby vegetables are perfect right now.

Young fava beans are delicious right now. Here are some interesting tidbits about favas.

1. The 6th century B.C. philosopher Pythagoras condemned the fava bean and would not let his followers eat it. It was thought that they contained the souls of the dead.
2. The cultivation of fava beans is so old that there is no known wild form of this bean. It has been used in Chinese cooking for at least 5,000 years.
3. The name ‘broad bean’ refers to the seeds, which are large and flat. They’re also called faba beans, broad beans, horse beans, and field beans.
4. Some people have a hereditary allergic reaction to fava beans called Favism (Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency). Certain substances in the bean can lead to anemia.
5. Favas were also the original bean in the traditional 12th night cake. Some branches of Christianity celebrate the “Twelve Days of Christmas.” The 12th night marks the coming of the epiphany. The beans were considered good luck.

How about a nice Chianti with your beans?

Shelling fresh fava beans can be time consuming but well-worth the delicious beans inside. First, bring a pot of water to a boil before you start opening the pods.

Break open the bean pods. Sometimes you can slide your finger along one side, opening the seam as you would a zipper, but other times you just have to break the pod apart in pieces.

Once the water is boiling, blanch the favas in boiling water for one minute, then scoop them out and plunge them into a bowl of ice water. This will loosen the skins so they’re easier to remove.

Favas have one wider, slightly flattened end with a scar where it was attached to the shell. Grasp the fava between your fingers with the scar facing up, and with the thumbnail of your other hand, tear into the scar end and peel back. Pinch gently and the fava will slide right out.*

*FineCooking.com

New USDA Grant Will Significantly Increase Food Access in the Bay Area

CalFresh Matched At Local PCFMA Farmers’ Markets

Concord, CA (April 1, 2015) – The Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association (PCFMA), in partnership with the Ecology Center in Berkeley, CA, is pleased to be among the organizations that will benefit from a $3.7 million Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) Grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). This grant will allow PCFMA to match CalFresh (formally known as food stamps) purchases dollar-for-dollar for the next two years through the Market Match program, increasing access to fresh, local fruits and vegetables for over 5,000 low-income families across 60 farmers’ markets in the Bay Area.

The Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association has been offering Market Match incentives to CalFresh customers in its farmers’ markets since 2009, but was limited to providing an extra $5 in free produce after customers spend at least $10 in the farmers’ market, and for only a few months out of the year. With the FINI Grant, PCFMA will be able to double the buying power of CalFresh by matching redemptions up to $10 year-round for the next two years. They hope to have the program up and running at their farmers’ markets in early May. The combined impact of CalFresh and Market Match purchases could exceed $700,000 across all PCFMA farmers’ markets over that time.

Allen Moy, PCFMA’s Executive Director, says, “I can’t think of a single program that has had a more significant impact upon California farmers in farmers’ markets than Market Match. Market Match increases access to healthy food for low income families, increases fresh produce sales for California farmers, and spurs economic activity in the farmers’ home communities. It is a trifecta among community benefit programs.”

PCFMA expects the FINI grant to assist in forming and maintaining healthy habits in individuals and families who otherwise would not have easy accessibility to fresh, healthy food options. Distributing Market Match year-round will provide an incentive for these individuals to keep shopping the farmers’ market past the usual October benefits cut-off date, resulting in a higher long-term retention rate. CalFresh customers in PCFMA’s farmers’ markets reported that due to the Market Match program, 72% of them increased the variety of fruits and vegetables they consumed in 2014. Providing Market Match benefits consistently throughout the year with dollar-for-dollar matching will encourage recipients to visit the farmers’ market and redeem their benefits at an even higher rate in 2015.

The CalFresh Program, known federally as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), provides financial support to improve the nutrition of low-income individuals and families by increasing their accessibility to fresh and healthy food options. CalFresh benefits are issued via Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards. Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association exchanges CalFresh-EBT transactions for market scrip, matching the withdrawn amount through the Market Match Program.

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April 2015 Market Thymes Newsletter

April 2015-1April 2015 Market Thymes

Spring is in the Air
With April being a kind of an “in-between” month for many fruits and vegetables, and the weather notorious for its unpredictability, winter produce like chard, broccoli, cauliflower, and beets are still producing well, and citrus continues to be available, but tapering off. Flowers and nursery stock are in full production, and orchards will soon bring forth apricots, cherries, and other stonefruit.

New USDA Grant Will Significantly Increase Food Access in Vallejo

CalFresh Matched At Local PCFMA Farmers’ Market

Concord, CA (April 1, 2015) – The Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association (PCFMA), operator of the Vallejo Farmers’ Market on Georgia and Marin St., in partnership with the Ecology Center in Berkeley, CA, is pleased to be among the organizations that will benefit from a Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) Grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). This grant will allow PCFMA to match CalFresh (formally known as food stamps) purchases dollar-for-dollar for the next two years through the Market Match program, increasing access to fresh, local fruits and vegetables for over 5,000 low-income families across 60 farmers’ markets in the Bay Area.

The Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association has been offering Market Match incentives to CalFresh customers in its farmers’ markets since 2009, but was limited to providing an extra $5 in free produce after customers spend at least $10 in the farmers’ market, and for only a few months out of the year. With the FINI Grant, PCFMA will be able to double the buying power of CalFresh by matching redemptions up to $10 year-round for the next two years. They hope to have the program up and running at the Vallejo Farmers’ Market in early May. The combined impact of CalFresh and Market Match purchases could exceed $700,000 across all PCFMA farmers’ markets over that time.

The economic impact of both CalFresh and Market Match due to the FINI grant on the Vallejo Farmers’ Market alone is projected to be $98,000 over the two years. Allen Moy, PCFMA’s Executive Director, says, “I can’t think of a single program that has had a more significant impact upon California farmers in farmers’ markets than Market Match. Market Match increases access to healthy food for low income families, increases fresh produce sales for California farmers, and spurs economic activity in the farmers’ home communities. It is a trifecta among community benefit programs.”

PCFMA expects the FINI grant to assist in forming and maintaining healthy habits in individuals and families who otherwise would not have easy accessibility to fresh, healthy food options. Distributing Market Match year-round will provide an incentive for these individuals to keep shopping the farmers’ market past the usual October benefits cut-off date, resulting in a higher long-term retention rate. CalFresh customers in PCFMA’s farmers’ markets reported that due to the Market Match program, 72% of them increased the variety of fruits and vegetables they consumed in 2014. Providing Market Match benefits consistently throughout the year with dollar-for-dollar matching will encourage recipients to visit the farmers’ market and redeem their benefits at an even higher rate in 2015.

The CalFresh Program, known federally as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), provides financial support to improve the nutrition of low-income individuals and families by increasing their accessibility to fresh and healthy food options. CalFresh benefits are issued via Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards. Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association exchanges CalFresh-EBT transactions for market scrip, matching the withdrawn amount through the Market Match Program.

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PCFMA Blogs – pcfma.com