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Summer 2011 farmers market watch

Any good finds?

I was at Serramonte farmers market this morning and scored gorgeous brown Turkish figs ($4 a pound, but worth it). Excellent raspberries, nameko mushrooms from the Far West people, Persian cucumbers, and thick-skinned but sweet early girls. Also a great pumpkin seed levain from Brioche Bakery ($5).

What are you buying?

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  1. Inspiring descriptions and didn't know about the Serramonte farmers market, thanks! I still can't get over the incredible red color of the tomatoes on sale for a $1 a lb these days. Just cooked up a batch of yellow, purple and green green beans with some garlic and bacon. Giant eggplants on sale for a $1 each and scored a beautiful bunch of radishes. Any ideas for the radishes? I once read about eating them with butter and salt.

    2 Replies
    1. re: mlutsky

      Radishes with butter and salt are fantastic. Good with a good crusty bread as a sandwich also. I had gazpacho tonight for dinner.

      1. re: mlutsky

        Tri colored beans with garlic and bacon sounds great!

        Pick up a baguette at Thorough, slice the long way, butter, and slice the radishes thin. They lose their sharpness with any kind of fat (or cooking). When I get too many in a produce box, I cut them up small and throw them in stir fries. Acme stick baguettes work too.

        Ed Brown has an ode to eating radishes with French butter and salt at long departed Guerrero restaurant Le Trou in his book Tomato Blessings & Radish Dreams.

        The Thursday market at Serramonte (listed as Daly City) is bigger than Saturdays because there's less competition for farmers'. It's very friendly and manageable. About 1/4 organic, great prices, and decent prepared options (Roli Roti, Dalek, the bolani stand, oysters). And plenty of parking. It's behind Target.

        Sunday Stonestown is another newish market for me. Alemany's gotten so huge and crowded, but is still my favorite.

      2. I'm a SF Bay noob from the northeast, so any time I can buy delicious strawberries and heirloom tomatoes AT THE SAME TIME thrills me to no end. That said, I was ecstatic to see blueberries at the Upper Haight market on Wednesday. One whole stand with nothing but blueberries. I moved away from Boston JUST as the season started, so this was a VERY exciting find.

        11 Replies
        1. re: Spenbald

          vendor was likely rainbow orchards, im assuming. their season ends in probably 3 weeks. after that, probably wont find blueberries in the market. so, enjoy these next few weeks! Im planning on making a lot of blueberry related concoctions to get my fill.

          1. re: majordanby

            Rainbow is up in the Sierras so sometimes their blueberry season runs late. The lemon quark from Spring Hill farms is amazing w blueberries.

            1. re: Windy

              Rainbow is fantastic. I was really surprised the first time we had their blueberries, thinking that I had given up really good blueberries by moving out here from Boston. The 3 week prediction matches what they were saying last week at the Mountain View farmer's market.


              1. re: mdg

                Really? I'm not a fan. I'm from Boston and spent lots of time in Maine. I want to like blubes here, but I don't. They're too big, and almost mealy in texture for me.

                1. re: zunzie

                  I'm not talking about any blueberries here, most of which are mediocre at best, but about Rainbow Orchards in particular. They're not wild blueberries, but they're no bigger than cultivated blueberries from New England, and they're just as tasty. If you don't like them, fine, but I wanted to be sure you've tried Rainbow in particular, not one of the mediocre Central Valley growers.


                2. re: mdg

                  They had two different blueberries in Marin on Thursday. One was big, sweet but not a lot of flavor. The other was smaller, tarter and had a lot of flavor. I bought some of the tarter berry and asked if they would be back on Sunday. Yes. Went back today, mixture of berries. the lowest common denominator never works well.

                  1. re: wally

                    Rainbow had two sizes of berries at Daly City too (not sure if they were different kinds or not). I bought the cheaper ones, and they're perfectly delicious.

                    1. re: Windy

                      As far as I remember, they were all the same price.

                3. re: Windy

                  I'm having a hard time finding it on the peninsula...
                  I thought Spring Hill was supposed to be at the the San Mateo CSM FM, but I've went twice now, and they have not been there.
                  Other than at the Ferry building Sat. market, has anyone spotted Spring Hill at any other markets lately?

                  1. re: lrealml

                    They've always been at Alemany on Saturdays when I've been there.

                4. re: majordanby

                  Just to confirm, it was indeed Rainbow. They were there again today with LOTS of blueberries and some really nice looking blackberries. Didn't ask about how much was left. Bought 2 quarts of blueberries for $18.

              2. This time of year at the Berkeley FM, I'm buying whatever white nectarines/peaches taste best at Kashiwase, sweet white corn, avocados and Chinese vegetables. Eating wild blackberries from my backyard, the sweetest plumpest figs (of an unidentified variety) from my stylist's patio and waiting for my Yellow Brandywines and Black Krim tomatoes to ripen.

                1. last week at alemany FM, saw the first batch of dry farmed early girl tomatoes. always excited to see these - wonderful to eat as is.

                  grape season is getting started. not too many vendors in alemany, but checked out JLS FM and several vendors had them at $1.50 a pound.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: majordanby

                    Please post if you see any muscat grapes at Alemany. I think they're later in the season.

                  2. Hit the Sebastopol FM this Sunday -- bought several different varieties of garlic, some really fabulous cheese from Weirauch Farms, Lemon cucumbers everywhere. I like the Costata Romanesco zucchini (lighter green with darker green ribs). And of course, Gravenstein apples.

                    Weirauch Farm
                    Petaluma, Petaluma, CA

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                      Stone fruit from Viva Bella orchard at Alemany,heirloom tomatoes and grapes from a farmer in Watsonville at the Belmont Farmers Market on Sundays, Strawberries from Marys (I think) at San Mateo CSM Market, blueberries at Ferry Plaza, and stone fruit from Frog Hollow at FPFM too.

                    2. A few weeks ago there was a guy at Phat Beets (57th near Market in Oakland) with nothing but garlic, several varieties including a couple hard-stem, fabulous quality. Was not there yesterday. Anyone seen him around?

                      I found no hard-stem at Berkeley yesterday.

                      1. The 50 Fremont market was an explosion of summer today: heirloom tomatoes, two kinds of figs, eggplant, etc.

                        I bought some Flavor Grenade plouts (tip from vendor: they're better when they're firm and crisp than when they're softer) and some loose tea from a new vendor: St. Honore (apparently the same one who had a cafe for a while on the corner of San Pablo and Solano in Albany).

                        9 Replies
                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                          Grown in the famous tea plantations of Alameda county?

                          1. re: Windy

                            LOL. I wondered, too. Blended and packaged, I guess.

                          2. re: Ruth Lafler

                            Actually something I miss about many European farmer's markets is how they can be a complete food buying arena - local produce and butchers sure, but also cheese vendors with cheeses from local an afar, tea, dairy, wild game, charcuterie, a stand with spices by the pound etc.

                            As much as I like the local produce I do wish I could do more of my shopping at the market.

                            1. re: boris_qd

                              I don't know what market you're going to, but Mountain View is a lot more than produce. There's chicken, meat, fish and seafood, cheeses, oils, honeys, charcuterie, baked goods, sorbets, and more. It's pretty complete, but it is local to California.


                              1. re: mdg

                                No Charcuterie at Alemany or my local neighborhood market (although maybe marin sun farms has something?). Who's making it and what are they making?

                                1. re: boris_qd

                                  Oakland's markets have a wide range too. Temescal has salumi from Boccalone, jerky and meats and sausages from Prather Ranch, there's Blue Chair Jam and Redwood Hill (I think) cheeses and the quark and butter folks, an oyster stand (there may be other fish that I miss in my obsession about the oyster) and Blue Bottle Coffee and Vice Chocolates. Oh, and fruits and veggies and flowers and takeout :) Grand Lake is much the same; Boccalone, Prather, quark, jam, a fishmonger, their own coffee, often goat cheese, plus olive oils and vinegars and on and on.

                                  All right, it won't stop sticking in addresses for their real locations. I just wish it would stick in addresses for the farmers' markets instead.

                                  Boccalone Factory - Not Open to Public
                                  1924 International Blvd, Oakland, CA 94606

                                  Prather Ranch
                                  1 Ferry Bldg # 32, San Francisco, CA

                                  Blue Bottle Cafe
                                  66 Mint St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                                  1. re: peacemeals

                                    Quark, butter, and cheese (and sometimes cheese curds) would be Spring Hill.

                                    What do you think of Vice chocolates?

                                    1. re: peacemeals

                                      For auto-linking to work, the name of the business that you type in your text must be an exact match for the spelling in the Restaurants database. To link the two farmers markets you mentioned, you can also open "Manage Your Links" and search to find them, as I've done below. If your favorite farmers market is not listed, you can enter it into the database. The ones that are in the database now are only there because a chowhound took the time to fill in the details. It's up to our community to keep them current.

                                      Grand Lake Farmers Market
                                      Grand Ave and Lakepark Way, Oakland, CA

                                      Temescal Farmers' Market
                                      5300 Claremont Avenue, Oakland, CA

                                  2. re: mdg

                                    I havent't been to the mountain view market but I would say that even though the markets in SF have that stuff too in many cases there isn't much variety and I would call it far from complete.

                                    For instance, Marin Sun Farms comes to some of the markets but everything is vacuum packed already and in many cases frozen. There's no butcher on hand to do something custom or to talk to about the meat (the people at the market just run the stand and can't answer many questions). It's common in many places in Europe to actually have the butcher at the market to talk to and they'll butcher something for you if they don't have it predone.

                                    For Marin Sun Farms I find the quality of the meat great but the butchering is only ok. Similar comments about the sea food most of the time (the exception being oysters which are usually good and the few times I've had shrimp so fresh they were jumping out of the back of the truck).

                                    Also, we have cheese stands but usually only a limited selection (say what they produce themselves) and even taking all the cheese stands together leaves many cheese gaps.

                                    It could be that Mountain View is just attracting better stuff and in greater variety then the non ferry terminal markets in SF.

                                    I'm not saying I don't like the farmer's markets in San Francisco, just that there's room for improvement.

                              2. Last Saturday's market at CSM - a new to me fruit: Thomcord grapes = cross between Thompson seedless and Concord. All the delicious flavor of a Concord without the seeds! Small grape, tight bunches, bursting with flavor...

                                Stone fruit over the top: walked into one booth full of peaches, nectarines, several types of pluots, etc. with the most intoxicating aroma. O'Henry peaches were just the best; what peaches tasted like when I was a child...

                                This is the time of the year when I over-buy and we stuff ourselves with the best of the best!

                                20 Replies
                                1. re: RWCFoodie

                                  Yeah, it's an embarrassment of riches. O'Henry peaches may have been what you ate as a child -- it's an old variety. Am I the only one who hates the flavor of Concord grapes?

                                  1. re: RWCFoodie

                                    I also found a new (to me) hybrid at the CSM FM on Saturday—a nectaplum from Kashiwase—it was excellent. I think the variety was something like “Super Zee”.

                                    Sorry I missed seeing you there, RWCFoodie—I arrived late and for once didn’t taste all the options before choosing. For peaches I ended up with Kashiwase’s Heavenly White—the sample was very good but only the last 5 or 6 fruit remained and they were not in great shape. Moral-- go early, sample everything before deciding. I'll look for O'Henry peaches next time.

                                    1. re: charliemyboy

                                      A "nectaplum"? I wonder who decided that would be better than a "plumarine."

                                      Hadn't realized O'Henry's were in. Will keep an eye out for Heavenly Whites and Flavor Kings too. Peaches don't last long, do they? But so good this time of year.

                                      1. re: Windy

                                        "Plumarine" is much more agreeable than "nectaplum," but I think the rule for portmanteaux for hybrid fruits is that the name of the fruit with the highest percentage content goes first (so pluots have more plum than apricot, apriums the reverse). In theory, then, nectaplums are more nectarine than plum. But they do sound awkward.

                                          1. re: dordogne

                                            Yesterday I was chatting w Fran of Blossom Bluff. They're now selling a pecotum: a peach apricot plum. Unfortunately the flats she had were all spoken for so I didn't get to try one.

                                            1. re: Windy

                                              Pecotum sounds unfortunately like a body part, or maybe something worse. Like, "argh, he got sick and got pecotum all over me".

                                                1. re: Windy

                                                  Tried the "pecotum" today at the Temescal Farmer's Market - despite the name, it's addictive! One of my favorite aspects of the fruit is its skin - it's got the combined fuzziness of a peach, the translucent blush of an apricot, and the shininess of a plum. The flavor is light plum + the meatiness of an apricot. Yum.

                                                  1. re: carieshmarie

                                                    Thanks for taking the plunge. Was it from Blossom Bluff or someone else? I'll have to check it out.

                                                    1. re: Windy

                                                      Yes, sorry for the omission - it was Blossom Bluff. Think I'll buy a flat on Tuesday if they have it and figure out the best way of preserving them!

                                                      1. re: Windy

                                                        Yeah, I tried that pecotum too, and those things are incredible. It's funny, the only thing that I *don't* like about it is the skin -- it's beautiful and really is the color of a sunset, but it has that peach fuzziness that I hate in peaches. But they're super flavorful, with a lot of the sweet/tartness that I love in plums but the texture of a peach or apricot. Really really good.

                                              1. re: dordogne

                                                This just in on hybrids, including the Zaigers' newish "pluerry":


                                                1. re: dordogne

                                                  Great article. (I'd have named it a "chum.")

                                                    1. re: wolfe

                                                      Some smart (aleck) local chef should serve them together.

                                                        1. re: wolfe

                                                          Now that's much better than shark's fin soup!

                                            2. re: charliemyboy

                                              Sorry I missed you too. I was there at 8:45 - it's just too crowded and crazy for me by 9:15. I try to get in and out of there before 9:30. After that it's too hectic; I like to stroll around at least a couple of times, taste and then I decide on what from who I want to buy.

                                              Have had some terrific tomatoes (finally). We scarf cherry tomatoes, especially Sun Golds, like there's no tomorrow!

                                              I believe the O'Henry peach is one that's here and gone pretty quickly... But I like this old-fashioned variety.

                                              Have you tried anything from the smaller French baker? She makes what she calls a croissant (doesn't look like the typical one) with a pistachio filling that is outstanding (to me anyway). I don't care for her breads though; have tried a couple and found them very blah. Pastries seem to be her thing.

                                          2. Dirty Girl is selling its good dry-farmed early girl tomatoes at the Berkeley Tuesday market.

                                            1. The best tomatoes I've had so far this summer are from Tomatero Farm from the Temescal Farmers market. They have dry farmed early girls, and lots of heirlooms too, and they've all been so good I've eaten them either plain or just on some really good bread.

                                              7 Replies
                                              1. re: JasmineG

                                                Us too. We refer to her as "the tomato lady" and visit her first every Saturday morning at CSM.

                                                1. re: JasmineG

                                                  Same! Tomatero comes to the Mission Community Market, too. Love the Early Girls.

                                                  1. re: operagirl

                                                    I haven't tried Tomatero yet, but this has been a great season for tomatoes so far, especially early girls. Maybe from the cold summer?

                                                  2. re: JasmineG

                                                    I have to say that Tomatero's eggs have been my favorite in this area. Generally $7/dozen, which I find a bit on the high side coming from Boston, but DAMN they are good.

                                                    1. re: JasmineG

                                                      I bought 10 lbs of "overripe" heirlooms from them yesterday for $1lb. They are some of the best tomatoes I've had... ate a whole plate of them last night for dinner.

                                                      Last night was the last night for the San Carlos market... So now my grocery shopping routine will shift into my autumn/winter/spring routine even though the summer produce is still going strong.

                                                      Does anyone know if Tomatero is at any of the other markets on the peninsula?

                                                        1. re: artemis

                                                          Thanks! I forgot to ask Tomatero where they are... I asked most of the other San Carlos vendors I frequent and It seems that most of them are at either the Sat. San Mateo or the Sunday Belmont...

                                                          I also want to mention that Lujan has had the most amazing peaches/nectarines and pluots all summer... Not even in the same league as everyone else's

                                                    2. End of summer this week - so, perhaps a Fall 2011 farmers market watch?

                                                      Apple growers starting to pop up at markets.

                                                      Rainbow orchards told me their last week at markets this week. After that, they'll be back several months later to sell their apples.

                                                      4 Replies
                                                      1. re: majordanby

                                                        Yup. Let's start a new thread in honor of fall.

                                                        1. re: Windy

                                                          Official dates aside, what I see at the farmers markets is still looking like summer. Chiles haven't even gotten red yet.

                                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                            Yeah, I feel like the summer season at the market here is at least until the end of September. The tomatoes only started getting good about two weeks ago.

                                                        2. re: majordanby

                                                          Bought my first pomegranate of the season yesterday. So it's only a matter of time until Mitchell's rolls out the pumpkin ice cream.

                                                          Hoping to stop by Rainbow Orchards or one of the nearby apple farms for cider and doughnuts next week.

                                                        3. Frog Hollow had Warren Pears this week. They are my abosolute favorite pear. I haven't tried them yet as they need a few days on the counter.

                                                          While the taste has never disappointed, there have been a few years where the crop was really bad looking, small and beat up. This year they are large and lovely looking. Worth $3.99 lb? Yem, they are too me.

                                                          Nice thread from a few years ago


                                                          El Cerrito Naturals usally sells the pears if you can't get to a farmers market

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. re: rworange

                                                            Those Warrens are exceptional. Sometimes Whole Foods gets them from Frog Hollow.

                                                            1. re: rworange

                                                              I got some Warren pears from Frog Hollow; they also needed a few days on the counter, but now that they've softened up, they're really juicy and have wonderful flavor.

                                                            2. Richmond Friday farmers market

                                                              They are open until 5pm ... or the vendors leave

                                                              I bought the absolute best mini watermelon for $1. It was like it was all perfectly ripe watermelon heart (the part in the center without seeds). If you are in the area, stop by. I'm thinking of returning and buying some more.

                                                              1. Alameny market last weekend had all the ingredients for Chiles en Nogada.

                                                                Fresh walnuts from this season at the nut and dried fruit farmer, chiles poblanos at the peak of their season, beautiful ripe pomegranates.

                                                                The walnuts, discounted for being "sunburned," were particularly sweet and flavorful. The freshness was amazing.

                                                                We also found some fresh local chestnuts, and their flavor was particularly sweet and delicious. Even off the streets of Rome in winter, I usually find chestnuts flavorless and starchy; these were not. I have no idea what I'll do with my 2 lbs, but I couldn't pass these up.

                                                                3 Replies
                                                                1. re: SteveG

                                                                  Sounds like fall is officially here! 2 pounds of sweet chestnuts seems like a good problem to have.

                                                                  1. re: SteveG

                                                                    I got some sunburned walnuts from Alemany last week as well and was actually shocked how sweet some of them were - almost like there was a dried chewy fruit burried in the nut - this is not the first time. According to some online sources the sunburned ones are supposed to be slightly bitter and are less desirable. This has not been my experience.

                                                                    I hope the "secret" doesn't get out making the price go up.

                                                                    1. re: boris_qd

                                                                      The guy at the stand said sunburned were sweeter. Maybe it varies year to year, but I was quite happy with these. Like you said: the price is great.