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.

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!

January 2015 Market Thymes

1- January 2015-11- January 2015

When the New Year rolls around we usually make a list of resolutions that often fall by the wayside as the months pass. This year, let’s make it simple. Resolve to visit your farmers’ market for fresh, healthy, and delicious California-grown produce and make it part of your weekly routine. Try something new this year. Select some produce you’ve never tried before and ask your farmer how to prepare it. Or take an old favorite fruit or vegetable and create a healthier version of your family recipe.

Central Valley Crop Yield Down Because of Nematodes & Drought

The root knot nematode wreaks havoc in the hotter climates of the Central Valley. Their destruction of crops is underestimated and seldom mentioned, but is costing billions of dollars in lost production each year.

RootKnotNematode07Nematodes are tiny roundworms found in the soil and are usually harmless to vegetable crops. But the root knot nematode, so named because of the way it wraps itself around plant roots, causes problems throughout the state of California. There are four or five species that attack a wide range of vegetable crops and cause galls (swellings) on the roots and impair a plant’s ability to absorb water. This causes the vegetables to wilt easily in the valley heat. And with little water to spare during California’s drought, it is hard to keep farmers’ crops alive.

No current integrated pest management methods have been completely successful. Crop rotation and leaving infected fields fallow have helped reduce its occurrence. Solarization of the soil has RootKnotNematode24also been used (heating the soil to kill the nematode and its eggs). There are even nematode-resistant rootstocks that are available.

Commercial farmers have access to pesticides and nemacides, but these are strictly controlled. Small farms and backyard gardeners usually use biologic controls like bacteria, fungi, and other non-toxic methods.

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 www.usps.com/stamps.

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!