Spring is a wonderful time of year at the Farmers’ Markets. The last of the winter root vegetables are sharing space on farmers’ tables with some of the first seasonal spring vegetables and fruits.
In Santa Monica, we are lucky to have year-round access to asparagus and artichokes, but spring is peak season for these vegetables. Zuckerman Farms, at the Wednesday and Saturday Pico Markets, grow their asparagus near Sacramento. They have giant, jumbo asparagus, as well as thinner spears, too, that is so delicious you’ll want to cook it as simply as possible. Steam it until tender and then drizzle it with olive oil and Meyer lemon, or roast it with olive oil, salt, and pepper then squeeze Meyer lemon over it. Green Farms, outside of Lompoc, grow huge globe artichokes, but they also grow amazing baby purple artichokes that are so tender when steamed that once you get past the outer leaves you can literally bite into them and eat them whole. They are so tasty that you won’t even need a dipping sauce. They are also great for sautéing or marinating.
Bloomsdale spinach is a cool weather crop that enjoys a nighttime frost to bring out its best flavor. It is heavily savoyed, meaning that it has very crinkled leaves. It is very tasty, and thicker and sweeter than most spinach; it has less tannin and therefore no aftertaste. It holds up very well when cooked and does not shrink quite as much as your average spinach. Bloomsdale spinach will be available through May or June, and Weiser Family Farms grows it nearly year-round. Try sautéing your Bloomsdale spinach with a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper. Also add some garlic and lemon for an extra zing.
Sprouting broccoli, the deCicco variety, is an open pollinated heirloom variety. What we commonly consider standard broccoli is actually called Calabrese, which dates back to 300 AD, and is good for commercial use because it is easy to grow and transport. At Farmers’ Markets we are fortunate to have access to sprouting broccoli. Smaller than your typical broccoli, it has small side shoots. It is an indeterminate crop; when the center head is cut it will continue to produce small side shoots. The leaves, shoots, and heads are all edible. Sprouting broccoli is perfect for roasting and also delicious in stir-fry.
There are dozens of varieties of sweet, tart tangerines and mandarins available right now, but the entire country is going crazy for Pixies. The Ojai Valley produces some of the best Pixies in the country; the warm days and cool nights produce fruit with incredible flavor. You can find Ojai Pixies at Friends Ranch at the Wednesday Market.