BY BARBARA KOBSAR

Choosing produce harvested at its peak is your sure bet for flavor and freshness.  

February

Citrus gets top billing during the winter months but even as the season winds down there’s one more star to come forward: California navel oranges are at their peak during February when they are heavy with juice and boast a shiny orange skin. Meanwhile, local strawberries are starting to come in, but they’ll improve in flavor as they soak up more sunshine. Many varieties will come through the market over the next several months, so don’t be shy in asking for a sample to find your favorite.

March

Rhubarb enjoys a long history, growing wild in the cool climates of central Asia as far back as 2700 B.C. Marco Polo introduced the “pie plant”
to Britain in the 13th century, where it became a popular medicinal. It came to America in the 18th century, when Benjamin Franklin sent rhubarb seeds to a friend. There are only a few growers bringing organic rhubarb to the farmers’ market, so don’t miss your chance to gather up some stalks during the early months of the year.
Also, make sure not to miss the brief appearance of green garlic, which is simply immature garlic that is pulled from the ground while farmers are thinning the crop. It looks much like a green onion or scallion and complements a dish with its mild flavor rather than overpowering it.

April

Avocados are a spring-to-fall crop. There are hundreds of varieties, but the rich and creamy Hass, first grown and sold by southern California mail carrier and amateur horticulturist Rudolph Hass, accounts for 95{94d79dd6af1e87a94e700e4c297236468333f22e27ed5757b44711974a9a4b91} of those brought to market.
Fava beans also flourish this month. The velvety green pods hold the beans inside a fuzzy lined shell. When picked very young the beans do not require individual peeling of the inner skin, but some consider this a requisite to making any larger beans palatable. If you time it right you’ll also find tender fava greens and young pods that can go right into a simple sauté.

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Painting by Patricia Robinson