BY BARBARA KOBSAR
ILLUSTRATION BY MARGO RIVERA-WEISS
When you’re at the farmers’ market, it’s all about what’s in season.
Choosing from items harvested at their peak is your sure bet for fabulous flavor and freshness.
Spinach and Swiss chard continue to enjoy the cooler weather. When bunches of small garnet-red round beets arrive with fresh greens attached, it’s time to toss them in a baking dish with a splash of olive oil and kosher salt. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes and serve them up! Also good at winter’s end are leeks, green onions, and kale.
Spring onions and spring garlic are a fleeting treat. Slim, red-tinged spring onions are pulled from the ground before having a chance to develop a bulb. Big bunches of fresh asparagus arrive from the delta and continue over the next few months. Also good in early spring are artichokes and edible pod peas.
Fresh-picked English peas arrive sweet and tender inside bright-green pods, and fat, fresh fava beans come in, too, each pod moist, firm, and plump with beans. Fresh favas deteriorate quickly, but preparing and freezing the beans helps to extend the season. Strawberry season begins in earnest as the weather warms. Strawberry size is not a priority when it comes to flavor: variety and growing conditions are the determining factors for great taste, so try before you buy! Also good in late spring are sweet onions, rhubarb, potatoes, zucchini, salad greens, and avocados. By late May, some of the best early apricots are ready to enjoy out of hand and in baked goods and jams.
Barbara Kobsar is a veteran journalist who has authored two cookbooks focusing on traditional home-cooked meals using local produce. You’ll find her each week at the Walnut Creek Farmers’ Market, where she sells her Cottage Kitchen jams and jellies, which she makes from farmers’ market produce. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Margo Rivera-Weiss is an artist who lives in Oakland. She makes a full range of food-related art in watercolor and other media. More work can be seen at margoriveraweiss.com.