We may be dreaming of summer, but for cool-weather alliums like leeks, it’s primetime. Leeks are a two for one deal. When a recipe calls for leeks, they are generally referring to their white and light green bulbs. Slice them thinly and sub them in for onions or shallots – but don’t forget to hold onto the greens! Reserve them for stir frying, soup stocks, pesto, or to use as a crunchy garnish. To go the extra zero-waste mile, you can even fry the leek roots – just like Berkeley Farmers’ Market regular Mark Liberman did on a fantastic episode of Chopped. Pick up a bunch at Avalos Farm, Riverdog Farm, Fully Belly Farm, or Dirty Girl Produce!
Tangors are not a well-known citrus variety, but they are a delicious one. We just discovered this tangerine and sweet orange hybrid, and were instantly drawn to its fiery reddish orange rind; pebbled, easy-to-peel skin; and relative lack of pith that leaves all the more room for its sweet juice. Tomorrow, February 10, marks the Lunar New Year, a celebration of spring’s arrival, and our entry into the Year of the Dragon. Gift citrus like tangors this week to spread luck and prosperity, and buy that citrus at the farmers’ market to extend that fortune to California farmers as well.
A trip to the South Berkeley Farmers’ Market in winter means a chance to score a sweet, Gold Rush apple from the even sweeter folks at Billy Bob Orchards. Named after their aurous color and rush of flavor at first bite, these late season apples are well worth the wait. While mushy might come to mind when reaching for yellow apples, these gems are firm, crisp, and honey-sweet with tangy citrus notes, making them ideal for baking, juicing, or just plain snacking. The darker, the sweeter.
Resolving to eat more greens in 2024? What about more purples? Purple cauliflower is in season right now, ready to add a pop of color to your winter meals. This cool weather crop’s signature color comes from anthocyanin, the same antioxidant found in red cabbage and red wine. Substitute purple cauliflower in any recipe that calls for white cauliflower, but avoid steaming and boiling to retain the veggie’s full color.
Thanks to Blossom Bluff Orchard, Kaki Farm, and Kashiwase Farm, the market are adorned with orange Hachiya persimmons as bright as holiday lights. Enjoying a Hachiya’s honey-sweetness and warm notes of cinnamon requires patience. Leave them on your counter until they are soft, translucent, and jelly-like (when unripe, they are unpleasantly astringent). Or take the road less traveled and make hoshigaki, or Japanese air-dried Hachiyas often referred to as the “kobe beef of dried fruit.” It’s a slow, rewarding winter project fit for the foodie in your life.
Feijoa — pronounced fay-oh-uh – are a farmers’ market fay-vor-ite! This fruit is nicknamed “pineapple guava” for its intense tropical flavor, but it also gives hints of mint and pine that we welcome in the winter. Look for ones that squish slightly when you squeeze them, and enjoy them as you would a kiwi — slice it in half and scoop out its sweet, tangy, and creamy interior with a spoon. Fun fact — feijoa trees are beautiful evergreens planted all over the Bay Area as ornamentals. Chances are you have one in your neighborhood but, if not, skip over to one of our markets.
Thanksgiving is less than a week away, and it’s time to start thinking about what’ll end up on the dinner table. Buttery green beans are a staple for many but easily become an afterthought when you’re juggling other dishes. Let Haricots verts, or French green beans, do the work for you. Haricots are slimmer and daintier than the standard green bean, and in turn more tender and flavorful, with a shorter cook time. You’ll whip up a delicious side in no time.
Blue Hubbards: they’re pale, gray, lumpy, bumpy, and, we think, just plain gourdgeous! Here at the Berkeley Farmers’ Markets, there’s a special place in our hearts for the products that are often too unconventional or “cosmetically challenged” for most supermarkets. At up to 30 pounds, Hubbards are a lot to love, and you’ll need to put some work in to get to their sweet, golden-orange center. If you’ve got a particularly large one on your hands, try just throwing it on the ground and working with the shards, or check this fun, more safety-minded video out…
Warrens are a pear variety that we really cherish this time of year. They’re juicy when ripe, honey-sweet, and melt right in your mouth – without a trace of that grit characteristic of Boscs and Bartletts. Fun fact: Frog Hollow Farm’s Warrens are famous! They’ve been listed on Oprah’s favorite holiday gift list and mentioned in Martha Stewart’s LIVING magazine, but we think Peach Jamboree’s are also hype-worthy. Regardless of where you shop, wait for them to turn slightly golden before taking that first bite.
With Hispanic Heritage Month in full swing, we salute tomatillos and those who pick them. Spanish for “little tomatoes,” tomatillos were domesticated by the Aztecs in around 800 BCE and have been a Mesoamerican staple ever since.
Tomatillos are obviously responsible for delicious salsas, but the thing we love most about them is the way they seem to look out for farmworkers, well over half of whom are Latine here in California according to the USDA. They self-sow, meaning they typically don’t need hands to plant them year after year. They also prepackage themselves in little husks, eliminating the need for any sort of cleaning or special processing. It’s as if they’re aware of the nature of farmworker labor and do everything they can take a load off their plates.
Fall fruits are beginning to trickle into the market, and dates are among them. Yup, dates are a fresh fruit harvested around this time each year. While you’ll see the carmelly, fully-ripened Barhi, Medjool, and other varieties nearly year round, blink and you might miss the beloved Yellow Barhi. Barhi are one of the few types of dates that you can eat half ripened, and they’re delicious. They’re still sweet, but less so and with an apple-like crunch that makes them all too easy to snack on.
Apples and pears are starting to trickle in but we’re not even close to being over summer! We’re still ogling the watermelons like Sugar Babies that are so juicy there’s no use trying to keep them from dribbling down your arm. This heirloom variety is your classic, green-striped watermelon and the name says it all – these babies are super sweet. We also appreciate the fact that they’re small enough for a household to put away in one sitting. Big shout out to the rains this past winter for making this a long and abundant year for melons!
Long, crooked, and bright red, Jimmy Nardello peppers look awful menacing. Lucky for us, they’re actually the sweetest peppers you’ll find at the farmers’ market. If you’re wondering who Jimmy is, he’s the son of Giuseppe and Angella Nardello, the folks who brought these heirloom seeds here from Italy in the late 1800s. Jimmy’s said to have been the only of their eleven children to take particular care in growing the peppers, preserving the harvests, and saving the seeds. Thanks, Jimmy!
Early Girl tomatoes are here! We’re happy to have them just in time for the newly proclaimed Berkeley Farmers’ Market Week – a week to recognize the economic, environmental and health benefits of farmers’ markets celebrated in conjunction with National Farmers’ Market Week. As you might’ve noticed, at farms like Dirty Girl Produce, these girls didn’t come too early this year. This year’s colder-than-average spring forced farmers to delay their plantings — as long as two months in some places. Farmers are predicting their season to be shorter this year, so be sure to savor them while they’re around.
The scent of ripe muskmelon is in the air right now, making it one of the best times of year to shop. Follow your nose all the way to Riverdog or Full Belly Farm, and right to the Charentais melon section. This petite French variety is ambrosial to say the least. Share one with a friend to experience the epitome of summer bliss, and keep an eye on our Instagram this week for a video on how to select the right one.
With temperatures finally rising this week, we’re taking a moment to shout out heat-loving peppers, specifically the Shishito, a Japanese native. Most Shishito peppers are mild and slightly sweet, but every once in a while, you might stumble upon a feisty one that brings the heat. It’s like playing a game of culinary roulette! Best enjoyed blistered or grilled, these peppers offer a delightful crunch and a flavor profile that balances the perfect mix of earthiness, sweetness, and a hint of smokiness. Add them to stir-fries, salads, or simply enjoy them as a tasty snack.
This week, we’ve managed to peel our eyes away from stone fruit long enough to notice the beautiful stacks of fresh moringa. In the West, moringa is hailed as a superfood and usually found in powdered form. Just 100 grams of their cute, round leaves has more protein than a cup of milk and more iron than a cup of spinach. In southeast Asian countries, moringa is a staple food used for “anything and everything!” as stated by Michael Thao of Lou Vue Farm.
Tiny flying-saucers have descended into the farmers’ market, signaling the arrival of summer! The Patty Pan variety of summer squash has everything going for it: it’s got a fun, scalloped shape; it’s affordable; and its quick cook time makes it easy to incorporate into a weekday meal. We think it’s out of this world.
Cherries, the first of the spring stone fruit, are readily available at all three of the Berkeley Farmers’ Markets. Find varieties like Brooks, Royal Tioga, Bing, and Chelan from Kashiwase Farm, Smit Ranch, and Frog Hollow Farm. The season is short, so enjoy it while it lasts!
And just like that, the farmers’ market is flush with all the early produce we’ve eagerly awaited! Sugar snap peas, strawberries, and even apricots all abound, but stealing the show for us this week is Gattoneli Farm’s rosy rhubarb. It made its first appearance this past Saturday, but since it’s only ripe for a month or two out of the year, it won’t be around long. This veggie has a celery-like crunch and lip-puckering astringency when fresh, which is why it’s typically baked. Heat mutes the bitterness a touch, but keeps just enough to provide a nice contrast to the sweet stone fruit and berries that share the same season, and often the same dessert.
Want to add some sunshine to your diet? Look no further than Lifefood Garden sunflower microgreens. Pleasantly crisp and nutty, a handful of sunflower microgreens adds that cool, refreshing crunch that a meal calls for as the weather warms. Because they’re on the larger side of the microgreen spectrum, they bulk up salads and sandwiches nicely while also loading you up in iron, magnesium, and a number of other nutrients. Buy a few snips worth to eat within a few days, or purchase by a tray to munch throughout the week.
Perhaps you’ve noticed chefs wheeling flats of green strawberries around the South Berkeley Farmers’ Market. Why intercept these fruits before they’re fully ripe? Because they feel like a different fruit entirely. They feel more melon than berry, and their seeds are more prominent, offering a toasted-sesame type crunch. They’re worth savoring, especially given how many strawberry crops have been lost to flooding this year. You can find baskets at Dirty Girl Produce on Tuesdays.
Kumquats — nature’s candy! These grape-sized citrus’ name comes from the Cantonese gam gwat which means “gold orange.” They don’t need to be unwrapped — their peels are sweet and the perfect contrast to their tangy interior. Eat them fresh to tide you over until berry season starts, cook them down to mellow them out, or pair them with a savory, grilled meat to make their bright flavor really pop.
Signs of spring are finally popping up all over the market! This past week we’ve spotted asparagus at Kaki Farm, green garlic at Full Belly Farm, and, of course, the darned cutest spring onions at Golden Rule Organics.
Are spring onions just green onions? Kind of. They’re the same young onions, harvested at different times. Green onions are younger and thinner, whereas spring onions are mature enough to have developed colorful, round bulbs. These bulbs are mellow and sweet. They won’t overpower other ingredients in your salad or sandwich (even when raw), nor will they make you cry when you slice into them.
Tired of your winter meal rotation? Patiently pining for the fresh flavors of Spring? We can’t speed up time or stop this week’s atmospheric river, but we can recommend something that’ll put a spring in your step until asparagus and other seasonal favorites arrive to market: fava greens! The tops of fava plants are in fact both edible and delicious.
Put your reusable shopping bags by the door – the rain is expected to take a break for us all to step out and enjoy the Downtown Berkeley Farmers’ Market! Pick up something you’ve been meaning to experiment with while you’re stuck indoors again, like a bright head of radicchio. This bold variety of chicory is thinner and more tender than cabbage, with a bold, bitter flavor that is well-balanced with sweet fruit or rich olives, nuts, and cheeses. It also mellows when sautéed and roasted.
Orange you glad Cara Caras are at the Berkeley Farmers’ Markets now? We sure are. Kishu and Satsuma mandarins add color to our markets this winter too, but Cara Caras stand apart with their signature sweetness, low acidity, and gorgeous pink flesh.
This week, we’re dancing for rain – and mushrooms! The word maitake actually means “dancing mushroom” in Japanese because its medicinal properties are such that foragers were rumored to dance with joy when they found one. Chances are you’ll want to get down after tasting one, too. These bouquets of thin, feathery mushrooms have a rich, umami taste and crisp up superbly in a pan.
Thanksgiving is fast approaching! As we scramble for Thanksgiving recipes, we’re feeling increasingly grateful for staple greens like collards. They might not be placed at the center of the table, but isn’t it the sides that make the meal? Collards are also as reliable as they are tasty. Just like the farmers who grow them, they can be found at the market year round, rain or shine.
One veggie that brings us a sense of comfort as the end of daylight time nears and temperatures dip, is the sweet, starchy sweet potato! Fun fact: the sweet potato is actually not closely related to the common potato. It is a part of the morning glory family (think vine with white/purple flowers). An even more fun fact: we have a brand new vendor who brings you 3 different varieties of these babies: ruby-Red Garnets, Purple Marasaki, and orange Covington Sweets. Welcome, Sea to Sky Farm!
It’s officially feeling like fall at the Berkeley Farmers’ Markets. We’re packing that extra layer just in case, hearing the crunch of leaves underfoot as we carry our groceries, and gawking at all of the pumpkins that are abound!
At Full Belly Farm and Riverdog Farm, you’ll find edible pumpkins of all shapes, sizes, and colors: classic Sugar Pies, gloomy Blue Dolls, bright Lumina Whites, whimsical Cinderellas, and more.
Brimming with glistening, ruby-jeweled seeds, pomegranates are a true farmers’ market treasure. Beyond just being visually stunning, they also strike the perfect balance between sweet and tart. Each seed’s pop of juice is probably Mother Nature herself showering your taste buds with love.
Happy Autumnal Equinox! The few weeks where summer and fall meet is arguably the best time of year for produce. Ginger represents this transition well. It can lend its zing to a summer stir fry just as well as it can add a comforting flavor to a warm dessert.
Late summer is upon us, and there are eggplants of every shape, size, and color at market: long and skinny Japanese and Chinese eggplants, pale lavender Bianca Rosa, strikingly striped Listada, and teeny Thai eggplants that you’ll want to string like lights. Find these beauties and more at all three of our markets.
You can’t stroll through a Berkeley Farmers’ Market this time of year without gawking at the buckets and buckets of fresh-cut flowers. Giant sunflowers, elegant dahlias, bright zinnias – the abundance of varieties and colors fills us with gratitude for the diversity and beauty California summers bring.
Snake or Armenian cucumber? Twisty and serpent-like, Armenian cucumbers are one of the most fun items you’ll find at the market. If you have never had the chance to try an Armenian cucumber, now’s the time! Fun fact: these “cukes” are technically melons. They have that crunchy, cool, and refreshing cucumber taste we crave in the August heat, without the potential of any bitterness. Their skin is also thin and delicate. No need to peel, just rinse and snack. Unfortunately, as you may have already noticed, many of our farmers have chosen to plant fewer cucumbers and melons this year due to water restrictions. All the more reason to savor them this year.
In need of a quick break from strawberries and stone fruit? Pick up a basket of organic blackberries! Right now, you’ll find some of the sweetest blackberries around at the one and only Kaki Farm. There, you’ll also have the chance to chat with the equally sweet farm owner Nicasio Soria, who mans the stand each summer. Originally from Zacatecas, Mexico, Nicasio worked as a farmhand at Kaki in 1979 before purchasing the property himself in 1990. He has a berry interesting story to share.
Have you ever tried, or heard of, purslane? If not, add this green to your shopping list. Its tiny oval leaves and waxy pink stem are succulent, tangy, and crunchy, adding a fun texture to summer salads or stir-fries. It also happens to be one of the most nutritious foods on the planet, with some of the highest levels of calcium, iron, and omega-3 fatty acids.
We’re excited to have seen the first harvests of corn at the Berkeley Farmers’ Markets this past week. Before you know it, we’ll be up to our ears in it! Before firing up the grill for this iconic Fourth of July side dish, let’s take a moment to acknowledge corn’s rich Indigenous American history, and learn how its seed came to be abused for mass consumption. Luckily, you’ll find an a-maize-ing, non-industrial selection of sweet corn at all three Berkeley Farmers’ Markets.
It’s that glorious time of year – stone fruit season! With hybrids in the mix, it can be tough choosing which type to take home, let alone which variety. One fun choice to look out for are apriums. Apriums are around 70 percent apricot and 30 percent plum. They have the golden fuzz and overall taste of an apricot, but with the sweetness and texture of a plum.
It’s hard to ignore the tall stacks of fresh herbs all over the market right now. Among them, cilantro. Bright and refreshing, this herb is sure to add depth to your summer meals. Cilantro is the ultimate zero-waste herb. It’s best known for its delicate leaves, but the long, tender stems are actually where a lot of the flavor is concentrated. Even the seeds, which we know as coriander seeds, are edible and offer a milder, curry-like flavor. You can find fresh bunches at nearly any farm stand right now.
Blueberries are here! Today we have two updates to share regarding our blueberry vendors. One sweet and one tart, kind of like the fruit itself.
Sweet: Triple Delight Blueberries is back at all three of our markets! This fifth generation family farm plants 8 different varieties of blueberries on San Joaquin County farmland each year. Their season is very short but very sweet. Nab them while you can.
The Spring Fruit Season is off to an a-May-zing start. Cherries and blueberries abound this week but we’ve had a keen eye on Frog Hollow Farm’s mulberries. Mulberries are hard to find anywhere but the farmer’s market, and Frog Hollow is one of the few growers in the state. So we’re happy when they are here!
Even though it’s almost always citrus season in the Bay, nothing screams spring like a bright, lemony dish. Lemons are a powerful ingredient. A few squeezes can tenderize your meat and seafood, retain your chopped fruits and veggies’ vibrant colors, and remedy an over-salted meal – all while subtly enhancing and balancing the flavors of your dish. Their natural disinfecting properties also make lemons a natural alternative to the harsh products in your cupboard, just in time for spring cleaning.
Ever tried green garlic? This early spring crop is garlic’s younger sibling; it’s simply garlic that’s been harvested early. They are easy to confuse with green onions, so be sure to look for thicker stems and purple hues along the bulbs to distinguish them. They are milder and nuttier than mature, cured garlic and much easier to work with. Use it from end to stem, just as you would a scallion. Just be sure to trim the roots!
Springtime is our favorite time of year at the Berkeley Farmers’ Market—or should we say fava-rite? Of all of the spring veggies that we’ve been patiently waiting for all winter, fava beans are what have caught our attention this week. If you’re not familiar with them, they are a large, flat bean with a super creamy texture when cooked. They are a tad nutty and slightly sweet in flavor, but overall quite mild and easy to incorporate into dishes.
The days are getting longer, and so are the spears of asparagus popping up on local farms! We spotted the very first harvests at Full Belly and Kaki Farms just last week, just in time to put a spring into our step for the equinox on March 20. These sweet, crisp stalks should very well be considered royalty in the veggie kingdom.
A lot of people think that broccolini is just a younger broccoli crop, but in fact, it is a hybrid of broccoli and gai lan (Chinese Broccoli). With smaller florets and a thinner, more delicate stem than broccoli, it takes a bit less time to cook. It’s also sweeter in taste, but just as versatile. Perfect for your frittata in the morning or in your stir fry at night. Know that you are getting four times more Vitamin A, as well as substantially more magnesium and calcium, than you would eating broccoli.