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A rarity at California farmers’ markets. You can find some at Trevino’s stand on Wednesday and at the Villalobos stand on Saturday downtown. Rhubarb is a perennial plant that has been known to produce bright red stalks for up to forty years! Rhubarb enjoys a good deep freeze, so it is amazing that California’s mild climate can make any rhubarb plant happy. Leaves are inedible, and are never sold. Cook rhubarb with sugar and eat in pies, cobblers or as a dessert topping.

Parsnips

A white, carrot-shaped root vegetable. Parsnips must be roasted or steamed. Their flesh is very sweet and satisfying. Cooked parsnips can be pureed and made into soup, mashed with potatoes or simply eaten as a side dish.

Cherimoyas

A tropical fruit that is sometimes called a “dinosaur egg.” Cherimoyas are green-skinned, irregularly shaped fruit that must soften like an avocado before being edible. The inside of the flesh is white, studded with large black seeds. The flesh is tropical, sweet and custard-like, and cut cherimoya halves can be briefly broiled to create an exotic dessert.

Kiwifruit

They are all but gone from markets. Kiwis, like grapes and apples, are harvested in the fall and stored in controlled atmosphere refrigerators where they bear up remarkably well to extended storage. Kiwis are packed with nutrition – one kiwi has as much vitamin C as an orange and as much potassium as a banana. Their tiny black seeds provide beneficial fiber.

Meyer Lemons

An orange-flavored lemon that adds depth to salad dressings and fish toppings. Meyers can be used in place of the tart, yellow Eureka lemons.

Orchids

They are in bloom right now. A long spray of cymbidium blooms can last up to three weeks in a vase of water. Butterfly-shaped Phaelenopsis and exotic spider blooms are available on potted plants, which you can take home and enjoy for weeks, then cut and keep until the plant blooms again. Orchid plants take years to produce blooms, but they become dependable producers year after year once they mature, and young plants can be separated and re-potted from the mother plant. Remarkably sturdy in spite of their delicate appearance, orchids are easy to keep and enjoy. Cathy Cosgrove at the Wednesday market has propagated some hybrids of her own that are unique to farmers’ markets.

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