Ask A Farmer: San Francisco Summer Produce Guide
Blue House Organic Farm
Pescadero, CA 94060
Ryan Casey is the owner of Blue House Organic Farm. His produce can be found at a number of Bay Area farmers' markets, restaurants and natural food stores, including the Upper Haight Farmers' Market, Della Terra Organics, Fish and Farm Restaurant and New Leaf Community Market. Ryan also maintains a Community Sponsored Agriculture (CSA) program, that provides weekly boxes of fresh, locally grown organic produce. In addition to fresh produce, Ryan also grows an impressive assortment of organic flowers and fruit at Blue House Organic Farm, just minutes from scenic Highway 1 and the Pacific Coast.
1. Go Fresh
Ryan's first tip is to go for produce that's fresh. Crops that are cared for from the field to the farmers' market table should look clean and perky. His recommendation is not to settle for "tired looking" lettuces and greens. He says if produce looks tired, it was probably harvested days or more before it arrived at the market and has not been properly refrigerated along the way. Even if the less fresh produce is cheaper, he says avoid it because its flavor and nutritional values have been compromised.
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2. Look for Produce Arriving Earlier
The dry, warm winter in California has allowed farmers to plant early and prepare for spring. This will mean the farmers' market tables will be full of great spring and early summer fruits and vegetables a little earlier this year. One popular fruit in particular will be strawberries, with California alone producing 80 percent of the nation's strawberries. He doesn't expect the price of fruit and produce to rise significantly due to the lack of rain, especially at farmers' markets.
3. Buy Organic
Ryan recommends buying organic whenever possible. Every market in the Bay Area usually has at least a few organic vendors in each community. He says to look for the organic certification signs for the best, most nutritious types of fruit and produce. He says if consumers don't see enough organic vendors, they should advise the market manager. He says managers are always looking for feedback on how to make their business better, which in turn, helps the consumer.
4. Try New Fruits and Vegetables
Ryan recommends trying new fruits and vegetables and not to be afraid to ask about unfamiliar vegetables. Most vendors are happy to share recipes and cooking advice. A perfect way to try out new fresh produce is to sign up with a CSA program. Each of the boxes from his program contains seven to 10 different items that are enough to feed two to four people. Additional food items such as farm-fresh eggs, local raw honey and fresh fruit jams can be added onto a CSA subscription from his farm.
5. Talk to Farmers
His last tip recommends that customers talk with the farmers and tell them what they would like to see at the market. Experienced farmers like Ryan Casey grow to please, as do other local farmers. If he knows there is a demand for certain products, he believes most consumers will be eager to experiment. For new ideas in cooking, he suggests visiting his Recipes link on the Blue House Farm website that features several deliciously healthy cooking ideas.
Randy Yagi is a freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. His work can be found on Examiner.com.
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