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Market Report
Berkeley, Calif.
Oct. 26, 2010

The Market:
Berkeley Farmers Market
Derby St. between Martin Luther King
 and Milvia Streets / map
Tuesdays,  2 p.m. to 7 p.m.
(winter hours: 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.)
(510) 548-3333

: Dylan Cardiff

The Tuesday market, the oldest of three year-round farmers markets in Berkeley that are run by the Ecology Center, is now in its 23rd year. The market features 28 farmers and 14 prepared food vendors this time of year. The Ecology Center, which started curbside recycling decades before most communities, has also long been a leader in implementing environmentally sensible policies at the farmers markets that it manages. Almost all of the vendors at the Tuesday market are certified organic. Genetically modified ingredients are banned, as is produce grown with the use of methyl-bromide (a fumigant commonly used on strawberry fields). The market was also one of the first in the nation to ban plastic bags, starting in April 2009, when the market was declared a “Zero Waste Zone” and refuse containers were eliminated. Vendors now use either compostable bio-bags or paper bags and are required to charge customers a quarter for each bag they use. This has acted as an incentive and educational opportunity, encouraging customers to bring their own bags and reusable containers from home. The plastic ban has also been extended to packaging,  prepared food containers and utensils. If it can’t be composted or recycled, it doesn’t have a place at this market.

On my most recent visit, it was a beautiful, mild fall afternoon, a few days after the first heavy rains of the season hit portions of Northern California. I expected summer favorites like basil, tomatoes, peppers and strawberries to be nearly gone from the market, but was happy to see that the rains spared some farms.  Lucious looking summer fruit and veggies could be found beside the first winter squash.

With summer over, one of my favorite crops is dates. Man, I love dates! I hit Flying Disc Ranch, from Thermal, Calif., for their amazing selection, including the Derrie, Medjool, Khadrawi, and Zahidi varieties. With a bag of dates as tasty as candy, I had satisfied my sweet- tooth and went on to look for something more vegetal.

As the father of two young children, I’ve been trying to get more greens into my family.  Sometimes I have to saute them with bacon to get the job done. Other times, I luck out and find something they’ll eat without being doctored up too much. 

Flying Disc dates

Four Sisters greens

Hoping to find something new, I cruised by the Four Sisters Farm table, which was stocked with a couple of different kale and chard varieties, baby collard greens, amaranth, purslane, sorrel, New Zealand spinach, two varieties of arugula and watercress. It was easy to walk away with two new greens for the kids.

Brooks and Daughters sprouts

On a healthy roll, I next checked out Brooks and Daughters, from Forestville , to get some sprouted goodness. I spotted some fenugreek and something called the “Sprout Krout Salad Mix,” and never got to the other side of the table. 

Moving on to carnivorous treats, I talked to Ted, of  Highland Hills Farm in Petaluma. All of his livestock are pasture raised and you can taste it. Wanting some sausage, either for the grill or to complement a pan of tubers, onions, and mushrooms I had planned for later, he pointed me toward a package of lamb and pork bratwurst.  Perfect.  Spotting some bacon, and figuring I might need it for something kid-related, I added a package of that to my purchase.

Oh yeah, mushrooms for the pan roast.  With Solano Mushroom Farm at the market, I had some great choices: portobellas (big and small), shiitakes, trumpets, oyster mushrooms, matsutakes, chanterelles and porcinis. It was not an easy choice, but settling on chanterelles, I couldn’t wait to get home and start cooking. But not before also getting one of their Hosui apple-pears, my absolute favorite. 

Highland Hills meat

Solano Mushroom Farm

What I Bought:

New Zealand spinach (left) and amaranth

These greens are from Four Sisters Farm in Aromas. When I got these home, I picked some red butter lettuce from my backyard, mixed it with the amaranth and a few pinches of each of the sprouts (see below). I topped it with chopped, roasted almonds, some tasty red and green heirloom tomatoes, also from my yard, and a poppyseed vinaigrette. Wow! The amaranth is fairly mild, a bit nutty, with just a touch of lingering bitterness. Even the kids ate it!

Price: $2/bunch

'Sprout Krout Salad Mix' (left) and fenugreek sprouts

The Sprout Krout Salad Mix includes, I believe, alfalfa, cabbage, clover and onion. The sprouts, from Brooks and Daughters, of Forestville,  are sold by the "handful," one of which is pictured above, composed of half a handful of each type.

Price: $3/handful

(left to right) two D'anjou pears, a hosui pear apple,
 and two bosc pears

The D'anjous are from Guru Ram Das Orchards, in Esparto, the apple pear is from Solano Mushroom Farm, in Vacaville, and the bosc pears are from Woodleaf Farm, in Oroville. Tonight, my family is going to have all three varieties of pears on a faux spinach salad of New Zealand spinach (not a true spinach) with some local blue cheese and maybe a walnut or two on top.

Price: $3/lb.

Chanterelle mushrooms

This is approximately a quarter pound of chanterelles, from Solano Mushroom Farm, of Vacaville.

Price: $20/lb.

(clockwise from top left) yellow creamer, purple majesty, mountain rose, russet, and french fingerling

This selection of potato varieties is from Riverdog Farms in Guinda. 

Price: $2/lb.

Highland Hills lamb and pork bratwurst (left) and bacon

Price: $9/lb. for bratwurst
$12/lb. for bacon

dates and almonds

The almonds are from Massa Organics, in Hamilton. The dates are the Khadrawi variety from Flying Disc Ranch, in Thermal.

Price: $12/lb. for almonds
$6/lb. for dates

Copyright 2005 Seasonal Chef