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Monday, July 27, 2009

Pretty produce

  isis tomatoesYes, I went to the farmer's market on Saturday. I spent a lot of time agonizing over WHICH farmer's market to go to, actually, before deciding on Parkmerced.

Instead of telling you what I bought, I'll just show you close up photos of Saturday's farmer's market selections (, no login required).

Yes, it's very easy to post photos to Facebook. Yes, I have very little control over the page layout and appearance, and someday, when I leave FB, I'll lose these pages. But for now, I am enjoying the laziness it allows me.


posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Frequently flying fruit

  Parkmerced Farmer's Market
[Image: Parkmerced Farmer's Market, San Francisco, open on Saturdays from 10-2 in summer.]

One of the many wonderful things about living in California is the availability of fresh produce. Within a few hours in any direction, nearly every wonderful fruit, nut, or vegetable can be had: tomatoes, strawberries, cherries, and kiwi fruit out near Modesto; olives from up near Redding; apples and grapes from the Anderson valley (and grapes from just about every valley, now); artichokes and cool weather greens from Half Moon Bay; berries from the foothills... Going further 'afield' brings even more choices.

We are so lucky.

Yet, there are times when international commerce complicates the delivery of fresh local goodness to my neighborhood. Kiwi fruit vines are abundant out near Oakdale, where my father used to live, about two hours east of here. Yet, the little green grocer four blocks from my house sold me some from Italy.

Gilroy, down past San Jose, is famous locally for its garlic. Yet the garlic in the other corner grocery store in my neighborhood is from China.

[Image: local gold and red tomatoes from the Parkmerced Farmers' Market, photographed with an iPhone and a Fresnel lens (for special effects).] iPhone-fresnel lens image of fresh tomatoes

Nectarines? Chile. Grapes? Chile. Tomatoes? At this very moment, my closest grocer has an entire display of tomatoes... from Canada.

Canada?!? I love Canada more than most Americans [insert rousing chorus of O Canada! here] , but that doesn't mean my tomatoes should be grown there. This means that there are such extreme subsidies on agricultural exports from most places that it is marginally cost-competitive to drive fresh fruit from a field to an airport, fly it halfway around the world, and then drive it to a distributor and still compete against a farmer an hour or two away by land.

Which is creepy, when you think about the vast amount of pollution this causes, plus the investment of agricultural funds in fuel rather than local services, improved irrigation, soil improvements, and people. Of course, we do the same thing with our subsidies: I just can't tell from here.

This is part of why I love farmers' markets so very much: they skip the international shipping intrigue and bring me fruit picked within the day. And I can TASTE the difference. (There are a few fakers: there is one stand at the Alemany market that often has out of season produce, which usually looks like it's been roughed up a bit. That vendor is filling out his booth with distribution-bought produce. The same goes for some of the charming little "fruit stands" along the highways: when you see pineapples next to the local cabbage, you know they are cheating.)

Farmers' markets are a great deal: farmer's get more money directly at market than they do through distributors, and I get fresh food that hasn't spend its time on planes, trains, refrigerated shipping containers, and in distributor warehouses.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:10 PM

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder of strange tomatoes

  the moonscape of an heirloom tomato by A.E. Graves Image at left: the scarred, festively colored moonscape of a tomato I bought at the Farmer's Market today. Isn't it awesome? Answer: YES.

Summer has come to San Francisco, in the form of cold, cold days. We had a high today of 56. I put on a sweater AND turned my heat on today!

Happily, however, this also means that summer crops are arriving at the farmer's markets. Today, after sleeping most of the morning away to pay my body back for many nights of marginal rest, I talked myself out of going all the way to the Ferry Building, and instead went to the small Parkmerced Farmer's Market (, which is just west of me, out near SF State's campus. It opened for the season on May 16th, and runs from 10 to 2 on Saturdays until sometime in fall.

The campus, and adjacent Parkmerced, were hopping: graduations were in progress, and families were wandering around in fancy clothes, parking badly, making illegal turns, and strapping couches to the tops of small compact cars...

There were about 20 vendors braving the chilly, windy, gray weather. But that isn't limiting: unlike at some other markets, where a farmer may grow just one thing (onions, or maybe mushrooms) nearly everyone at this market had a wide range of offerings. There were beets, chard, peaches, apricots, strawberries, cherries, raspberries, spinach, lettuces, a wide range of potatoes, hot coffee, prepared Afghan specialties, prepared Italian specialties, soaps, a crepe stand with crepes made to order (using vegan batter), several types of onions, peas, a bread and pastry vendor, a dining area, a dessert table, cheese, fish (happily shrink-wrapped, and so unscented), Asian greens, herbs such as dill and basil, several types of tomatoes (heirloom, yellow, several types of cherry, round red), green beans, eggplant (!!), blueberries.... There is a wide variety for such a small market, and some vendors sell more than a dozen types of produce.

This time around I chose:

-golden chard (to saute in olive oil with garlic)
-lettuce, spring sweet mix (lots of purple! for salad)
-strawberries (which I started eating while waiting for the bus - HEAVENLY)
-bok choy, baby (forever good with ginger and tofu)
-cherries, the red-and-gold type that are sometimes called Ranier
-peaches, white and yellow (these bruised to the touch - literally)
-Swiss three-seed bread (a mixed white/whole wheat bread with sunflower, sesame, and poppy seeds, from Beckman's in Santa Cruz)
-tomatoes, round red, still on the vine (which looked generic, but the samples were so full of tomato goodness that I caved)
-tomatoes, yellow round
-tomatoes, freakazoid, scarred, multi-color - one, for photography. The image at the top of this entry is the rear of this tomato. You can see more of this particular tomato at my gallery entitled tomato porn (, no login required). There were several other interesting, "ruffled" or strangely scarred tomatoes I considered buying to photograph, but... I was pretending to be reasonable, and my bag was full.


One interesting thing about the strawberries was that there was a choice at multiple stands between conventional and organic: some growers grow and sell both, to hit both price ranges of shopper. While this makes sense economically, it puts the farmer into an interesting bind when it comes to selling them. A potential customer asked what the difference was between the strawberries at opposite ends of a display table: the farmer pointed out which set was organic. The customer asked what the the difference was, helpfully offering that perhaps one of them was sweeter, which inspired a noticeable pause before the farmer suggested that the customer just taste them. Ordinarily, he'd want to talk up the fact that one set had no pesticide residues... but having the conventional (pesticide residue) set on the same table made that something that would be awkward to bring up.


The prices seemed comparable to other certified organic markets ($3.50 a pound is a common price for most things), and the selection is good. Everything looked delicious. It's also not a total mob scene, and has its own dining area. Unlike the Alemany Market, this one is really easy to get to: the 17 Parkmerced stops just across the street, and it's within walking distance of the 28, 29, and M.

Parkmerced's farmer's market is a worthwhile, high quality little market!

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posted by Arlene (Beth)9:19 PM

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Peaches? Peaches!

  Christmas lima beansPhoto at left: Christmas lima beans, the sort of beans that photographers cannot resist.

It has been a lovely weekend, with cherry blossom petals blowing down the streets, and hummingbirds hovering in the garden. The kind of weekend that lets me know it really is spring.

I love spring: I love how the garden turns purple with lilacs and cineraria, the way the calla lilies (still my favorite flower) aggressively colonize all available space with their giant leaves and long stems, how the azaleas and rhodies become a riot of color... And how I cannot stop fantasizing about the summer foods I will soon enjoy. Nectarines, plums, eggplant, tomatoes... Especially tomatoes.


I have been trying to keep my meal fantasies under control. Recent fantasies have been winter-vegetable-friendly:

-white bean soup with fresh olive bread and artichoke spread
-black olive and pesto polenta with a marinated three bean salad, a cold glass of pinot grigio, and a bowl of vanilla bean sorbet
-linguini in sun dried tomato sauce, with a cucumber and marinated artichoke salad. Perhaps with a nice glass of sauvignon blanc.

I fantasize about menus like other people fantasize about... whatever it is other people fantasize about. If their fantasies are as interesting as late winter/early spring Italian-inspired menus. Which I hope they are.

Anyway, it looks like I can expand my fantasies closer into summer territory now, because the farmer's markets are beginning to look "summery." The Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market ( was a madhouse, as it so often is, but worth it for the amazing produce. Except perhaps for snow peas, because no one in their right mind should pay $6 a pound for those. Come on, now.

I couldn't list all of the summer squash, herbs, lettuces, root veggies, types of peas, flowers (sweet peas!), and other items on offer, but I can say that the white peaches are incredible. INCREDIBLE. And that there were TWO booths offering heirloom tomatoes! But I can ramble about my own selections easily enough, and so I will:

-Acme olive bread. Does anyone else put as many amazingly good green olives in their bread? (Hint: NO.) I was the third or fourth consecutive customer to get this.
-heirloom tomatoes. They look like "Cherokee Purple," and several people asked the exhausted woman at the stand, but she had no idea. Even though she was in a booth that ONLY sold tomatoes, and only was selling about three kinds. The less exhausted woman had gone to get something, so I'm going out on a limb and saying Cherokee Purple. Overripe (I went late), but perfect for use within 48 hours. I diced these, deseeded them, drained them in a strainer, and mixed them with shredded basil and fresh minced garlic for use as a raw sauce for vegan ravioli. Because I know how to live.
-rainbow chard. These will wind up in miso soup, and in stir fries with black bean sauce and tofu over quinoa.
-French breakfast radishes. For looks and for salads. I need a recipe for using the greens, which are crisp and tall.
-mesclun mix. It looks expensive by the pound, but a pound must be something like three cubic yards.
-white peaches. The sample was sweeter than the peaches I bought, but I didn't feel too cheated. I somehow bruised many of these on the way home, and wound up slicing the uncrushed parts up and tossing them with lemon juice and Triple Sec, then leaving them to chill in the fridge. Chilled, Triple Sec-marinated peaches are a heavenly dessert.
-fresh chevre from Cowgirl Creamery. Having eliminated most dairy products from my diet, I'm kind of fussy when I bother to consume dairy: this stuff is AMAZING. And organic. And it will take me a long time to consume it, and then I won't crave other dairy products for many weeks.
-Stockton red onions. While $2 an onion shows that there is some degree of hysteria that breaks out at the Ferry Plaza, these are some of the most beautiful onions I have seen in ages. And they are enormous. And a lovely shade of purple. Photographers like me go weak for this sort of thing.
-carrots. For cole slaw and a curried cauliflower soup I fancy.
-basil. For pesto and brushetta toppings for vegan ravioli.
-parsley. Also for pesto.
-torpedo onions, oblong green onions. For salads, miso soup, and gingery stir fries.
-green onions/scallions (same)
-flageolet beans (dried, pale green, recommended in several recipes in the Greens Cookbook)
-Christmas lima beans. This is another item I bought for primarily photographic purposes. How could I resist? Look at those patterns! While I know most gorgeous beans cook down to a dull purple-brown, these look so good dry, I hardly care. It will be all I can do not to thread them and wear them as a necklace.


There was one aspect of my late morning and early afternoon at the market which left an odd taste in my mouth, literally. I had arrived with a very serious tamale craving, and was initially discouraged that there was no tamale stand out front to sell me a vegan or chili-and-cheese tamale smothered in salsa. But then I went to the information booth and spotted Primavera's location. Primavera makes my FAVORITE vegan tamales: pumpkin and corn. Oh, they are so good!

My wait in the long line for their lunch plates paid off quickly with two "Yucatecan" tamales, refried black beans, and cabbage salad. The tamales were described as "tamales with Swiss chard, pumpkin pesto, hard pumpkin seed pesto, habañero salsa." I was so there! I asked for the "vegetarian" tamales, though the ingredients made them look potentially vegan, and I know this company is good at vegan tamales.

They smelled WONDERFUL. The salsa was fabulous. I was loving them. Until I found the quartered hard boiled eggs.

When was the last time you were eating a tamale, and thought "wow, this tamale is so good. If only it had quartered hard boiled eggs in it, it would be perfect!" Let's see, that would be... never? Am I right? Even if you like hard boiled eggs, which I do not? Would it be fair to say
hard boiled eggs : tamales :: sauerkraut : berry sorbet?
I think so. So I had to spend some time picking these out, and applying more salsa to cover any weird, eggy flavor residues they left behind. This made me want to avoid tamales for... the indefinite future. Despite my otherwise profound vegetarian tamale love. I'm sure I'll get over it. Once I forget how weird that was.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:47 PM

Saturday, December 06, 2008

December Farmer's Market

  Arlene with enormous daikon radishIt is what passes for winter here now, which was the subject of some discussion at our table at All Star Tamales at the Alemany Farmer's Market today. It was sunny, and warm in the sun, to the avowed surprise of nearly everyone. One diner finally concluded that local winter is just January through March at most, while acknowledging the novelty of sitting at an uncovered table outdoors to eat despite this.

It was LOVELY out.

[Photo: Arlene cuddling with a daikon radish longer than her shoulders are wide.]

We showed up at the market after 1 p.m. for the first time ever, and expected the place to be deserted, but found hordes of shoppers - just mellower, less dense hordes than we are used to. Some of the booths were empty, - not everyone farms for year round market sales - and a few farmers were packing up such December oddities as strawberries or guavas.

Its the time of year for hardy greens like the kales, chards, gai lon, the various Chinese broccoli and bok choy relatives, spinach, cabbages; many orange foods like pumpkins, persimmons, tangerines, and oranges; and a host of root vegetables. [Beyond the turnips, potatoes, and what I suspect were beets, there were the root veggies I have seen the most often while in Japan: daikon radishes. They were everywhere - growing in suburban lots, on farmer's market tables, and even in souvenir stores -- radishes are specialty of Kyoto (and a required condiment in nearly every Japanese meal), and huge displays of both freshly pickled and recently packaged pickles appeared in every major tourist area. The smell of daikon pickles followed us everywhere, even more than cigarette smoke!] There were a few stray sweet and hot peppers, a surprising number of pluots, some weathered looking cherry tomatoes, and (finally!) an abundance of kiwi fruit.

The items I could not resist:
-a single, enormous daikon radish (pictured above). I'm going to try to pickle much of it simply (hot vinegar, salt, a little sugar), though I know there are fancy ways to it from web sites like's tsukemono page, which I'll need to visit when I have some rice bran handy.
-ordinary radishes, in three colors (for salads)
-jicama. It is very crisp and fresh. (S will snack on this, and I might grate it for salads or sweetened oatmeal.)
-cilantro (for use in guacamole and east Asian soups)
-sweet, small, green bell peppers (for stir fries with tofu)
-broccoli (for stir fries over rice noodles or couscous)
-onions (I use these in nearly everything)
-red lettuce (so tender, I'm worried that it won't survive in the refrigerator over night)
-kiwi fruit (which, mysteriously, S won't eat unless I peel and slice them for him)
-cauliflower (for a curried soup in imitation of one I had in Berkeley this week)
-sweet potatoes (an impulse buy because they were so cheap as the farmer packed up; I'll either put them in a coconut milk curry or toss them in canola and sesame oil and bake them as garlic fries)
-a green patterned, ruffled pumpkin (to bake with tomatoes, garlic, onions and rosemary and puree into soup)
-two butternut squashes (for pie)
-persimmons (who can resist that color!).

We also ate tamales at All Star's stand, and despite myself I wound up with two (not my idea) containing cheese: the black bean and the spinach & cheese. All Star often uses mozzarella, which gives the tamales a novel flavor and dense center. Their salsas are also excellent.


I'm looking for good carrot, "potage," and cauliflower soup recipes if you've got them: I prefer my soups to be rather spicy, and pureed to near smoothness. Let me know if you've found one to share with me!

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posted by Arlene (Beth)9:32 PM

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Edible Autumn Goodness

  stall at the Alemany Farmers' Market, San FranciscoAutumn is really here. It wasn't just those few spectacular days and nights of warm weather: it's also the food.

The Alemany Farmers' Market is full of edible autumn goodness. Pumpkins and patterned winter squash, apples in greens and reds, potatoes (red, blue, purple, cream...), corn, long chili peppers, pears in a wide range of colors, almonds, late summer melons, blackberries... All of those foods that make you think that it's pumpkin pie time.

(Of course, it's always pumpkin pie time.)

Have I mentioned that I love autumn? I LOVE autumn. Autumn always brings me good things.

The farmers' market brings me good things, too. If you haven't been lately, and you're in my region, here are things you should go out and acquire post haste:

-Sweet red peppers
-Green grapes (small, pale green; larger than champagne grapes; pleasantly sweet, softer than so-called "table" grapes)
-Tomatoes: mixed heirloom cherry (yellow, green, red, purple), ruffled yellow, and those deep red and green tomatoes that taste SO good
-Pattypan squash in pale green and yellow (the kind that look like flying saucers, to the extent you know what those look like and recognize them in ordinary garden veggies)
-Raspberries (never raspish)
-Thai basil
-White corn
-Ancho chilies
-Peaches (the size of softballs, but much better tasting).

With the peculiar weather we've had in this region, it seems like summer is running longer than usual, and stone fruit are unusually good and plentiful this year. Take advantage of the long season!

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posted by Arlene (Beth)3:26 PM

Saturday, August 09, 2008


Farmers' Market.

heirloom tomatoesIf you are like me, you cannot live without heirloom tomatoes. Or, at least, you've persuaded yourself this is true, and treat it as if it is true. So, off I went to the delightful Parkmerced Farmers' Market (, with its wonderful booths, nearly each featuring a great diversity of tasty, lovely summer produce. (I've mentioned before that the big farmers ' markets sometimes have a booth which will sell just one thing, but the smaller markets have booths which each sell a dozen things, as if from more sensible, diversified farms.)

Today's haul:

-Beckmann's Big California sourdough and strawberry-ollalieberry pie. This is a bakery out of Santa Cruz, and when I buy pre-sliced bread, it is usually theirs. I hadn't even realized that they made pastries until we spotted the pie table. Yes, a table of pies. Yes, that is a lovely thing.
-Blackberries. Three baskets for four dollars. I'm not kidding!
-Pluots. These are my favorite fruit this week.
-Tomatoes. I was impressed at the selection of heirloom varieties across the stands. We eventually chose our tomatoes for completely artistic/aesthetic purposes, but got the haul of gorgeous yellowness for just $1 a pound, and you can't beat that, so it was wise overall.
-Lemon cucumbers.
-Green, seedless grapes.
-Mixed lettuces.
-Enormous, organic, purple onions with fresh, crisp greens.
-Globe eggplant: smooth, tender, shiny, purple goodness.
-We also bought prepared foods from East and West Gourmet Afghan Food: lentil curry, cilantro pesto, and spinach bolani. If you'd have parathas, you have had bolani: they are just like tortillas stuffed with a thin layer of filling. They are soft and moist, and lovely topped with a cilantro sauce. The lentil "curry" is tasty but very mild.

I wanted basil, but there was none to be had. I'll live, I suppose.

[The big tomato in the photograph is REALLY REALLY big. Enormous. Multiple pounds. The other tomatoes are "normal" in size. They are intimidated. Trust me on this.]


posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Saturday, June 21, 2008


Tomato Love!

scene from the Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market, San Francisco, CaliforniaIt is relentlessly, oppressively hot in San Francisco today, but nothing could stand between me and a sack of heirloom tomatoes. The Ferry Building Marketplace Farmers' Market ( was a complete madhouse, but it was filled with heavenly summer foods. I managed to buy some of those foods and flee before the heat cooked me completely.

Heirloom tomatoes are in. They are REALLY in. They are everywhere, in all of their multicolor glory. Red, of course, but also red-with-green, red with green stripes, green with red stripes, yellow, orange, yellow with green and red stripes, nearly purple...

I tried to restrain myself: this market is famous for its organics and its expense, and I emptied my wallet at the same time I filled one tote bag. I did managae to resist falling into the long line at the Blue Bottle Coffee stand (, to even my own surprise. But it was a great haul:

-ripe boysenberries
-the aforementioned heirloom tomatoes
-flat leaf parsley
-green onions
-Acme green olive bread
-mixed lettuces with nasturtium flowers
-fromage blanc with fresh herbs
-aged fromage blanc.

Those last two items were from Cowgirl Creamery (, and I have astutely avoided their booth and store in the past because of tales of cheese addiction from friends. I figured that a visit would not aid my ongoing journey toward veganism... But Steven called me up and asked for cheese, and so I went for it. Yes, the cheeses are divine, organic, and local. Don't make me confess how much I liked them, okay? Let's move on.


Today's menu: a light lunch of fresh boysenberries, Acme olive bread with Kalamanta extra virgin olive oil, fromage blanc with herbs, and a cold glass of pinot grigio.

Snack: fresh nectarines.

Proto-dinner: a salad of fresh mixed lettuces, radishes, heirloom tomatoes, green onions, and avocado in a dressing of olive oil, white and regular balsamic vinegar, fresh basil, fresh oregano (from the garden) and young garlic, served with a homemade lime/lemonade.

Dinner: linguine tossed in pesto sauce (basil, parsley, garlic, olive oil) with diced heirloom tomatoes and pine nuts.

Happiness can sometimes be purchased.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:50 PM

Sunday, May 18, 2008


Fresh, fresh foods.

I went to the Heart of The City Farmer's Market at Civic Center today, which was awash in cherries and peaches. Those amazing little eggplant that are shaped like eggs and look as if they've been dipped in green and white paint are appearing, along with many purple ones.

I am waiting, obsessively, for tomato season, but am not yet impressed. Most of the roma-style tomatoes looked abused. I picked up some cherry tomatoes, but am becoming impatient.

Short list today:
-white peaches (divine!)
-cherry tomatoes (possibly for a salsa-fresca style raw soup)
-strawberries (PERFECT)
-yellow, white carrots (possibly for a raw soup, possibly to eat fresh)
-lemongrass (for Thai curry paste)
-green chilies (for fire-in, fire-out special effects)
-fresh garlic (still tender, with the paper still forming between cloves and the greens still fresh and stiff) (for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and warding off vampires; these will find their way into everything)
-shallots (which I don't generally use, but I have a Thai curry recipe that specifies these, and there they were)
-green beans (for a Thai curry)
-cucumbers (for either a raw soup or salad)
-lettuce (to wear on my head)(I'm just checking to see if you're reading my parenthetical statements, which often have little relevance and just run on and on and on, like a work of philosophy, but even less coherent).


posted by Arlene (Beth)9:36 PM

Sunday, February 17, 2008


Late "Winter" Farmer's Market.

After some debate over whether or not it was worth riding in a car, we visited the Alemany Farmer's Market Saturday after a long hiatus. I expected it to be sparse, with many empty booths, but it was packed - some of the vendors that usually set up in the center parking area managed to secure space under the roof.

Winter (or what passes for it locally) is still upon us, and the market was dominated by fresh greens and ripe citrus fruit. I noticed:

-oranges: mandarin (general), satsumas, blood, paige mandarin, and murcott mandarin, and what looked like navel
-lemons: Meyer and other types
-grapefruit: cocktail, white, pink, and melogold
-pears: shinli (the yellow kind that always look a bit bruised) and Asian/brown
-apples: too many types to mention, dominated by Fuji
-persimmons (very dark)
-kumquats (first guess)
-kiwi fruit

-cauliflower: white, green, orange, and romanesque (Nearly all of the white cauliflower looked like it was from plants ready to blossom and go to seed: rather than compact heads, the heads were open with many narrow branches)
-herbs (especially dark-stemmed basil, reddish cilantro, and others)
-an assortment of Asian greens (bok choy, baby bok choy, gai choy, etc.)
-kale (Russian, dino variations, and a long, thin, very deep green variety)
-spring onions (white and red)
-fennel bulbs

Root Veggies:
-carrots, bright orange with fresh greens
-daikon radish
-either turnips or beets (there were no greens on them, which decreased my limited odds of guessing correctly)
-a variety of small, bright potatoes

Our primary mission was to acquire satsuma mandarin oranges, which we have been hopelessly addicted to since I picked up a small case of them at TJ's. These are the mandarin oranges of the sort they can: completely sweet and seedless, with the loosest of rinds that can be peeled off with the least effort. It is difficult to choose them - the skin is so loose, you can't judge much about the fruit inside - but they are addictive. Also, there are many types labeled satsumas that are similar, but have tighter skin and seeds, so we were very careful in choosing. Satsuma mandarin oranges may be the only fruit that Steven can eat faster than I can. We acquired a large bag of them, but I know it won't last.

We also acquired... Just about everything else on this list, actually. It all looked so good, and smelled so fresh. The other special acquisition was pomegranate juice - real, fresh, undiluted pomegranate juice that actually tastes EXACTLY like pomegranates. I bought a small bottle, and loved it zealously: it will be all I can do not to buy the $20 gallon next week. This stuff is addictive, and so much better than the grape-sweetened bottles you find in stores.

I'm looking forward to next Saturday already!


posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Monday, October 01, 2007


Parkmerced Farmer's Market

assorted sliced heirloom tomatoesSaturday I went for a walk at Parkmerced, which is a retro-cool, rather strange apartment development near Lake Merced in San Francisco. It's probably the closest thing SF has to a "planned residential community," and it has always struck me as rather foreign. There are a few high rise apartment towers with a radial structure (the wings all meet in a center core), surrounded by wide lawns and low-rise stucco dwellings with wholly alien architectural details. They are in the process of repainting the complex, and I went to shoot photos in both color and black and white of some of the buildings.

While I was there, I happened upon the Parkmerced Farmer's Market (, a small, well-stocked open air market which says runs "Saturdays, 10 am - 2 pm, June - October." I can't resist a farmer's market - when can you ever have enough fresh fruit and veggies? So I let go of my camera and bought some produce.

The market had about a dozen stands. In contrast to the huge overflowing boxes and piles of produce at Alemany, or the abundance of woven baskets at Ferry Plaza, Parkmerced's market was about tidy, rather artful arrangements of fruits and veggies on tablecloths (also known as nice tarps). There were cut flowers, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, peaches, plums, nectarines, heirloom tomatoes, baby bok choy and several other Asian veggies, sweet and hot peppers, lettuces, leeks, potatoes, melons, long eggplant, and those lovely green and white eggplant that look like they are painted... Every booth sold several items, the way you'd like to imagine small, well-run, diversified farms do, and so there was a good selection.

Since I was there on a photography mission and didn't have a big canvas bag, I went easy. I got heirloom tomatoes (just $2.50 a pound) of five different varieties, including an apricot-colored tomato that is nearly solid and seedless (see inset photo for a range of the colors); fresh lettuce; leeks (since a friend recently gave me a butternut squash, I figure I'll dice the squash and bake it with leeks and garlic in parchment on a cool night); peaches (ENORMOUS, late season peaches, with good texture but very mild flavor); and pale green pluots. Then, I resumed taking photos, which was slightly trickier with my hands full of produce bags, but I did okay.

The market is just a short walk from the M streetcar, the 29 Sunset, the 28, and the 17 Parkmerced - in fact, the 17 stops just across the street from the market - so close, you could hit the bus with a peach, if you tried, but that would be a waste of a good peach. Considering the size of these peaches, you might also pull a muscle throwing one.


posted by Arlene (Beth)8:49 PM

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

  interior photo of SF Ferry Building, 2004

Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market.

I may never have written about one of the many farmer's markets we have in San Francisco: the one at our Ferry Building, at the foot of Market Street. It's a grand market, and features a stunning number of vendors.

Our Ferry Building, which has been a massive transportation hub when the bay was server primarily by ferry boats, had lost its importance over the years. It still served ferries, but only a on a few routes; much of the inside had been subdivided into small, unpleasant spaces, and was used for offices. But a few years ago, the building was extensively renovated, opening up the large skylights, and making the building a very pleasant public space once again. Inside is the Ferry Building Marketplace (, which is an expensive gourmet food mall, with a range of restaurants, bakeries, gelato shops, delicatessens, wine shops, and other specialty food shops. It's a fabulous place to people-watch! Outside, on Saturdays and Thursdays (check their website for the schedule) is the farmer's market, which unlike most other farmer's markets in SF, emphasizes locally grown ORGANIC foods.

And what organic foods! The displays are mouthwatering... There is all of that amazing California produce, of course, but also cheese, breads, pastries, sauces, herbs (bundles of dried lavender were scenting the air on Saturday), animal products of various sources, olive oils... It's remarkable.

The market has very high quality goods, and you will pay accordingly! One of the funnier things in comparing this market to the one on Alemany is the presentation. At the Ferry Building, everything is in a woven basket; when the bounty is excessive, it is arranged in remarkably tidy boxes, in single layers, cushioned on those fruit-pads you see in stores (the egg crates of fruit). The farmers are constantly ARRANGING the food for presentation purposes, often putting the last few potatoes or bundles of kale into smaller baskets they happen to have handy, so the produce isn't dwarfed by its (stylish) container. At Alemany, produce is presented in vast volumes in cardboard boxes, and when a box runs low, another box is usually dumped into the first while you watch. There are exceptions in each market, of course, but what is amusing is that both systems work well.

I don't usually visit the Ferry Plaza market because it is in the extreme northeast corner of the City, while I live close to the southern border of town. Other markets are much closer to me. However, I really wanted to escape the fog bank enveloping my neighborhood, and enjoyed my field trip into the sunshine.

I bought:
-nectarines (enormous, mildly sweet, firm, with great color and good texture)
-"American" eggplant (globe)
-green onions (we've exhausted our supply in the garden again)
-heirloom tomatoes, three different types (a small, red, very ruffled kind; a yellow/red striped; and a red-green ovoid kind)
-rainbow chard (from the wonderful SF Zen Center's Green Gulch Farm)
-a bag of sweet peppers, in four colors
-a bag of hot peppers, in three colors
-Dapple Dandy pluots
-artisan bread with green olives
-a couple of enormous avocados.

There was much more I could have bought, but I have been so tired after work that I didn't want to risk buying fresh produce that I wouldn't be able to use promptly.

I may have bought just enough stone fruit that Steven may actually have a chance to eat some!!


posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Thursday, August 30, 2007

  Ah, back posting. Somehow, I've made lots of little notes or drafts, but am not getting around to publishing them promptly... I think this has something to do with Steven starting work at 6 a.m., and me being semi-awake beginning at 4:30 a.m. every day - it's not conducive to staying up late and blogging. Or, at least, not coherently.


I've been to the farmer's market TWICE without writing about it! Both were "small" trips, narrowly focused for one reason or another.

Fall (though "autumn" is a prettier name) is definitely here: the apples and pears are more and more abundant, and the farmer's are announcing the end of various crops. They broke my heart these last two visits: the season is over for cling peaches. [sound of me sobbing.] It's not like I can complain to the California Cling Peach Board (, it's just the short season of the fruit.

I'll miss them, those strange, ultra-firm, orange-fleshed, sweet peaches. *sigh*

In my recent trips to the farmer's markets, I've picked up:

-mile long beans (both green and burgundy), to eat with black bean sauce over rice
-yellow pear cherry tomatoes (cooked immediately with basil and garlic to make a pasta sauce)
-red cherry tomatoes (for salsa, soups, and chili)
-cling peaches (duh)
-small red chilies (for salsa with the red cherry tomatoes)
-heirloom tomatoes, a lightly ruffled kind that is both deep red and deep green, leaning toward black (used sliced on tostadas and atop veggie burgers)
-melons, vaguely like cantaloupe, but not quite.


-onions (for nearly everything I make)
-edamame (soybeans! Boiled briefly, lightly salted, eaten warm for breakfast)
-watermelon (mostly for the skin for photos, since I prefer cantaloupe)
-basil (likely for a pesto to mix into polenta)
-mint (for fresh tea)
-pomegranates (to make a complete mess of myself over long periods of time - eating these is half ritual, half pleasure)
-a patterned butternut squash (I'm not sure what it was crossed with)
-crinkly green peppers (to photograph, and for chili).

I would usually buy much more fruit, but each of these trips was just a spontaneous side trip on the way back from something else, and I wasn't fully prepared. Also, friends supplied us with a huge bag of ripe pears, and our tree has been steadily providing us with medium-sized, crunchy, sweet-tart apples. I eat the apples as soon as we find them, but the pears are waiting patiently for me to make them into pie. It's a shame this little fall heat wave started, because there is no way I'm turning on the oven...


Last night I went to the communal bath at the Kabuki Springs Spa ( at Japan Center, which was heavenly. I swear, if I owned a steam room, I'm not sure I could function in the outside world at all... Anyway, they have something that I always love during those moments in between the steam room, the cold pool, and the hot pool: cool water with sliced cucumber in it, or a mix of sliced cucumber and lemon. It is sooooo refreshing. It's amazing there aren't a lot of beverages with cucumber in them, for its pleasant, cooling taste. I think we're in the habit of thinking of it as a salad vegetable, but it can make a very refreshing drink.

I know cucumber is used in "raw" soups, and may have to do some experimentation...

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posted by Arlene (Beth)8:07 PM

Saturday, August 04, 2007


Summer at the Farmer's Market

mysterious orange dappled sour melon
My officemate was telling me about how her parents always used to wake her up early on Saturday mornings, when she wanted to sleep in and then watch cartoons, to drag her along to the chaotic farmer's market on Alemany. Since she wasn't involved in the selections, and spent her time dodging the lumbering, fast-moving shoppers towering over her, she remembered dreading the event. But now that she's an adult, she appreciates being able to get such gorgeous produce in wider selections than what is carried in stores.


I appreciated the gorgeous produce today. There was something especially lovely about the piles of chilies, including the little, pointy chilies still on long, leafy, green stems. (I've been told those are used decoratively more than they are eaten.)

In no particular order, I picked up:
-pastry from one of the bakery booths. I had a mango-berry folded pastry with a bit of icing on it. It was rich enough that I couldn't eat it all in one sitting. Steven had an enormous cinnamon roll, which would have lasted me three days.
-Japanese eggplant (the long, thin kind). I bought these to marinate for a barbecue, before realizing that we had to leave almost as soon as we got home...
-crinkly, long green sweet peppers. These have thin walls, but are very crunchy. I'll use them in stir fries and perhaps a soup.
-sour melon. I've never had this before, but it's a lovely looking fruit: it's oblong, orange, and has a lovely pattern on it... I suppose I should just photograph it. I'll do that (look up at the top of this entry). I couldn't figure out what it was, and asked the farmer if it was sweet, and the farmer said it was sour like a lemon. I love lemons, and it's LOVELY, so here it is. I'll report on the flavor later.
-canteloupe. My favorite melon.
-CLING PEACHES. These are amazing. I have been craving them for weeks, and now they are available! They're enormous, firm, delicious, and very juicy.
-purple plums
-two kinds of pluots - what I think might be the "dapple dandy" spotted variety, and yellow. Wikipedia's entry for pluots says that they are 3/4 plum and 1/4 apricot, but they're really a lot more like plums. They are delicious.
-golden pears
-Bartlett pears (with lots of brown spots on them, but very, very sweet)
-zucchini, for curries and bread
-cherry tomatoes
-blackberries!! These really are in season, because even the vines overgrowing the edge of a small green space on the side of the freeway are ripening.
-cucumbers, the small, bumpy, gherkin-style
-heirloom yellow tomatoes with red stripes
-sweet peppers in pale yellow-green, violet, and red-orange
-fresh basil
-leeks, for soup (perfect for drippy-wet foggy weather, as we've had all summer)

It's going to be a pleasant week. :-)


posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Sunday, May 13, 2007

  Farmer's Market! We biked to the Mission today for a tree tour given by a botanist: though we enjoyed chatting with other cyclists also waiting for the tour, the book author who was supposed to guide us didn't arrive. We visited a few favorite trees that Steven needed to photograph for class, visited an art supply store to acquire paper for the anthotypes Steven is making, and went to the Heart of the City Farmer's Market at Civic Center. This Wednesday and Sunday market is a bit smaller than the Alemany version, but still has an excellent selection AND is much easier to get to: it's upstairs from both BART and the underground streetcar stations, many city buses serve the area, it's centrally located, and it's easy to bike to.

There are many more locally grown veggies available since the last time I visited. Kohlrabis were piled up, along with enormous purple cabbages, tender lettuces, stalks of fennel, loquats still on the stalk, zucchini (in different shapes and colors), green beans, enormous and sweet strawberries, cherries, early apricots and peaches were surrounded by the usual array of leeks, Chinese greens, and oranges.

I only had a small messenger bag with me, since we hadn't planned to attend, so we feigned some degree of restraint and left with our bike handlebars sporting many small bags, containing:

-fresh garlic! Yes! One of my favorite things this time of year. It's juicy, has drying green stalks on top, is easy to peel (with tender, wet skin; when it's young enough, you don't need to peel it), and smells oh-so-good.
-gai lon (or a very dark yau choy)
-red cherries, firm and juicy
-a 3-pack of enormous, sweet strawberries ($6, firm and juicy, not yet at the peak of the season, but darned good!). I loved watching the farmer scrutinize the berries that the couple ahead of me purchased, and choose two or three more from his supply behind him to top off their 3-pack before allowing them to purchase it.
-fava beans. We rushed home and blanched these with two kinds of pasta, and tossed them with sauteed garlic, olive oil, shredded basil leaves, and freshly ground pepper.
-early peaches.

I'm betting this will all be consumed by Tuesday night, though I may try to save some of the garlic for use later in the week.


posted by Arlene (Beth)6:22 PM

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


Spring Farmer's Market

On March 24th, I went to the Farmer's Market to see what our local farmers were offering despite the very cold, dry, generally strange winter we'd had.

Despite the cold, there were plenty of options:
-an abundance of oranges (especially the large navel oranges, but also smaller "juice" oranges, and various mandarins)
-pomelo (the giant green citrus fruit that are periodically mistaken for giant grapefruit, though they have a subtler, milder flavor than the average grapefruit)
-kumquats (which I see used more for festive decorations than I do as food)
-a few yellow pears (but very few - the pears you see in stores right now, especially the brown pears, are likely from South America)
-Asian specialty greens like bok choi, gai lon, the round-edged mustards, and others (available here year-round, usually)
-onions (green and yellow)
-mints (a wide range, including the strangely named "chicken mint")
-daikon radishes (which are fabulous, but which I don't do anything with, for some reason... I need a recipe for pickling them, I think, so I can serve them with other things)...

Plus the items I chose:
-broccoli (to cook with tofu, black bean sauce AND Vietnam-style chili garlic sauce)
-tomatoes - which were a bad idea, because it's too early, and they were from far, far away, sold at the little stand that always has a wide range of foods, but which always look likve they've spent too long on a truck. (I suspect the stand sells conventional produce from a distributor in northern Mexico, since they often have off-season items which aren't quite at their prime.) I mixed these into a pasta sauce containing canned, diced, roasted tomatoes, capers, and garlic - their firm texture held up after simmering, which was pleasant over pasta.
-strawberries - Real California strawberries!! It's early in the season, and so they're not as sweet as they'll be in a few months, but they were firm and fresh. A basket of strawberries is at least half of a perfect breakfast.
-red chard. (Prepared the way the broccoli was, above.)
-gai lon (which got wilty before I got to it, since I didn't seal it's bag well enough, so I composted it. It was just a buck, so I don't feel too bad.)
-lettuce (huge, gorgeous, loose-head. In sandwiches and salads.)
-prunes (Steven's choice)
-golden raisins (which are good in my cinnamon oatmeal)
-dried peaches (mmmmmmmm)
-leeks (for soup, with potatoes and garlic)
-and Sukhi's Indian specialties: spinach parathas, pumpkin parathas, samosas, mint chutney, and a strange sour-cream based "paratha dip" which was too rich for me.

We also bought quite a few fresh flowers, for an experiment in printing anthotypes, which I'll write about later.

My favorite summer fruits and veggies are still a few months away, but it's definitely worth going to the farmer's market when I have chance to wallow in freshness, and know that I'm eating foods that are locally grown by local farmers.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:45 PM

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