Market Scene: Early Summer in San Francisco
This weekend, San Francisco welcomed a new farmers' market: the Fort Mason Center Farmers' Market. The market is right near the water, and the setting is picturesque with plenty of room for this roughly 40 vendors. Greens Restaurant, a famous San Francisco restaurant that has been leading the vegetarian scene for 31 years, is located at Fort Mason and chef Annie Somerville was on hand at the farmers' market handing out samples and chatting with customers.
It was a two-market weekend for me. I did a majority of my shopping at the Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market on Saturday, then checked out the Fort Mason Market on Sunday. The theme of my shopping weekend? Cherries. I take my cherry purchase very seriously and after tasting many types at the Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market, I purchased my Bing cherries from Hidden Star Orchards—they were the best of the best.
I was pleased to see some new vendors at the Fort Mason Market. Serendipity Farm had a beautiful booth featuring fava beans, "dandy lions," strawberries, and sweet peas from the Carmel area. Rio de Parras Organic farm is from Salinas, and had a booth chock-full of greens and root vegetables. The farmer was thrilled to be attending their first farmers' market.
I purchased some quelite, which the farmer said I could use in chile verde or sauteed with meat. Upon further research at home, quelite seems to refer to a general term like "greens" in Spanish. My Mexican-American grandmother told me that I had purchased spinach, but this is a more of an Asian basil-like leaf with a slightly peppery flavor when raw. So, I'm a little stumped but looking forward to trying it. (Do any Serious Eaters have further information for me about quelite?)
The topic among most of my farming friends this weekend was the weather—we've had extremely unusual weather in Northern California, with rain up until last week. It's been unseasonably cold, which means we can expect summer crops to show up late this year. According to one farmer, the tomatoes will start to trickle in around July like they're supposed to, but we'll have a glut of tomatoes around September when all the crops catch up with each other.
I was also really struck by the variety at the farmers' markets this week. It's really remarkable that, after doing a majority of my shopping at farmers' markets for over eight years, I still find new fruits and vegetables—there are still things to learn. This week, try to challenge yourself and buy one new item at the farmers' market. Even if you don't love everything, you'll love the adventure.
This year, I was asked to contribute text to a cookbook about seasonal cooking called Cooking from the Farmers' Market. It's a beautiful book organized around farm-fresh ingredients—you may find it a worthwhile companion to your seasonal eating.
Seasonal Produce Guide
In Season Right this Minute
Cherries, cherries everywhere
Cucumbers in abundance
Fresh, dry garlic
It's Time To Put Up
Rose geranium syrup
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.