5 Summer Picks at Ventura Farmers' Market
Summer has arrived and Persephone has been out and about for awhile now - And you may just get a glance of her at the Farmers' Market.
On Saturdays, from 8:30am to noon, the collection of stands at the Downtown Farmers' Market are beaming with colorful and seasonal fruits and veggies. Lately, the selection has slowly been changing from root vegetables to an array of summer fruits. The atmosphere reminds me a bit of Southern Europe, where there's a market for everything and you can explore and pick the earth's edible offerings.
For any first-timers to farmers' markets, keep it simple and buy a few of your 'staples' you know you'll use and get ready to taste the difference! For instance, carrots, onions, potatoes/sweet potatoes, cilantro (if in season). When I first started going to the market, I purchased way too many fruits and veggies and unwillingly had to toss a few things found weeks later, pushed to the back of the fridge :( Ewwww- yet makes for good compost.
*Try this and incorporate one new 'pick' with every farmers' market outing. Be creative and play around in the kitchen, even if you don't know what it is, this is when pinterest recipes come in handy. (The market is on the corner of Santa Clara and Palm).
Here it goes...
Top 5 Summer picks at Ventura's downtown Farmers' Market:
Purple Cherokee Heirloom Tomatoes Yummy to My Tummy
Tutti Frutti has the best Heirloom tomatoes from jubilees to brandywine to others I don't know the names of. If you're not sure which one is which, try a few and experiment, there's a myriad of colors and each have their own flavor.
My favorite tomato is the Purple Cherokee. They are sweet and juicy and can be eaten on their own, just like the incredible fruit they are. They're great on toast in the morning with Avocado oil-yum, yum. I tend to store mine on the counter and eat within a few days. Word to the wise, don't squeeze them, I know they need some tlc, but be gentle - they bruise. Plus, the guy that 'works' the booth is easy on the eyes, which makes the experience even that more enjoyable :)
After eating one of these, it's hard to go back to the waxy, picked too early from Mexico, no flavor tomatoes found at Trader Joe's and elsewhere. Yet, I totally get it, sometimes you just want to eat tomatoes in January. (Heirlooms are normally $3 a pound and Tutti Frutti's are organic and grown in Central California).
OMG (no photo-they were too good:)
When you bite into a fresh peach and it's like drinking the 'nectar of the gods'- What else can one say? Except, it's one of the most amazingly delectable, 5 sensory experiences you'll ever have!
Note: Wait 'til it is a bit soft and ready for the plunge-don't eat them hard, it is all about delayed gratification here and allow those guys to ripen. There's also white peaches, which are tasty, but not as sweet. There's a few stands with peaches right now and these ones were from Fair Hills Farms. (There's actually a photo of one peach hiding out in the soup pic- bottom of blog)
Lemon Basil Smells Divine
Smelling the Fresh picked lemon basil will send you to the moon if you're into olfactory zones. The basil pairs well in coconut curries and salads. You can find it at Her Produce which has more Asian inspired produce from bok choy to long green beans to lemongrass.
Not to mention, it springs little, white flowers and makes a pretty, edible bouquet for your home:).
($1.50 a bunch)
Okra What's okra? huh?
If you're not from the South, there's a chance you've never cooked okra and most markets don't normally sell it. Last year, there was a delicious okra dish at 'Himalaya Restaurant'. One day, fresh okra appeared at the market and it was a definite sign to make some bhindi masala.
Okra can be gelatinous and there's a couple methods on youtube you can check out to get them a bit more dry before cooking. Anyway, it's the second week they're out and they'll be here 'til November.
Go for the tender, small-medium sized okra, the larger ones tend to be more 'woodsy', unless you're into that.
Yellow, Summer Star Squash The Practical Veggie
Squash always seemed so, bland, boring, monotonous and then I started eating it- hmmm, sounds like some relationships. Yet, its gift is in the everyday; its subtleness and versatility in the kitchen allows you to use it in a ton of dishes, including tasty stir-frys. Plus, it actually looks like a star when you cut it in half - Those little, unexpected details can definitely brighten your day.
Underwood Farms has two locations in Somis and Moorpark and you can even drive to the farm and pick your own berries.
Maybe you show up, try out farmers' market and it just isn't your 'thing'... Good news!- the one downtown has sweet kettle corn, coffee, and fresh tamales, not to mention 'Cajun Kitchen' is right around the corner for a bowl of yummy jambalaya or beignets. There's always eating healthy, next week- right? :)
Tips for the Market:
- Bring Cash and reusable bags (they also accept ebt, for anyone in a pinch)
- Ask Questions: Don't be shy and ask the local farmer or seller about pesticides, soil, when it was harvested, how to choose it... etc...
- Many will give you samples :)
- If you have a bunch of veggies left & they're staring to turn... Make Soup
- Take advantage of what you have; not everyone in the world has access to fresh produce every week like we do in our little seaside town
Boiling it down: 3 Reasons to shop local in Ventura
A. Healthier - Be informed about finding options with little or no pesticides/organic etc...
B. Taste/Quality - It will simply taste better because it is fresh & seasonal
C. Economy- Shop local and put your money where your mouth is by supporting small farmers. It can be tough to compete with the Monsantos of the world...
Want more info on the farms listed above? Websites found below
Have any Farmers' Market Suggestions that you would love to share? Comment below:)