Santa Barbara Certified Farmers Market, Santa Barbara, Calif.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Santa Barbara Farmers Market, June 23, 2012

You’ll find a mind-boggling array of produce at this outstanding farmers market any time of year, which is why I keep returning. Check out, for instance, the bounty of fruits and vegetable on one of my previous visits in February, a month that is the dead of winter elsewhere, and in March of another year.

– Mark Thompson

Santa Barbara Farmers Market
Santa Barbara St. at Cota St. / map
Saturdays, 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
(805) 962-5354

slide show

What I Bought

stone fruit
Plums, nectarines, a yellow and a white peach (center), and Blenheim apricots (lower left)
Price: $2.50-3/lb.

Known as “California’s finest apricot,” the Blenheim has a short season and doesn’t hold up well when shipped, two of the reasons that it is regarded as one of California’s most imperiled fruits. Thanks in large part to the proliferation of farmers markets, however, Blenheims have developed a following among connoisseurs, whose interest and buying power has allowed a handful of farmers to keep it in cultivation.

“It’s the pinot noir of apricots,” Blenheim grower Andy Mariani told a reporter for California Country magazine. “It has a complex flavor and only reaches its perfection in certain climates. It has a perfect balance of sweetness and acidity, aromatics and true apricot flavor.”

okra, pea and beans
(from left to right) okra, Blue Lake green beans, romano beans, English shelling peas and fava beans
Price: $2/lb. for beans
$3/lb. shelling peas
$3.50/lb. for okra

pepper varieties
multiple varieties of peppers including padrons (lower middle)
Price: $3.50/lb.

I spotted padron peppers, also known as Basque frying peppers, for the first time in 2005. They’ve grown in popularity, and have developed something of a cult following, since then, selling for as much as $17.50 per pound online. A New York Times writer once called the experience of eating them “Spanish roulette” because some are hot and some are not. According to Bill Coleman, who farms in Carpenteria, just south of Santa Barbara, from whom I bought my first bag of padrons in 2005, generally speaking, the larger they get, the hotter they are. The traditional way to cook them is to toss them whole in a hot skillet with olive oil and salt until they start to blister, then eat them by hand, picking them up by the stem.

multiple eggplant varieties
multiple varieties of eggplant

summer squash
summer squash varieties including pattypan (left) crookneck (lower middle) round and conventional zucchini (right)
Price: $3/lb. for eggplant
$1/lb. for zucchini
$1.50/lb. for other summer squash varieties

tomato varieties
heirloom tomatoes
Price: $2.75/lb.

citrus varieties
(clockwise from top left) star ruby grapefruit, nekewa “lavender gem” tangelo, standard tangelo, Malibu gold tangerine
Price: $3/lb.