Market delights Q&A
January/February 2017 California Bountiful magazine
By Barbara Arciero
What's the best way to experience a farmers market?
I think all your senses will be fully stimulated, so you just want to be looking around, and smelling, and fortunately you can touch things at most farmers markets. You really fully engage all your senses. And it's nice to speak with the vendors. Often they'll be the farmer who grew the product and you can ask how they are cooking it right now. You might ask them something about growing it—just a little exchange. That's part of the unique aspect of a farmers market. It has a very human touch.
What's your approach to making purchases?
I typically will walk up and down before I buy, just to see who has what, what the prices are. If it looks like something's going out fast, then of course, I will make an exception and buy. But that's typically what I do: I walk up and down and see everything first.
Do you make a shopping list?
I sometimes have a list, especially if I'm going to be preserving something from the season. I just allow my mind and my creativity—but mostly the produce that's there and the product—to really call out to me what I should be cooking. That way you become a little more involved in that creative process of cooking in partnership with what's looking good.
You advocate eating with the seasons. What is it about winter markets that inspire you?
I love every season, but in winter, we are all thinking about our health, with colds or sniffles, so you know the citrus in California is at its knock-your-socks-off time. Winter is its glorious moment.
Then there's all the winter greens. There are so many different, fun ways to cook those, whether by themselves or stir-fries or soups and stews. The Brassicas, the Brussels sprouts coming in on their stalks. They're great steamed with a cheese sauce, very simple—or cauliflower. Broccoli, of course, can be cooked a million ways. The first weeks of broccoli, you're getting the beautiful, big flower heads, but as the winter goes on, you're getting the side shoots, these tiny, more succulent little pieces of broccoli.
And then, of course, you've got these hard winter squashes that can just be baked in the oven. You want your oven on anyway. The squash can be eaten as is or made into a soup. And you've still got the new-crop nuts that are so fresh and succulent. Winter has so many special qualities. Hopefully I've named a few things that make the season so exciting!
How important is it to include children in the farmers market experience?
The more our younger generation understands and enjoys the bounty of our farms, has met a farmer, has experienced a real navel orange in season, maybe harvested that morning, or tasted a Valencia in the summer and the difference, just the total sweetness, I feel like they're going to turn into better voters for the environment and agriculture, for making sure that farmers get the resources they need to continue California as an agriculturally productive state. I think that is very important for our future.