Spring is absolutely my favorite time at the farmers' market. I'm not fooling myself: I live in San Francisco, which is a year-round mecca of local produce, so it's not like we just went through a long, hard winter. Sure, I had my fill of winter squash and was ready for some new, fun fruit to come to market. But even in the darkest days, I was able to leave the Ferry Plaza market with a bag full of goodies for the week.
But still, spring is special. There's a sweet smell in the air, and the market feels like it is bursting at the seams. The season turns so quickly, and I want to take advantage of every moment of it.
One of my favorite vegetables in the world is fava beans. I find the work involved preparing them to be meditative and the pay-off to be worthwhile. Farmer Lee James of Tierra Farm this week suggested that I try eating the fava beans whole and in the pod. Though they were headed toward medium-sized, she said they were still tender enough to eat whole. Today, I tossed them with olive oil and salt and put them in a high-heat oven for a while to roast. They were good, and the flavor was wholly different than what you get when peeling them—they had more bitterness and complexity. When eaten whole, they are best grilled or fried.
I purchased entirely too much produce this week, so set out to quickly process and preserve as much of the vegetables as I could. I had a couple pounds of alliums (leeks and green garlic), so I made a confit with the alliums in a few glugs of olive oil. Cooking the alliums slowly in the oil creates a delicious flavor base that can be used for weeks for sautees, spread on bread or used in soups. I also prepped the greens and froze them, and pickled some carrots.
We've been having strange weather for California which includes lots of rain and unexpected times. On his blog, Eatwell Farm farmer Nigel Walker says that the weather this spring has been the most challenging since he started farming here in 1992. Despite this, farmer Johann Smit of Hidden Star Orchards expects we will be seeing cherries at his booth by next week.
I ran into chef Brett Emerson of Contigo who was purchasing his first rhubarb of the season, which he was taking back to the restaurant to hand over to his pastry chef extraordinaire, Candace Rowan, for use in Contigo's desserts.
Fellow bloggers Anita and Cameron Crotty of Married with Dinner were picking up fresh prawns from Shogun Fish and perfect new potatoes from Little Organic Farm. Anita is one of the most organized market shoppers and home cooks I know. For the next twelve weeks, she will be running Dinner on a Deadline, a project to get us all cooking quick, well-planned, weekday meals with our local produce. I'm looking forward to learning her tricks and tips.
Seasonal Produce Guide
In Season Right this Minute
It's Time To Put Up
Kimchee and cabbages
About the author: Jennifer Maiser writes about locally and sustainably grown food. She is the founder and editor of the Eat Local Challenge website and writes at Life Begins at 30, her personal weblog.