Celery Root

celery rootsCelery root, also called celeriac, is an edible root vegetable in the celery family. The stalks and leaves strongly resemble celery, although they are not very good to eat. The root itself is a lumpy tuber in appearance, resembling a misshapen turnip. It is brown and lumpy, and the brown outer skin should be washed and peeled before cooking.

When picking out celery root, look for firm tubers without fleshy spots or discolorations. Smaller roots will taste better, while larger roots are woodier and more suitable for roasting or long stewing. In flavor, the root resembles a concentrated version of celery, with a spicy hint of parsley.

Celery root can be used in any recipe that calls for celery, and a variety of others as well. It can be stored in the refrigerator in a brown paper bag with stems trimmed for approximately one week before use. It is excellent when roasted, added to gratins, or added to soups and stews. It can also be eaten raw in thin slices on salads and appetizers, and it adds a zesty crunch.

Sweeten Your Day with Local Honey

Honey bees are responsible for pollinating most fruits, vegetables, and legumes. In fact, to produce a pound of honey, bees must visit some 2 million flowers. Those floral blossoms help create more than 300 varieties of honey ranging from clover and sage to blueberry and buckwheat. Floral source, location and climate factors all affect the taste, color and texture (viscosity) of honey. Its colors range from nearly colorless to deep dark browns. Each has its own distinct flavor ranging from delectably mild to impressively bold.

Tomas, Market Manager and Three Bees Beehives
Tomas, Market Manager and Three Bees Beehives
Honey is a wonderful source of quick energy and is also valued for its antioxidant properties. It is composed primarily of carbohydrates and water, and also contains small amounts of a wide array of vitamins and minerals, including niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium and zinc. Add it to your diet for a healthier alternative to other sweeteners.

Cooking with Honey: For best results, use recipes developed for using honey. Because of its high fructose content, honey has a higher sweetening power than sugar. This means you can use less honey than sugar to achieve the desired sweetness. When substituting honey for granulated sugar in recipes, begin by substituting honey for up to half of the sugar called for in the recipe. With a little experimentation, honey can replace all the sugar in some recipes.

When baking with honey, remember the following:
•Reduce any liquid called for by 1/4 cup for each cup of honey used.
•Add 1/2 teaspoon baking soda for each cup of honey used.
•Reduce oven temperature by 25°F to prevent over-browning.
When measuring honey, coat the measuring cup with non-stick cooking spray or vegetable oil before adding the honey. The honey will slide right out. A 12-ounce jar of honey equals a standard measuring cup.

Storing Honey: Store honey at room temperature – your kitchen counter or pantry shelf is ideal. Storing honey in the refrigerator accelerates the honey’s crystallization. Crystallization is the natural process in which liquid in honey becomes solid. Honey stored in sealed containers can remain stable for decades and even centuries! However, it tends to darken and lose its aroma and flavor over time. This is a temperature-dependent process, making the shelf life of honey difficult to define.

For practical purposes, a shelf life of two years is often stated. If your honey crystallizes, simply place the honey jar in warm water and stir until the crystals dissolve. Or, place the honey in a microwave-safe container with the lid off and microwave it, stirring every 30 seconds, until the crystals dissolve. Be careful not to boil or scorch the honey.

Note: Honey should never be fed to infants under one year of age. Honey is otherwise a safe and wholesome food for children and adults.

Water Worries at Sunrise Nursery During Drought

Cut flowers are one of the many pleasures of life and with Valentine’s Day coming up, nurseries and florists are gathering up their colorful bouquets for you to enjoy. The continuing drought has had an effect on how and what is grown, and long-term effects have not yet been calculated. Nursery owners don’t know what will happen in the next few years.

IMG_0851I spoke with Steve Fernandes, owner of Sunrise Nursery, a second generation flower farm in Watsonville, and asked him how the drought has affected his nursery business. He said that he has a private well on his property and even though the well belongs to the farm, the state of California has added meters and charges fees for water usage over and above a certain amount.

He says, “It seems that the well can be considered along with ‘mining rights’ since any land below the first few feet of top soil is considered property of the state.”

Fernandes has a total of 28 acres of flowers, nine of which are filled with large greenhouses so that most of his flowers can be grown year-round. These enclosures are opened during the day to let the sun in and for air to circulate, then closed at night and heaters turned on when necessary to keep the flowers at the proper temperature.

Steve says, “The flowers in the greenhouses have to be monitored much more that open acreage.” Everything is grown in containers so soil pH has to be maintained, water controlled, and mildew watched for.

The nursery irrigation acreage is 90% drip irrigation to control water use. They also have flowers like roses and Gerbera daisies that are grown hydroponically using micro-emitters. All waternew covering on greenhouse runoff is captured and the resulting gray water is used to water other flowers. Steve said he is seeking grants from the USDA National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for water conservation assistance and improvements to his current system.

Steve said he loves to get out and work with his hands and bring his flowers to many farmers’ markets. Despite the challenges of drought he hopes to continue the nursery business for the future.

Allen Moy Selected as New PCFMA Director

We are pleased to announce that the Board of Directors voted unanimously to appoint Allen Moy as Executive Director of the Association, effective January 21, 2015.

Allen joined PCFMA as Assistant Director in 2003, and in 2011 he was appointed Director of Community Based Programs for PCFMA and became Executive Director of Fresh Approach, a non-profit affiliate of PCFMA engaged in the provision of health and nutrition education and food accessibility in the PCFMA market area.

Allen J Moy - Head Shot 2When Allen joined PCFMA he brought over 15 years of experience in nonprofit organizations including nearly seven years as Director of Operations of the National Community Building Network in Oakland, California – a membership-based alliance of over 700 local anti-poverty groups from around the nation. Allen’s prior employment included three years as Public Information Specialist for Partnership for Hope, a non-profit anti-poverty research and advocacy group in San Antonio, Texas; and nearly five years with the Southwest Voter Research Institute, a national non-profit organization working to secure Hispanic voting rights.

Allen holds a Master’s in Urban Administration and a Bachelor’s in Communications and Political Science, both from Trinity University in San Antonio. Allen also has a Certificate in Human Resource Management from California State University, Hayward (now Cal State East Bay). Allen currently resides in Concord.

Being an active volunteer is also important to Allen. He is Treasurer and a past President of the California Small Farm Conference – a nonprofit organization that hosts educational conferences for California’s small farmers and a former Board member of Family Builders by Adoption – an Oakland, California-based foster care and adoption agency.

Allen has been instrumental in managing the growth of PCFMA over the last 12 years and he has been extremely effective in obtaining grant funding for research, development and promotion of farmers’ markets. In carrying out this work, Allen has developed tools to measure a market’s viability and has become an expert in opening and operating vibrant farmers’ markets. Allen led the PCFMA and Fresh Approach team that wrote a handbook on opening and operating a community based farmers’ market. The PCFMA Leadership Team wholeheartedly supports Allen’s appointment.

The Board stands ready to support Allen in facing the challenges ahead. We ask all of the members of the PCFMA community to congratulate Allen and to give him your enthusiastic support in continuing to make PCFMA the best operator of Certified Farmers’ Markets in California.

Spring Leeks

leeksLeeks look like large scallions, having a very small bulb and a long white cylindrical stalk of superimposed layers that flows into green, tightly wrapped, flat leaves. Cultivated leeks are usually about 12 inches in length and one or two inches in diameter and feature a fragrant flavor that is reminiscent of shallots but sweeter and more subtle.

Leeks should be firm and straight with dark green leaves and white necks. Good quality leeks will not be yellowed or wilted, nor have bulbs that have cracks or bruises. Since overly large leeks are generally more fibrous in texture, only purchase those that have a smaller diameter.

Cut off green tops of leeks and remove outer tough leaves. Cut off root and cut leeks in half lengthwise. Fan out the leeks and rinse well under running water, leaving them intact. They grow in sandy soil so you want to make sure to remove all the grit between the leaves.

Leeks are an excellent source of vitamin K. They are very good source of manganese, vitamin B6, copper, iron, folate, and vitamin C. Leeks are also a good source of vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids, dietary fiber, magnesium, vitamin E, calcium, and omega-3 fatty acids.

John Silveira, Director, Moves On

As you are aware, our longtime Executive Director, John Silveira, recently stepped away from that position. His departure was somewhat abrupt and came as more than a bit of a surprise to the Board of Directors.

I think it is appropriate to visit some of the remarkable history of Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association during the time John led the organization. John worked for PCFMA for more than 22 years, starting as a market manager. He was Executive Director for the past 13 years. When John took the helm, we had 11 employees. We now have over 50 employees at the peak of the Farmers’ Market season. Our revenues have quadrupled, but stall fees have only doubled. We have grown from 11 markets to 64 markets. John was instrumental in creating a model for smaller Farmers’ Markets located in corporate facilities in a partnership with Kaiser Permanente. This model has since been implemented in partnership with several other sponsors. I honestly believe that the efforts of John and PCFMA have been crucial in helping some farmers get started and have provided outlets that have allowed them to continue bringing fresh California-grown products to our neighborhoods.

This exceptional growth did not come without some managerial challenges. John met those challenges with enthusiasm and his management skills grew with the organization. In the past few years, at the request of the Board, John oversaw a successful overhaul of our organizational structure and the hiring of talented and committed staff to carry forward the mission of the organization.
Our most recent audit was the best I have seen in the 14 years I have been on the Board. We are in sound financial condition and have the resources to continue to meet the challenges faced by the direct marketing of California agricultural products.

In watching John over the past 14 years, I have been constantly amazed at his devotion to PCFMA and to the staff, California farmers, market sponsors and consumers. John loved the markets; he could often be found visiting markets, when he could otherwise have had the time off. He even filled in as a market manager on occasion, just because he found it rewarding.

John had relationships with a diverse and widespread network of farmers, vendors, market sponsors, local, state and national government agencies, trade groups and other market operators. John’s efforts over the past three years were a major part of the recent adoption of AB 1871, which passed last year and was signed by Governor Brown. This legislation updates the laws concerning Certified Farmers’ Markets in California and provides a much-needed boost to funding for market integrity. I don’t know where John found the time to do all the things he did. If I had tried to do half of what John did, I would have been exhausted. John was energized.

John left PCFMA in great shape, with fiscal, physical and human assets in place to continue the work he cared so much about.

We will miss John’s skill, devotion and passion. We all wish him the best and I am confident that PCFMA will continue to build our future success on the foundation so well laid by John Silveira.

Weird Wonderful Kohlrabi

Ever wondered what that weird vegetable is at the farmers’ market that looks like it’s from outer space? A bulbous pale green orb with stems sticking up from the top? It’s kohlrabi, a member of the Brassicae family which includes broccoli, cauliflower, cabbages, and Brussels sprouts. The name comes from the German kohl (cabbage) and rabi (turnip). The kohlrabi is not a commonly used vegetable in the U.S. but is slowly gaining favor because of the simple flavors it imparts.

156-KohlrabiThe entire plant is edible but most people usually prepare and eat the bulb portion. The skin has the texture of broccoli stems and can be white, light green, or bright purple. The insides are a creamy white. The taste and texture of kohlrabi are similar to that of a broccoli stem or cabbage heart, but milder and sweeter. Smaller kohlrabi are a bit more tender and sweet than larger ones.

When purchasing, look for firm bulbs with fresh leaves. Bulbs can be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to a week, but leaves should be eaten within a day or two. When preparing, trim leaves – save for stir-frys and salads – and peel the outer layer of skin on the bulb away because it tends to be tough. Eat raw in salads or as a snack with dips. It tastes a lot like a mild broccoli stem, but sweeter. Substitute for recipes calling for radishes because they have a similar texture. Kohlrabi can be steamed or boiled, just like broccoli, but don’t peel til after they are cooked.

Pick up one of these exotic vegetables next time you visit your local farmers’ market and enjoy!

Winter Radishes

Winter radishes, tough and hardy vegetables that survive harsher weather, are not your spring varieties, all rosy and delicate. These winter beauties are sharper in taste, bigger in size, are denser in texture, and amazing to cook with. Glorious big Spanish Black radishes that are black outside and white inside; divine Beauty Heart watermelon radishes with beautiful pink color inside and pale green outside; the China Rose white radish with a less astringent flavor; and the miniature purple or white daikon radish with tangy pleasant flavors are now at your farmers’ market.

Winter RadishesWinter radishes are all about pungent, sharp, and aggressive flavors that work well with other winter produce like citrus and winter greens. They stay crisp longer than spring varieties, store longer, and are very good when pickled and jarred for appetizers or condiments. They can be cooked, unlike spring varieties. Roast or sauté to bring out the flavors. Minimal preparation will bring out the best that winter radishes have to offer.

They are packed full of vitamin C, zinc, phosphorous, and fiber. Select radishes that are hard and have bright fresh greens. Avoid soft or scarred radishes. Loosely wrapped and refrigerated, winter radishes will keep in your vegetable bin for several weeks with no diminishing of flavor or texture.

Sir Prize Avocados Arrive at Farmers’ Markets

Arriving at your farmers’ market is the Sir Prize avocado, a new and distinct variety of avocado characterized by fruit similar to the `Hass` industry standard but earlier-maturing and more productive. Country Rhodes Farm and a few other farmers will have them available now through the next few months.

Sir Prize fr RhodesThe new variety, due to its Mexican race genes, is more suitable than `Hass` in colder growing areas such as Northern California. Season of maturity averages 6-8 weeks earlier than `Hass` in any one location and overall fruit size is larger than `Hass` making early-season maturity more important.

It has a thinner skin than the familiar Haas, a smaller seed, and a larger overall size. The flavor is more “green” and fruity than the Haas, less buttery, but delicious. The Sir Prize avocado also has one important characteristic for cooks and this that it doesn’t turn brown after cutting it open! No more brown guacamole!

The avocado in general is one of the “good fats” that we should be eating. The monounsaturated fat is thought to be good for heart health. Though relatively high in calories, the avocado is one fruit that is worth it because of the nutritional value. They are high in fiber, vitamins K, C, B6, riboflavin, potassium, and folate.

New-Year-Salad-e1420483781989Here is a terrific salad recipe using avocados and a new variety of citrus. Enjoy!