Nothing brightens up  a dish or drink like citrus.   When it’s rainy and cold, it’s citrus time in Northern California.    DeSantis Bella Fruita has the most amazing array of citrus but you can find.    But locally grown citrus is at many of the stalls including Armstrong Valley Farm and Min Hee Gardens.    There are a lot of  Meyer Lemons at the market.

 

100 Things to do with Meyer Lemons

 

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Tom Noble of Armstrong Valley Farm has the best of this seasons produce -hardy greens, citrus fruit and wild foraged mushrooms including the matsutake.   Tom has meyer lemons too!

The name matsutake means “pine mushroom” in Japan, where the local species, Tricholoma matsutake, grows in mycorrhizal association with Japanese red pines. About 15 other closely related species occur worldwide, including T. magnivelare, the American matsutake, which flourishes in coniferous forests across North America (and particularly in the Northwest and Northern California) with fir, spruce and pine, as well as tanoaks.

Japanese pay a premium for young, unopened matsutakes, before the veil between the cap and the stem breaks, which stay fresh better than more mature ones. (Matsutakes at this stage have a phallic appearance, and women at the imperial court at Kyoto once were forbidden to speak the mushroom’s name.) However, there’s no difference in flavo

From the MushroomExpert.com

“The odor of the matsutake is its most distinctive–and hard to characterize–feature. “Spicy but a little bit foul” is what comes to my mind, though I like “a provocative compromise between ‘red hots’ and dirty socks” (Arora, 1986, p. 191). The matsutake taste is as distinctive as the odor: “an incredible and complex flavor you won’t ever forget–even though you won’t be able to adequately describe it to anyone” (Volk, 2000).”

From Honest Food, some ideas about how to use matsutakes.  Recipes that capture the aroma are the best.

 

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Dec

24

2012

Merry Christmas – Open December 26th

Merry Christmas to the entire market community.  The market will be open Wednesday December 26th, rain or shine.   It’s a great place to bring out of towners for a taste of Sonoma.

Our vendors are water-proof!

 

 

 

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Min Hee Hill Garden has juicy Mexican limes also known as Key  limes grown right here in Sonoma County.  This is citrus season  and the you can brighten up any holiday dish or cocktail with this sprightly little lime.

The Key Lime Pie has propelled this citrus fruit into utter stardom. But, the Key Lime, also sometimes called the West Indian Lime, Bartender’s Lime, Omani Lime or Mexican Lime, has a unique propensity for adding a tart, bitter element to balance out all manner of recipes (where it tends to be overlooked). Key Limes are actually yellow when ripe, though they tend to be picked green commercially, hence the acidity. Smaller (little bigger than a walnut!), seedier, with a stronger aroma, more dynamic flavor and a thinner rind, these baby limes pack more of a punch than their larger relatives and prove the mightiness that comes in small packages.

How to Buy and Store Key Lime

Look for brightly colored, smooth-skinned Key Limes that are firm and heavy for their size. Make sure there are no signs of mold or decay. Small brown areas (scald) on the skin won’t affect flavor or succulence but a lime that is mostly brown will likely be unpalatable. Also, avoid a hard or shriveled skin. Refrigerate uncut limes in a plastic bag for up to 10 days – after which they will begin to lose their flavor. Cut limes can be stored in the same way but only for 5 days.

How to Cook Key Lime

When in season, try replacing the traditional Persian Lime with fresh Key Lime in your recipes, and see if you ever go back. You just might prefer it for the flavoring of fish and meats, marinades, cocktails (perhaps limeade) and as a tantalizing garnish. Key Lime juice itself can be used for syrups, sauces, preserves, and of course, Key Lime Pie.

Here are some recipes ideas

Great cocktail ideas!

Min Hee Hill Gardens  Wednesday and Saturday markets

 

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Redwood Empire Farm dry farms some of the tastiest tomatoes around.   Can’t dry farm without at least 20″ of rain.    While the rain is annoying, at least 20″ is the key to some great tomato flavor.

A few years ago  the U.C. Santa Cruz Agroecology Program compared the flavor of dry-farmed and drip-irrigated tomatoes; the dry farmed ones won hands down.

In an article in Field Notes, The Agroecology Program newsletter explained how Early Girls are dry-farmed on an on-campus demonstration farm. “Dry farmed means the plants that produced your tomatoes have not been watered since May 2, when they were transplanted into the field. Their roots grew deeper to follow the moisture as the soil dried down. The idea behind dry farming is to produce a tomato with more concentrated flavor, and save water to boot.”

The article continued: “From a purist’s standpoint, dry farming means growing crops without any irrigation to supplement rainfall. But you can adapt the idea to any degree you want. For tomatoes, dry farming works best with clay or clay-loam soil in areas that get at least 20 inches of rainfall. If your soil is sandy or rainfall is below 20 inches, you’ll need to apply some water.

“Dry farming’s obvious advantage is water savings. But equally important is flavor–and this method will reward you with the best tomatoes you’ve ever tasted.”

Albert explains the basics of dry farming: the soil has to be worked to keep the water from evaporating. Cultivate your garden to capture rainwater. Surface cultivation will break up soil crusting and allow water to seep into the soil.

Albert said ideally the “soil preparation begins in the fall to maximize water savings but March is not too late.” The basic dry farming method is dust mulching: Dust or dirt mulching disrupts the soil drying process essentially separating the upper layer of a garden’s soil from the lower layers.

“Just 2 or 3 inches deep will help capture up to 70 percent of rain fall. Be sure to work the soil “after every rainfall to break crusting caused by the rain.”

Just because The Patch , Redwood Empire Farm and other seasonal vendors aren’t at the market, doesn’t mean they are home with their feet up!   They are getting ready for next year.

In the meantime year round vendor, Bernier Farms has sun dried tomatoes.

 

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Amaryllis and paper white narcissus are beautiful traditional gifts for the holidays.    Daffodils, Dahlia’s Oh My has them in all stages of growth from just starting to full bloom.  But she also has sweet pea plants –  a gift that will produce colorful fragrant flowers for months.

Nature’s Spirit has organic vegetable and flowering plant starts.   Almost  everyone has space for a few pots of herbs.

Min Hee Garden has a nice selection of fresh herbs and lettuce plants.    They also have pepper plants that produce peppers all year round.

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Dec

18

2012

The carrot

Everybody puts up with the modern supermarket carrot.   You can use them cooked or raw, the color is great and they keep.

Supermarket carrots are fine for the soup pot, but nothing beats local varieties when carrots really count.   There aren’t many vegetables as eye-catching as bunches of white, yellow, orange, red and purple carrots, from slender minis to knobby standard sizes, with chunky Thumbelinas in between.

Roasting, braising, grilling and more extreme forms of culinary invention, typically applied to a pristine slab of hamachi tuna or a rosy duck breast, are now directed at piles of freshly dug carrots.

As good cooks know, “freshly dug” is as important for carrots as “diver” is for sea scallops.

Then there is the rich, deep flavor of a fresh carrot, especially this time of year. Carrots, it turns out, have a season.

The best demonstration of  farmers market produce exceptional taste is the carrot.   If you really want to do a a friend a flavor favor, give ’em a bunch of carrots from the market.

Wednesday and Saturday markets both have an exceptional variety of freshly dug carrots.

Here is a collection of easy carrot recipes.

 

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(Poster from Pratt School of Design)

The Sonoma County high  school students refurbish bicycles and sell them.  This Wednesday you can buy one at the Wednesday market.  Get a great bike for between $30 and $50.      Plenty of room to test drive.

The Wednesday market is a great place for holiday shopping.    This weekly pop-up plaza brings the best of Sonoma County for mid-week shoppers.     There are wonderful hand-crafted scarves, shirts, napkins, jewelry.  For the chefs and enthusiastic eaters on your list – great choices abound.

For on the spot eating, great farm market breakfasts from the Green Grocer or from Mi Fiesta a tamale treat.   Gaga Cafe is pouring wonderful coffees and the beans make a great gift.   Full Circle Bakery and Good Gal Bakery have the perfect pastry for everyone from bear-claws to scones.

Only two more markets until Christmas but our vendors invite special orders, please check the vendors list for contact information.

 

 

 

 

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Saturday  Ruiz Farms of Santa Maria joins the market and has fresh California strawberries.    Just tie a ribbon around the box and you have a perfect gift.  Step it up and make some chocolate dipped strawberries.

A gift for someone or something to perk up winter menus – California strawberries in the market this Saturday.

 

 

No Fail Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

Strawberry Salads

Main dishes

Best-ever strawberry pie

California Strawberry Facts

Strawberry production shifts between north and south with the changing seasons. Fall and winter production starts in October in Ventura County and reaches south into Orange and San Diego Counties in late December or early January. Production in the south generally extends into April or May. Staggered planting schedules in the Santa Maria area bridges the seasons, with the harvest beginning in March, and continues into the late fall.

California’s northern strawberry growing region is south of San Francisco and includes Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties and some acreage in Santa Clara and San Benito counties. Watsonville and Salinas account for almost half of the state’s strawberry acreage. Shipments from northern areas begin in April, peak in May or June, and continue through November.

California is the nation’s leading producer of strawberries. In 2011, more than 2.1 billion pounds of strawberries were harvested. That amounts to 88 percent of the country’s total fresh and frozen strawberries. California’s unique coastal environment with its western ocean exposure provides moderate temperatures year round. Warm sunny days and cool foggy nights are the perfect combination for growing strawberries.

Strawberries are the sixth most valuable fruit crop produced in California.

 

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Dec

13

2012

Oysters

No oyster is the same at any one time of year. How it tastes – how fat, how briny, how big or small – depends on its own reproductive cycle, and on the cycles of the climate.

Cold weather is good for oysters!

The holiday season arrives and so do the oysters! For many oysters are a holiday tradition – they may take many different forms: oyster stew, raw oysters, oyster shots.

Bumblebee Seafood has local oysters and crab.  They also have salmon and cod.  If you are looking for something special — just ask.   Saturday market.

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