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Market Scene: Spring in San Francisco

20080428SwantonArtichokes.jpg

"Spring is so fleeting."

I thought this to myself this weekend as I came back from the San Rafael Farmers' Market. I live in San Francisco, so let's be honest: it's not like I just survived through a long, hard winter. Not as long and hard as some of you have. Through the shortest days, we still have lettuces and citrus, year-round markets, and quite a variety of fruits and vegetables. But even the heartiest locavores among us get a little weary of butternut squash and stored apples and canned tomatoes.

Enter spring.

20080428SpringBounty.jpgThe first signs of spring came about a month ago with the grand entrance of Delta asparagus from the Sacramento area. And now, we are in the midst of spring abundance complete with fava beans, artichokes, spring lettuces and strawberries. There is something about springtime to me that is extra special.

While we see the arrival of some crops that will stick around for many months—strawberries, for instance—many last just mere weeks. Spring is a series of short bursts of flavor. Miss a couple of weeks at the market, and entire crops will have passed you by.

"How are the cherries looking?" I asked John Lagier at the market yesterday. Lagier brings arguably some of the best cherries in the area to market, and they last but a moment. Their typical season is from Mother's Day to Father's Day. Lagier said the crop looks great, but that the fruit is still green, meaning that we won't see his cherries at market until May 20 or so and they will last for about three weeks.

Over the past few weeks, my ad hoc, at home ideas have featured dishes that are basic and show off the vegetables of the season:

  • Fava beans quickly sautéed and tossed with pecorino, chives and cracked black pepper
  • Asparagus tossed with walnut oil and salt, roasted on high heat, and served under poached farm eggs
  • Steamed artichokes served with a handmade green garlic aioli
  • Grilled spring lamb served with a simple salad of arugula and thinly sliced radishes

Throughout the year, I try to "put up," or preserve, the best of the season for use throughout the rest of the year. When appropriate in this column, I will be mentioning what foods I am putting up for the season. In the next week or two, I will be preserving lemons. It's a little late in the season to be doing so, but we still have enough lemons around this week so that I can get a jar or two in before they disappear. I will also be salting anchovies soon. Our local anchovy season is in the next month or two, and I try to salt them (using the super easy recipe from the Zuni Cafe Cookbook) once a year.

Seasonal Produce Guide

In season right this minute

Asparagus
Artichokes
Fava Beans
Radishes

Coming Soon

English Peas
Morel Mushrooms
Pixie Mandarins
Cherries
Raspberries

It's Time To Put Up

Preserved lemons
Salted anchovies

About the author: Jennifer Maiser writes about locally and sustainably grown food. She is the founder and editor of the Eat Local Challenge website, is a founder of the Locavores and writes at Life Begins at 30, her personal weblog.

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