Farmers’ Markets and Food are synonymous! Love the variety of fruits and vegetables, love the smells coming from the food vendors and I particularly love the food samples they put out. Spending a fair amount of time at the markets I not only tasted fruits, vegetables and foods I’d never encountered, but received a real education on our food source.
A date is a date is a date…. I love dates, but I had no idea that there were so many varieties or that the Medjool Date was the Diamond of Dates also known as the King of Dates! I discovered Medjool date at the Roadrunner Tree Farm stand at the Farmers’ Market at Borrego Springs. The first bite of the date was pure delight. They taste of caramel, honey and a hint of cinnamon and they absolutely melt in your mouth. They are a lot larger than any date I’d encountered and having a high moisture content they are a softer hence the “melt in your mouth.” They are deep amber brown and seem to shimmer in the light . This would be a result of the natural sugar crystals that form on the outer skin.
We have Walter Tennyson Swingle, Agricultural Botanist, for the Medjool Dates. (We also have him to thank for the Pistachio Nut) In 1927 the Medjool crop in Morocco was being destroyed by a disease and Swingle brought 11 offshoots back to California. Nine of the shoots survived and those nine are the source of the dates grown today. Medjool dates cost between $8 and $10 a pound which may seem a bit high, but their cultivation is labor intensive. A grower will climb the 40 to 50 foot tree several times during the growing season to ensure the tree is trimmed and ripe dates removed to increase the air circulation and sunlight. They must also be covered to protect them from birds and insects. The dates ripen at different times and they are not picked in clumps but rather individually.
Naval oranges had always been my favorite until I tasted the Cara Cara Orange. This was also found at the Roadrunner Tree Farm stand. The Cara Cara Orange is relatively new to the US. It was first discovered in Valencia, Venezuela in 1976 and was brought to the United States i the late 80’s. Until recently it could only be found in specialty markets. It’s a cross between the Washington Navel and the Brazilian Bahia Navel. It’s sweeter than other oranges, juicier than other oranges, and there are no seeds. It also has red flesh similar to the red grapefruit. It’s acidic level is also lower than other citrus fruits. It is the BEST!
Borrego also had more to offer. The Candied Apple Pastry Co. from Julian, California had amazing pastries, but what caught my eye was their jams and jellies. My pics were Blood Orange Marmalade, Borrego Grapefruit Marmalade and Apple Cider & Roasted Habanero Pepper Jelly. My choices were “excellent”.
Onto Little Italy which is an urban neighborhood in San Diego.
I do not like broccoli… or at least I didn’t like broccoli until I found Happy Rich Broccoli at the Farmers’ Market in Little Italy. Happy Rich is a cross between broccoli and Chinese kale. It’s sweeter and more tender than regular broccoli and the leaves and stems are also sweet and tender.
There is also Romanesco Broccoli which is also known by the name Roman Cauliflower. It not only looks a little like cauliflower, but it tastes more like cauliflower than broccoli. I like it better than broccoli and cauliflower. It’s a little sweeter and works well in salads and baked dishes.
One of my great finds in Little Italy was at vendor Pappardelle’s stand. Based in Denver, CO, Pappardelle’s has mastered “the fine art of pasta.” I selected Tomato Basil Penne and Chocolate Penne. I used the Tomato Basil in a basic hamburger hotdish. I did not add any tomatoes or tomato product and I was amazed at the taste of tomato basil in the casserole. Can’t wait to try the chocolate penne in a dessert. I will definitely buy this product again.
When I visit the Farmers’ Markets in Minnesota this summer I’m going to pay closer attention to what they offer. Were the Farmers’ Markets in San Diego County that much better than those in Minnesota, or was it a case of “the produce is greener on the other side of the fence?”. I think sometimes we become so accustomed to what is familiar to us, and head for the things we customarily buy that we don’t see what’s new in our own back yard. We’ll see.
© HeididmSchmidt and Little USA Trips July 1, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to HeididmSchmidt and Little USA Trips with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.