The Pleasures of the Winter Farmer’s Market

by Anthony Chang

I love shopping at the farmers’ market in the fall and winter.  It’s not quite as sexy as the kaleidoscope of colors and deliciously sweet flavors that you get with all the heirloom tomatoes, stone fruit and berries in the summer.  But I love the selection of vegetables that make for hearty soups and stews, and the fruits that come into season that have that crisp flavor that makes me think of fall.

For those of you not familiar with the broad selection of produce that our neighborhood farmers’ market vendors brave the cold (and sometimes rain) to bring to us on Sundays, here are some of my favorites:

  • Winter squash, such as butternut, acorn, kabocha, delicata, and carnival: They are all great roasted and pureed in soups, or as the main highlight of a risotto, or just roasted with olive oil and scooped right out of their shells.  There are probably half-a-dozen vendors that offer them at the market, with my favorite vendors being Happy Boy Farms and High Ground Organics, both out of Watsonville.  They are located on opposite ends of the market – Happy Boy is the first stall on the north end of the market, in the aisle closer to Evelyn, and High Ground Organics is at the south end of the market right next to the Acme Bread stall – and both provide a wide variety of delicious, organic produce.
  • Apples, including honey crisp, gala, fuji, gravenstein, cameo and many more: I grew up shopping at grocery stores where there were just apples, always shiny and red.  Sometimes, there were green apples in the store, but those always seemed odd to me and they were called “green apples”, whereas the red ones were always just “apples”.  Having been introduced to perhaps a dozen variety of apples over the last few years (out of the 2,500 varieties grown in the US), I have come to appreciate more breadth and depth of this wonderful family of fruit. There are a number of vendors with a decent variety of apples.  But for a real education, you can head to the Prevedelli Farms stall (in the aisle closest to the train tracks, on the south end just a few stalls up from the musicians).   In the fall and winter, they have a constant rotation of at least half a dozen apple varieties in season with a helpful staff, good signage and plentiful samples.
  • Citrus, and in particular satsuma oranges: The disappearance of peaches, nectarines, plums and other stone fruit at the end of the summer is a sad time in our household, where my wife, daughter and I devour these fruits all summer long.  We can hang on for a while on the longer seasons that strawberries sometimes offer, but we don’t get really excited again until winter when citrus, and in particular satsumas, come back to the market.  These seedless, easy to peel, tangy fruits are mistaken for candy in our household where I need to buy a few dozen to make it through the week.  All through the winter, I buy big bags full of satsumas from Paul at Super Sweet (corner stall across from Acme Bread and High Ground Organics at the south end of the market, closer to Evelyn) with Sunny Cal coming through in a pinch when needed (aisle closest to the train tracks, on the south end of the market, across from Prevedelli Farms and next to Shu Mei).

If you are not already taking advantage of the fact that we have one of the best year-round farmers’ markets in the area, here’s to hoping you can explore what we have to offer.

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