I'm in Southern California this week visiting family. I didn't make it to my hometown farmers market, but I spent the day at the beach in Carpinteria on Thursday and when I'd had enough sun and sand and salt water, I walked down Lindon Street with my signature yellow canvas "Eat Local Produce" shopping bag to the afternoon farmers market. I pumped forty-two dollars into their local economy with my purchases and then struggled to haul everything back to my car without squashing any of the deliciously ripe fruit or breaking the stems of the flowers.
As always, I made one trip through the market from end to end to survey the offerings and compare prices. Such abundance; so many possibilities. The second time through I began formulating a menu. My brother, Dave, and I like to cook together, so I knew we'd have fun "playing" with whatever ingredients I brought home and they would not go to waste.
First off, I bought a half flat of incredibly sweet, deep red strawberries. These are not the huge, crunchy, flavorless "California strawberries" we Oregonians scorn. These are perfect. (On a whim, I threw a packet of Ball Instant Fruit Pectin into the snack bag I was packing for our road trip and later today I will make a batch of low sugar freezer jam for my brother's family.)
Next, I bought a few luscious, juicy, ready-to-eat peaches. Everything ripens earlier here; I don't think we'll have peaches at home for several weeks. I was so excited to get a head start on peach season! As I type, I am eating a bowl of Greek yogurt topped with peaches and strawberries and just a touch of honey. A perfect warm weather lunch--loads of antioxidants, vitamins, calcium, and eighteen grams of protein.
Okay, so I'm walking around trying to shop without bruising the fruit. It was too far to take it to the car and I was afraid the best berries would be gone if I waited until the end to buy them. I got the last four peaches as it was. And I couldn't put any of it in my market bag or it would certainly be mush by the time I was through. The plastic bag handles were cutting off the circulation in my fingers, but I struggled along to pick out some vegetables.
Hmmmm....so many choices. Red beets, orange beets, lettuce, cucumbers, broccoli, cauliflower, bright yellow butterstick squash. I was very tempted by the basket of ten baby zucchini with blossoms still attached. The vendor suggested stuffing the flowers with goat cheese, twisting them closed, brushing the flowers and squash with olive oil and baking for about ten minutes. Sounds wonderful, but I know I will be able to get zucchini at home and the lovely, pencil-thin asparagus next door was really calling my name, as our local asparagus is done for the year. I bought three bunches. We'll roast them for dinner tonight along with the boneless leg of lamb Dave just walked in the door with.
I bought two heads of hydroponic butterhead lettuce. "No dirt, no bugs" the sign said and they were a bargain at two for $3.
I picked out a few vine-ripened, just-picked Roma tomatoes and a bunch of fresh basil. With a store-bought baguette (too hot for baking!) we'll make bruschetta for our appetizer.
I chose a gorgeous bouquet of two-toned gerbera daisies for my sister-in-law. Four bucks for ten exquisite peaches and cream flowers.
I tasted some fresh green garbanzo beans still in their pods and bought a scoop just for the novelty of it. They taste much like fresh peas and make a refreshing snack. I've never had edamame, but I'm wondering if it's similar.
I bought four very hard avocados to take home with me. I don't want them to ripen for at least a week.
I didn't splurge on a bottle of California olive oil, but I did buy a small bar of lavender-scented castille soap from the same booth.
Surprisingly, there were no baked goods at this market. Nothing to sample or munch on during my hour-long drive back to Valencia. It's a scenic route through Ventura, Santa Paula, and Fillmore past acres and acres of orange groves. Normally I wouldn't be able to resist the pull of the roadside fruit stands, but my cash was gone, my skin was still salt-crusted from swimming and I was ready for a shower.