Saturday, October 23, 2010

Know What You're Buying At The Farmers' Market

Week after week Michael and I (and our farm team) meet the nicest people who stop by our market store on Shea to either stop and smell and admire our display (thanks to Anita) or to buy their produce from us.  We make sure that we tell them that everything at our market store comes from us - our farm and that we are the growers.

When you shop the farmers' market - do ask if the vendor is the grower, ask where their farm is and also ask about their growing practices. Don't assume that it's organic and don't assume that the person selling you the produce actually was involved in growing the produce.

It seems as if California is cracking down on its "cheaters" at the markets. This recent article in the La Times reads

With concerns about cheating at farmers markets on the rise, the California Department of Food and Agriculture has scheduled four listening sessions around the state, including in Santa Monica on Monday, Nov. 1, to ask for public comment about its Certified Farmers Market Program, and especially to address concern about its integrity.

This step was prompted by two recent reports on NBC News that exposed several alleged market cheaters, peddlers who represented commercially bought produce as their own, or farmers who claimed that their produce had not been sprayed with pesticides, despite laboratory evidence to the contrary. Since the show aired, several farmers have been suspended by county authorities for cheating, and many market-goers have become suspicious they are being bilked.  Read the rest here.

As one who shops the farmers' markets it's up to you to be informed, ask questions and don't assume.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Eating In Season: What Food Is Really In Season In Phoenix Right Now

Teresa, the beautiful, classy owner of Camelback Flowers, has encouraged me to do a blog post of what's in season here in the Phoenix Valley. I really appreciate that. I appreciate that because as a farmer, lover of all things good and beautiful and as one who takes her fresh (picked the day before or morning of) produce and herbs to our market store at North Scottsdale's Farmers' Market on Saturdays.

Weekly I share a spot with other wonderful vendors who are growers and brokers of wonderful looking produce. A few Saturdays ago, I had this sweet young woman come up to me and ask, "Isn't there a law that says you are not to say your produce is local if it's not?" I asked what she meant to which she replied, "I see produce on some of the vendor tables that is definetely not local grown - because it's not in season here in Phoenix and I can tell it's from Mexico and from California and other places."  I smiled and asked her how old she which she replied, "I'm thirty - one."  I was impressed.

We use words like "eat local" "eat what's in season" and assume because it's in the grocery store or at the Farmer's Market that it's just that. Not so.

We started gardening extensively in our backyard four years ago (another home) and I remember calling one of my favorite nursery's to ask if they still had kale starts.  I'd been making this Tuscan Kale salad and my kale was running it's course.  That phone call was my awakening to the reality of "what's in season."  The sales person kindly responded to my request by letting me know that Kale is a winter - cold season crop and no longer available.

As a gardener, a grower and now a small neighborhood farmer, I have learned that certain crops grow only in certain seasons and that, like the thirty - one year old, I had learned "what's in season."

So, all this to say, that when Teresa asked me to do a blog post of "what's in season" I had to jump on my soap box and let you know - that as you shop - whether at the farmers' market or your grocery store, be aware of what's in season (it's healthier for you) and by that. It's not as if you NEVER buy something not in season - we do have a choice - but - be aware that buying "in season" has greater benefits.

I found this great list for fall produce here at that lists out every thing that's 'in season' here in Phoenix. If I were you, I'd print off its pages and the next time you go do your shopping be a little slower to shop - and prepare your meals with what's 'in season.'  Whatever you buy that's not in season has more oil miles of expense attached to it.

Here's the list (from for October and November and if you shop at our market store this Saturday, we're making these available.

Here's what you can find during October and November at the farmers' markets in the greater Phoenix area.

Fruits and Vegetables in Season: October and November

  • Arugula
  • Basil
  • Beets
  • Bok choy and other Asian greens
  • Carrots
  • Chard
  • Cilantro
  • Corn
  • Dates
  • Eggplant
  • Figs
  • Gourds
  • Green beans
  • Green onions (bunching onions and I'itoi)
  • Kale (Tuscan and Russian)
  • Key limes
  • Lettuce (baby mix and other varieties)
  • Peppers
  • Radishes
  • Spinach
  • Tomatoes
  • Turnips
  • Winter squash (spaghetti, acorn, butternut, etc.)
  • Zucchini

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Farm's Salsa Corn Chowder

Cooler weather definitely calls for soup simmering on the stove. And now that the cilantro in my personal potager is growing nicely, I'm going to add this favorite back on to the family menu of soups.

It's called Salsa Corn Chowder and it's a wonderful soup at this time of year.

Salsa Corn Chowder– Serves 6—8

1 1/2c chopped onion

1 T chili powder

1 t ground cumin

1 T flour

1 16 oz pk. sweet corn (thawed)

2 c salsa

13 3/4 oz can chicken broth,

1 8 oz container of soft cream cheese,

1 c milk, fresh

springs of cilantro

First, in a large saucepan saute your onions in butter in a large saucepan.
Stir in your flour and your seasonings.Add your thawed corn, salsa, broth and bring this to a boil and then immediately remove it from the heat.

Now, gradually add 1/4c of your hot mixture to your cream cheese (which you have already put into a bowl).Stir this well until it’s blended.

Continue until it’s all combined and blended.

Cook this until it’s thoroughly heated. DO NOT BOIL. Serve immediately in bowls and top each bowl with a small sprig of cilantro.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Today at our market store on Shea . . .

. . . we sold much of what we'd picked and snipped and pulled from our farm. The cool thing is . . . is that our produce, herbs, flowers and micro greens only had to travel 1.5 miles to get to our market store.

It's fun to see peoples faces when we say that WE are the hands and face of what we grow. . .not a produce broker .

. . . and we like it that way.

Years ago, I'd sprouted grains and knowing how invaluable they are as part of a raw food diet, we decided that we wanted to provide them each week for our market store customers. Most weeks all our French Garden Micro greens are gone within the first few hours.  Our favorite way to eat them is to slather Michael's chevre (he's our family cheese maker) on a cracker and then top it with these greens and then add a tinch of Stephanie Sherman's (2 Daughters and 1 Dad) horseradish on top of that. When our heirloom tomatoes come back around in the next few weeks, we'll add the tomato.

Michael and I watch in utter amazing as each week all three of our very large eggplant bushes provide us with so many beautiful American Beauty eggplants.  This week, I found myself to be a bit creative with the eggplant and made eggplant soup which we thoroughly enjoyed.

You can't go wrong with using thyme to dress up just about any dish.  My personal potager is where I grow our herbs - it's the area closest to our home here at the farm and you'd find several different kinds of thyme growing around.  This particular one is called "mother of thyme."

More herbs from my potager - lemon verbena - makes a great tea and French tarragon.  I don't know why but I love that herb - it's so delicate.

Lemon verbena is used here in this recipe Pots de creme au citron et a la Verveine.

I'm displaying our spicy arugula in this vintage wire garden basket.