Tomato Season 2012 Update

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We hit the Derby Street 63rd and Adeline market yesterday to check in with some of our favorite tomato farmers and find out how the season is progressing.

Last time we’d checked in things were off to a slower and cooler start than expected which led to our decision to reschedule this year’s Tomato Dinners for mid-September. This time around we found an eye-popping barrage of technicolored specimens representing a wide range of varieties which are all ripening right now. Additionally we were told again and again, this is just the beginning!

Judith Redmond of Full Belly Farm

Judith Redmond of Full Belly Farm

Judith from Full Belly Farm in the Capay Valley said they planted six waves of tomatoes and currently the second one is just winding down and the third wave hasn’t even started yet! Daytime temperatures are averaging around 100 degrees and the tomatoes are loooooving it. Anna from Catalan Family Farm in Hollister said they are “SWIMMING in tomatoes” and barring an early frost, will probably have tomatoes until October possibly mid-November! Tim from Riverdog Farm said although their season was initially behind schedule, due to a late first planting and then an early heatwave in June that knocked some buds off, the tomatoes are now in full roar. And Karen from Lucero Organic Farm in Lodi, which has a daunting variety of tomatoes on display, said the smaller earlier varieties started picking up speed a few weeks ago but now everything is in full swing.

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Overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices? Come nerd out with us on September 16th when Chef Jonah Rhodehamel will be leading a tomato tasting in preparation for this year’s Tomato Dinners. This is a chance to taste a wide variety of tomatoes from a number of local farmers and hear a chef’s opinion on how they would be best put to use.

Market Report #14: Cold Snap and Salsa

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The Derby Street farmers market was bustling today, in a pre-Thanksgiving-panic sort of way. But the sun came out and most of our farmers seemed ready for the hordes. And Maria Catalan was ready with samples of her salsa. Catalan Farms has just started selling Maria’s own handmade tomato salsa, tomatillo salsa, as well as organic nopales.

Word on the street is that the weather is predicted to turn quite chilly in the next few days and many areas will more than likely see their first freeze. This means good-bye early girl tomatoes and beans, and hello broccoli, cauliflower, and all those great winter root vegetables. Unbelievably, Catalan Farm still has strawberries:

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but these are the last of them. So you’ve got approximately two hours left to get your hands on some before they are gone until next spring.

This Just In: Goat’s Milk Ricotta

Things are definitely feeling like spring around here. Meaning deliveries from our suppliers keep arriving with new types of produce. Meaning the kitchen in like a sparking motherboard of ideas. Meaning the menu is like that magic trick where the magician keeps pulling more and more incredible stuff out of his top hat: fava greens, lettuces, young carrots, asparagus, artichokes, strawberries, and just when you think there can’t possibly be anything more in that hat, Chef Canales (who is the magician in this extended metaphor) busts out some house-made goat’s milk ricotta ravioli served with first-of-spring English peas from Catalan Farms. On the menu starting tonight.

Tomato Watch Week 18 (Part 2): In which we also consider the eggplant

Chef Paul Canales hit up the Derby Street Farmers’ Market yesterday with daughter Eva in tow. The duo got a look at some of the recently available tomatoes at Riverdog Farm, Catalan Farms, Lucero Organic Farm, and Full Belly Farm. Tomato season should hit its peak in the next few weeks, giving the chefs time to evaluate what’s up to snuff for this year’s tomato dinners.

In the meantime, the current showstopper is eggplant. Chef Canales shows us the three varieties he’s particularly fond of and explains how he likes to use them. Eggplant will be on the Oliveto menu in a variety of dishes over the next few days including:

Conchiglie with Rosa Bianca egglpant and pancetta

Stuffed chard and fried ricotta polpettini with wood-oven-roasted eggplant purée

Canales & Fujimoto Walk The Market

Yesterday’s solstice officially marked the beginning of summer, but already the markets are bursting with incredible produce. New things keep showing up every week; out of this world strawberries, followed by cherries and the rest of the stone fruits, summer squashes, pole beans, and right around the corner the first of the figs.

Last Tuesday, Chef Paul Canales and Bill Fujimoto met up at the Derby Street Farmers’ Market in Berkeley to get a taste of what’s great right now, and also to show us what to look for as the summer progresses.

video shot and edited by Ben Schwartz

From the Field – Inaugural Post – Spring Has Sprung at the Oliveto Community

It all happened over the last few days, spring just suddenly appeared after some much needed rain. We’ve been busy visiting our farmers & had a chance to survey what’s currently sprouting at Catalan Farm this past Monday. David Byron, one of our kitchen interns got a tour from Maria Catalan herself.

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From the Kitchen – Tomato Dinners 2009

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Wednesday, August 26th – Saturday, August 29th

Make a Reservation

About a week before Tomato Dinners, when most of the tomatoes we will have to choose from are available for tasting, Chef Paul Canales and the cooks sit down with scores of varieties, mostly heirloom but some – like Early Girl-hybrids, and sort out which are the best, what their characteristics are, and how they might be prepared to best advantage. Amazingly, there is considerable variation even within varieties.

Every year, the variables of soil, weather, planting times, irrigation, and various farming practices yield surprising outcomes in flavor and texture. A farmer who produces a magnificent Pink Brandywine one year may offer a less flavorful one the next; but her Mortgage Lifters the same year might be nonpareil. Based on that tasting, each August we purchase around 3,000 pounds of the best tomatoes from local farmers for this joyful event.

Catalan Farms – Profile

Established 2001

Owner

Maria Catalan

Maria Catalan is a former field worker. In 1994 she was exposed to organic farming practices at the Rural Development Center in Salinas. Frustrated with working with middlemen and food brokers as well as getting paid too little too late or not at all, she decided that direct marketing might be a better avenue to explore. She got involved with many CSAs, farmers’ markets, and eventually started selling directly to restaurants.

While she was growing up in Mexico her grandfather grew melons and other foods to feed her family. Maria wants to pass this knowledge on to her own four children. Maria believes that children, whether or not they intend to be farmers, should know how to raise their own food in a way that respects the air and the earth.

Chef Canales says: “This is a real family farm. They supply us with some of the most beautiful brassicas, and were the first to provide us with dry-farmed heirloom tomatoes. They know their climate and they manipulate how they grow certain things based on feedback from their customers.”

Community Supported Agricultural Programs

The farm is partnered with Northern California high schools and universities to bring students to the farm to work, eat home-cooked Mexican food, work at the farmers markets, and get a sense of farming life in a Latino community.

Seasons

Year-round

Principles

Maria believes in sharing her experiences with other farmers in her community. Currently, she is working with approximately a dozen small farms run by other Latinos, trying to get their farms certified organic so they can be paid the wages she believes they deserve.

Length of relationship with Oliveto

several years

Location

14.4 acres in Hollister, CA

Main Crops

Tomatoes and strawberries.

Secondary crops: chard, citrus, kale

Organizations / Certification

CCOF since 2005

Distribution

Restaurants including Slanted Door, Greens, and Acme Chophouse

Farmers’ markets

San Francisco Ferry Building – Saturdays

Berkeley Derby Street – Tuesdays

Berkeley Shattuck Avenue – Thursdays

Berkeley Downtown – Saturdays

2017-09-12T15:49:17+00:00 January 1st, 2009|Catalan Farms, Farmers|0 Comments