On top of that, it's a great place to take the kids to walk along the vegetable rows, see seedlings in the greenhouse, stroll through the fruit trees in the orchard, or play with Mister Andy the rooster and the chickens in the hen house. Our family has "adopted" two trees at Full Circle Farm, a satsuma orange tree and a white nectarine tree, to help us feel more connected to the farm. We hope to take our daughter Kaiya and son Austin to visit these trees often.
Thursday, December 23, 2010
From where I live in Mountain View, there may be no food that is more local (other than home-grown) than the food grown at Full Circle Farm, an 11 acre non-profit farm located adjacent to Peterson Middle School off of Wolfe Road near El Camino Real. You can buy directly through their farmstand or through their CSA. Right now, they have typical California winter crops such as broccoli, cabbage, chard, carrots, collard greens, kale, leeks, sunchokes, and winter squash.
Sunday, December 19, 2010
Ever since TLC Ranch closed down shop a couple months ago, I have been lamenting the lack of a sustainable, pastured pork vendor at the Mountain View farmers' market. Other than the sporadic sustainable meat sales from Hidden Villa, I have not found a convenient, local option of pork (which happens to be the most consumed protein in our family) - with Whole Foods serving as an okay option, but where I often feel little or no connection to the farm or ranch that grows our food.
But recently a new pastured pork and grass fed beef vendor, Full of Life Farm joined the Mountain View farmers' market. The proprietor, Bernard Smith, has an interesting story - growing up on a family farm in the Willamette Valley in Oregon, before moving to San Francisco for work, only to eventually take over the family farm, and sell sustainable meat in Oregon and in SF Bay Area markets. Although I'm not crazy about the meat actually being raised in Oregon, I am excited about this new potential connection to healthy, delicious, sustainable food.
Sunday, December 12, 2010
I have a new favorite food: roasted sweet dumpling squash.
Butternut squash has long been my favorite winter squash - roasted with olive oil, pureed in soups or featured in risotto. The sweet creamy flavor and its utility as a hearty featured ingredient for fall and winter meals has endeared this vegetable to me. But I recently picked up a couple sweet dumpling squashes from Happy Boy Farms at the farmers' market, roasted them with salt and olive oil, and was in culinary heaven. Rich, deep flavor scooped straight out of the shell that surpassed even my long cultivated affinity to butternut squash. Yum.
Saturday, December 4, 2010
I love shopping at the farmers' market in the fall and winter. It's not quite as sexy as the kaleidoscope of colors and deliciously sweet flavors that you get with all the heirloom tomatoes, stone fruit and berries in the summer. But I love the selection of vegetables that make for hearty soups and stews, and the fruits that come into season that have that crisp flavor that makes me think of fall.
For those of you not familiar with the broad selection of produce that our farmers' market vendors brave the cold (and sometimes rain) to bring to us every week, here are some of my favorites (including vendors at the Mountain View and downtown Palo Alto farmers' markets that I frequent the most):
- Winter squash, such as butternut, acorn, kabocha, delicata, and carnival: They are all great roasted and pureed in soups, or as the main highlight of a risotto, or just roasted with olive oil and scooped right out of their shells. You can typically find them at several vendors in any farmers' market with some of my favorite vendors being Happy Boy Farms and High Ground Organics, both out of Watsonville, at the Mountain View farmers' market on Sunday, and Full Belly Farm out of Capay Valley at the Saturday downtown Palo Alto farmers' market.
- Apples, including honey crisp, gala, fuji, gravenstein, cameo and many more: I grew up shopping at grocery stores where there were just apples, always shiny and red. Sometimes, there were green apples in the store, but those always seemed odd to me and they were called "green apples", whereas the red ones were always just "apples". Having been introduced to perhaps a dozen variety of apples over the last few years (out of the 2,500 varieties grown in the US), I have come to appreciate more breadth and depth of this wonderful family of fruit. There are a number of vendors with a decent variety of apples. But for a real education, you can head to Prevedelli Farms at the Mountain View market or Hale's Apple Farm at the downtown Palo Alto market. In the fall and winter, they both have a constant rotation of at least half a dozen apple varieties in season, and in particular Prevedelli has a helpful staff, good signage and plentiful samples.
- Citrus, and in particular satsuma oranges: The disappearance of peaches, nectarines, plums and other stone fruit at the end of the summer is a sad time in our household, where my wife, daughter and I devour these fruits all summer long. We can hang on for a while on the longer seasons that strawberries sometimes offer, but we don't get really excited again until winter when citrus, and in particular satsumas, come back to the market. These seedless, easy to peel, tangy fruits are mistaken for candy in our household where I need to buy a few dozen to make it through the week. All through the winter, I buy big bags full of satsumas from Paul at Super Sweet at the Mountain View market with Sunny Cal at both the Mountain View and downtown Palo Alto markets coming through in a pinch when needed.
If you are not already taking advantage of the fact that we have some very high quality farmers' markets in the area, here's to hoping you can explore what we have to offer.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Understanding where the food I eat comes from has taken me down paths that I never really thought of... like popping my own local, organic popcorn. My wife loves to eat buttered popcorn and we often have a package of Orville Redenbacher or Jiffy Pop in the house. I have never been interested in buying this kind of popcorn - it's not that I don't like it, I just don't love it and have never been that interested. However, when I saw at the downtown Palo Alto farmers' market that Full Belly Farm had 1 1lb packages of corn kernels grown on their farm in Capay Valley, I was intrigued by buying local, organic corn kernels from someone that I knew and trusted.
As it turns out, popcorn is very simple to pop - heat oil in a saucepan, throw in the kernels, cover and wait for them to pop, and season as desired (who chose salt, butter and grated parmesan). And I can tell you that I have never felt so good eating popcorn. To be honest, it all tasted the same to me. Popcorn tastes like popcorn - salty, buttery and delicious. BUT instead of buying an anonymous package with contents that conjured up images of stomach-ache-inducing movie theater popcorn, I bought my popcorn from Dru Rivers from Full Belly Farm, who I see on a regular basis at the farmers' market and whose farm I plan to visit next year. And that connection made all the difference in enjoying this tasty snack.