Seasoned Shopper – March 2021


    Look no further. The Orinda Farmers’ Market now offers your morning cup of coffee. A cup of drip coffee or bags of fresh roasted whole beans from Zolo Coffee are available at the information booth.
    This month brings the beginning of a new season. Citrus and apples linger for a while longer, but it’s time to look for spring onions and green garlic to sauté with fresh local asparagus and fava beans.
    March is also Artichoke Month. In America, virtually all the artichokes we buy are grown in California. In fact, it’s the official state vegetable!
    Peak season for the beautiful California artichoke is March through May. Since all harvesting gets done by hand, they are an extremely labor-intensive crop. Further, because artichokes on the same plant mature at different times, the same field needs harvesting several times.
    Size does not indicate artichoke quality. At maturity, this silver-green, fountain-shaped plant is three to four feet high, up to four feet across and bears large to dwarf flower “buds” or artichokes. Large terminal buds are produced at the end of the long central stem and dwarf buds are found lower on the stem.
    Just as the artichoke is labor intensive in picking, it is time consuming in preparing. Baby artichokes do not develop the fuzzy choke found at the center of larger artichokes and may be cooked and eaten whole after trimming off the tough outer green leaves.
    To prepare larger artichokes, rinse well and peel off coarse outer leaves. Cut off the stem and top third of the artichoke using a stainless-steel knife. Immediately place the artichoke stem side down in about two inches of salted boiling water. Cover and simmer 25 to 35 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a knife. Drain and place the cooked treasure upside down on paper towels. When cool enough to handle, pull out purple tipped leaves in the center and scoop out the hairy choke with a spoon. The most delicious dip to serve with cooked artichokes is a simple mix of mayonnaise or yogurt with a little (or a lot) of curry powder.
    It’s also time to reacquaint ourselves with tomatoes. The folks at J & J Ramos Farms from Stanislaus County are now picking their greenhouse tomatoes to bring to market. Greenhouse tomatoes are harvested vine-ripened to ensure a flavor that reminds us of an in-season tomato. They provide our best alternative until field tomatoes arrive much later.
    The convenience of pre-ordering and curbside pickup from the Orinda Farmers’ Market is available by downloading Tap4Markets from you mobile app store.
    The Orinda market is open every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Orinda Way in Orinda Village. More information is available at, and Instagram at OrindaFarmersMarket, or call the market hotline at 925.431-8361.
    Barbara Kobsar sells her Cottage Kitchen jams and jellies at the JAM STAND at the Saturday Orinda market and the Sunday Walnut Creek market. She is also president of CCCFM (Contra Costa Certified Farmers Market) Association Board of Directors.

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