Yes, I totally stole that title from one of my favorite food podcasts, KCRW’s Good Food. Every week they do a segment called “The Market Report” where they talk to the head of the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market about what’s on offer at the market. Well, guess what, babies? At long last In My Box gets to do a Market Report of our very own!
Today I attended the grand opening of my neighborhood’s new farmer’s market! I’m sure there are locals who have been buzzing about this for weeks or months, but I had no idea it was coming until someone tossed a small, colorful flyer onto my steps a few days ago announcing that a farmer’s market was coming to the Upper Haight! I felt almost guilty when I saw the flyer, like this was something I should have sweated and struggled to earn and here it was being given to me for free. If I had known there were people out there advocating for a farmer’s market for this neighborhood – which has two nice neighborhood produce markets (with local produce? who knows?) and a very pricey Real Foods, but no supermarket since Cala closed in 2005 – I would have signed the petition, marched in the rally, phoned the district representative (who apparently is the one who made this market possible, by “simplifying and lowering the fees required to operate farmers’ markets on Rec and Park property” – go Ross Mirakimi!). But instead I just get to wake up one morning and stroll down the street to buy some farm-fresh produce.
I don’t know if this was by coincidence or design, but the timing of the Farmer’s Market overlaps with one of the two days the library Bookmobile (which is replacing our under-renovation library branch for the next year or so) comes to the neighborhood – and the Bookmobile parks mere yards from where the market takes place. So now I’m just in total heaven – one-stop shopping for books and beets? Life doesn’t get any better than this!
So of course I’m now getting my CSA box again, but I’m having it come only every other week, on the theory that one “Regular” box, which is supposed to be enough for two people for a week, at least, should hold me over for two with a bit of supplementation. But here I am at exactly one week out from my box delivery, and here’s what I have left in my box: Braeburn apple, Minneola tangelo, Hass avocado, celery, Romaine lettuce, carrots, artichokes, Garnet sweet potatoes (I keep a real-time update of my box contents on the Meal by Meal page). All these are yummy, but they’re not really the right type of veggies to build another week of meals.
Oh no! With one full week to go before her next box, whatever will our heroine do? How will she combat the forces of pellagra and rickets without her daily dose of leafy green vegetables? Enter the magical, unearned and unlooked for but now greatly heralded Haight-Ashbury Farmer’s Market! Hurrah! (The deus ex machina rarely shows up in my life in such an obvious fashion, but this one was a doozy.)
So I went down to the market to see what was on offer. Mostly beets, strawberries, spring lettuces, dandelion greens, spring onions, and spring garlic. (Notice a theme here?) Also lots of dill and a few other herbs, some carrots and cabbages. One place with turnips and daikon. Another with spinach, bok choy, and my very absolute favorite vegetable in the world, gai lan, often called Chinese broccoli. (That’s it below, between the spinach and the bok choy.)
It used to be extremely rare to find organically grown versions of any of the Asian veggies which are more “exotic” than bok choy and napa cabbage. The place that had this gai lan was one of those “we aren’t certified because certification is very expensive but we don’t use pesticides or any sprays” type of farms. I tend to want to believe these veggies are just as organic as those without certification, but when I asked the farmer if they used chemical fertilizer she said no, no, they use “regular fertilizer.” Which I assume means synthetic fertilizer, unless she was feeling too polite to say “chicken shit.” Oh well, at a certain point I have to just be glad to find some nice gai lan grown by a nice lady who hopefully isn’t secretly poisoning me. This is something that I’ve never seen come in my CSA box and I am really, really going to enjoy having it.
It felt like I was shelling out cash like crazy – I always feel like that at the Farmer’s Market – but when I got home, looked at my haul, and realized I’d spent less than ten dollars, I was pretty pleased. Between Rainbow (my organic food co-op where almost everything is locally sourced) and my CSA, I have no idea how much produce “really” costs or is “supposed to” cost anymore. I read the crazy coupon circulars that got shoved through my mailbox today and Safeway and Foodco are offering avocados and bunches of radishes and green onions at 3 for 99 cents, and I certainly didn’t pay those kind of prices today. But as long as I can afford it (barely) I’m going to keep trying to buy food straight from farmers, and to pay them the prices they ask without feeling “ripped off” or anxious that I’m not getting a good deal. Farming is hard, risky business (uh oh, wasn’t I up on this soapbox once already this week?) and I have so much gratitude to the people who take it on, especially those who are trying to practice good stewardship of the land as well.
I’m really ridiculously excited about my new treats. I haven’t been to a farmer’s market in a long time, and it was really great to get reconnected to that sense of what’s in season that you get from looking at six different stands and seeing the same types of produce on each one. I’m looking forward to creating next week’s menu and incorporating my finds. I already have reworked this Sunday’s meal. It was going to be eggplant and chickpea stew, but shopping at the farmer’s market showed me that eggplant and zucchini are not currently being grown by my local farmers. So I decided to make something with what was in abundance – beets! Sunday’s dinner will now be darling Johanna from Green Gourmet Giraffe‘s Beetroot, Beet Greens, and Chickpea Curry. I can’t wait!
(Oh boy… not to be a downer at the end of such a zesty, life-affirming post, but I just want to say that I am aware of the many questionable issues surrounding SF farmer’s markets and whether they actually benefit farmers as much as we the consumers hope/assume they do. I definitely am interested in talking about this side of things, so don’t hesitate to share what you know. But just for today I’m going to enjoy the bliss of having a farmer’s market show up around the corner, just in the nick of time!)