Market Update: INTENSE Season equals INTENSE Produce

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Although the weather has taken a cooler turn in the past week, the produce at the South Berkeley Farmers’ Market yesterday was the product of an unusually hot season that got off to an early start with a number of heatwaves that began back in May. Instead of a steady trickle of new harvests, things seem to be arriving all at once with peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, (all those heat-loving plants) taking the lead.

Melon display from Riverdog Farm - July 2013

Melon display from Riverdog Farm. July 2013

Not to be outdone, the melons this year are outrageous. Both Full Belly Farm and Riverdog Farm had incredible displays that heavily perfumed both ends of the market like fragrant book-ends. When asked to describe this year’s season, Judith Redmond blew a lock of hair from her forehead and said, “INTENSE.”

On the menu starting tonight:

Salad of Canary melon, Armenian cucumbers, anise hyssop, and 30-month prosciutto

Roast breast of hen with eggplant purée, Jimmy Nardello peperonata, and salmariglio

Yay summer!

Dinners With Farmers: Judith Redmond of Full Belly Farm

Dinners with Farmers

with farmer Judith Redmond,
Full Belly Farm

Monday, June 24, 2013, at 6:30 pm
in Oliveto’s quiet private dining room,
for fourteen* guests

full belly farm
Full Belly Farm Owners: Andrew Brait, Judith Redmond, Paul Muller, and Dru Rivers

Call (510) 547-5356 for reservations or email jessica@oliveto.com

It all begins with the local farmer, who gives us the ability to cook a succulent and salubrious meal and who can restore the health of our soils and environment. In the past few decades, the reemergence of farmers’ markets has made the farm-to-city connection palpable and real and life-changing for many.

We’d like to invite you to extend the short exchanges at farmers’ markets to longer, more relaxed conversations over dinner, to broaden and deepen relationships with our local farmers.

We all have hundreds of questions for the farmer: How and why did you decide to become a farmer? When does your day begin, and end? How do you decide what crops to plant? What effects do politics and legislation have on your business? Describe your farm -the soils, the microclimate, rainfall, water sources? Can you put into words the philosophy by which you live? And on and on.

We’ve invited a different farmer for each of four evenings, beginning with one of the most important and beloved in the family farm community of northern California: Judith Redmond of Full Belly Farm in Guinda, Yolo County.

MENU

Salad of new potatoes with summer vegetables

Bigoli pasta with barley, Cranberry beans, tomatoes, and peppers

Roast hen with purée of charred eggplant, corn, and cherry tomatoes

Dessert of seasonal figs or peaches
to be determined

Price: $60 per person
plus tax and gratuity

Check out Full Belly’s beautiful, up-to-date, and informative website: fullbellyfarm.com

Our Pastry Chef, Kam Golightly, visited with Judith Redmond at Full Belly Farms in Guinda last weekend to become familiar with the farm and its workers. Judith was particularly exuberant about her eggplants, which are just reaching their maturity. The corn, haricots verts, and fingerling potatoes are at their peak.

We’ll plan other dinners with growers whose beautiful crops we use at Oliveto as summer progresses. The limited participation of fourteen will keep the evening intimate and let everyone join the conversation.

Call (510) 547-5356 for reservations or email jessica@oliveto.com
Dinner is June 24, 2013
Please note there will be one seating at 6:30 pm

*Subject to cancellation should response not warrant the long drive for each farmer.

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.

Signs of Summer

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Today marks the first day of Summer 2011 and many signs of the season were on display at the Derby Street Market: fragrant basil, cherry tomatoes from Full Belly, summer squash and those knockout long stem Seascape strawberries from Lucero, and piles of “ripe shamefaced peaches” (had to get in a belated Bloomsday reference) at Blossom Bluff.

But one of the definitive signs that it is truly summer at the Derby Street market is the appearance of our friends from Dirty Girl Produce. And there they were! Right next to a freakin’ harp player!

Seems that Santa Cruz was not as waylaid by rain as it was last year, so most of Dirty Girl’s crops were planted on schedule. Their romanesco was looking particularly lovely today, as well as some smaller bunched broccoli. Coming up: beans. Lots and lots of beans (haricots vert, romano, cannellini, among others) should be arriving from Dirty Girl Produce within the next few weeks. And the official statement on dry-farmed Early Girl tomatoes? ETA: 4-5 weeks.

Market Report #3: Late Spring

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Everyone is out and about in their shirtsleeves, but market wise, spring’s a little late this year. We visited the Derby Market on Tuesday and talked to Judith Redmond of Full Belly Farm in Yolo who said that due to the late rains, the ground has been too wet to work. Finally, this past week, they have been able to get new plantings in the ground. So it will probably be another few weeks before we see full blown spring produce at most of the markets. The asparagus has been good so far, but other early perennials such as strawberries haven’t quite hit their mark yet.

Rumor has it there was one box of peas at the Full Belly stand, but they were all gone within an hour.

April 15th, 2011|Full Belly Farm, Market Reports, Spring|0 Comments

This Just In: Freshly Dug Potatoes

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We’ve been getting the first local freshly dug potatoes from the Capay Valley for the past few weeks. The above beauties are German Butterballs from Full Belly Farm.

The only way you can tell if a potato is freshly dug is by its peeling, delicate skin. Because their skins haven’t had time to harden, they need to be refrigerated if kept more than a few days. They are creamier, less starchy, and sweeter, although the flavor is less concentrated.

For mature, cured potatoes, Full Belly will cut the leaves of the plant & keep the potatoes in the ground until the skins harden, allowing the potatoes to be stored without refrigeration.

New potatoes will continue to be harvested from different parts of the bay area over the next few weeks and then go into storage. So right now (the next crop won’t be until the fall) is the time to get them when they are in fact “new” & also delicious.

Chef Canales will have freshly-dug potatoes on menu this weekend served with scallions, crêmé fraïche, and caviar…

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because even though you don’t have to do much to make these potatoes taste great, if you can, why not?

June 18th, 2010|Full Belly Farm, This Just In|0 Comments

Market Report #3: ‘Crazy’ Cabbage, Goose Eggs, Red Romaine

Yesterday, Bill and Paul hit the Derby Street market just in time to see all the purple asparagus vanish. No bother. There was plenty else to ogle including ‘crazy’ cabbage from Full Belly Farm and beautiful red romaine lettuce from Riverdog Farm. Also some massive goose eggs from Arthur Davis of Ludwig Avenue Farm and a few tips from Chef Canales on how to poach them.

From this point on it only gets better with berry season just around the corner and stone fruits soon after.

Introducing…The Fujimoto Farmers’ Market Report

Last June we were troubled, as many were, to learn the news that Bill Fujimoto would be leaving Berkeley’s Monterey Market. Bill has been a friend and supporter of Oliveto from day one, and to many restaurants. More importantly, Bill has been a virtual lifeline for many small farmers in northern California and beyond. We were anxious around the possibility of losing such an influential voice and presence in the East Bay food community and eager to keep in contact with both Bill and his wife Judy once it became apparent that a suitable arrangement with Monterey Market would not be forthcoming.

So we were pleased as punch to find our old friend last Thursday arranging pyramids of beautiful produce at Diablo Foods in Lafayette (925-283-0737). Bill has been working at Diablo for the past few months as a consultant. He looks great. He says he feel great. And he already seems to know 87% of his customers by name.  In the short time we were there, we learned so much (there is an “official” navel orange for Chinese New Year!) and we were so inspired by that contagious-Fujimoto-enthusiasm, we decided we needed to create a mainline to the source. Who better to tell us what we should be shopping for than Bill himself? So, we’ll be posting Bill’s Farmers’ Market Reports — full of fun facts, shopping tips, and insightful observations throughout the spring and into the summer. We’ll go shopping with Bill at some of our favorite farmers’ markets in the East Bay and find out from the expert what to buy and how to buy it. Alongside that, we’ll get Chef Canales’ take on how to cook and eat it! Should be fun…

Dead Ripe — “It actually means something”

‘Tis the season of abundance and acute ripeness, as summer crops put all their remaining energy into their final fruits and seeds in one last attempt to be sown back into the earth. The farms themselves seem at their most beautiful, and the harvest months have a certain celebratory cheer about them, the true pleasure in a job well done.

It’s also the season when farmers and chefs alike are borderline overwhelmed with an onslaught of fruits & vegetables that are ripe RIGHT NOW. It brings an immediacy and a level of creativity to the kitchen and menu that is unique to this time of year.

The term farmers use to describe some of their produce (specifically tomatoes and stone fruit) around now is “dead ripe.” Chef Canales explains to us what that means exactly and describes the sense of timeliness it brings to the act of cooking during this brief yet vibrant season.

Turning away from tomatoes and toward the persimmons

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Brookside Farm Autumn 2009 Brentwood, CA

We queried our farmers last week, just before the Autumnal Equinox on September 22nd, to get one last report as tomato season comes to a close and to find out what is planned for the cooler months of fall.

Welling Tom of Brookside Farm had this to tell us:

Most of our tomatoes are finished, except for the San Marzano, which is still going strong. It turns out that most of the tomato plants which we bought from the nursery (a rather large operation which I will not name) as Early Girl were not Early Girl. We suspected something was not right when the fruits began to ripen in late June. They were much too big and squatty shaped, and the vines never grew as tall as Early Girl vines should. Early Girl fruits should be a bit pointed at the blossom end, and the “shoulders” around the calyx should not be very broad. Those girls are not supposed to look so butch!

New fruits ceased to appear after only about one month, while Early Girl should continue to produce as long as the weather remains warm and dry (through the month of October in most years). We never sold any to Oliveto, except a few green (unripe) ones for the Tomato dinners.

Many of the Brandywine plants which we bought from that same nursery turned out wrong also. They had the broad “potato” leaves, but the fruit were a bright orange-y red rather than the pinkish red of true Brandywines. They didn’t taste right, either. Still, despite these problems, our tomato harvest turned out pretty well. We will get our tomato plants from a smaller, more reliable nursery next year. Kassenhoff Growers of Oakland has been our source for specialty varieties, like the Pineapple, San Marzano, and Momotaro. We will turn to them for Early Girl and Brandywine too.

As of today, this eve before the Equinox, we have broccoli, rainbow chards, Lacinato kale, and snow peas already growing. We will try to grow more greens and beets and turnips in the next week or so, and garlic and torpedo onions too (October-November). This autumn should yield a heavy crop of Fuyu persimmons. We are looking forward to that.

We will have Comice pears available this week. Last Sunday, when I was delivering a late-summer bounty of okra, Japanese eggplants, ‘Figaro” peppers, and San Marzano tomatoes to the Oliveto kitchen, Jenny Raven asked me if we have any autumn fruits. We will have the persimmons about a month from now, but the Comice pears are already ripening.

Welling

Many of the farms we source from have gatherings at this time of year to celebrate the harvest. Full Belly Farm’s Annual Hoes Down Festival happens this weekend, October 3rd, and is always a good time with live music, tons of activities, and lots of excellent food.

On Sunday, October 18th, Riverdog Farm will host a Pumpkin Patch Party with hayrides, pumpkin picking, and a meal served under the walnut trees. They will post more details about this event on their website in the next few weeks.

Brookside Farm held its annual Corn Harvest party September 13th. Here are some photographs from the afternoon:

More photographs of the event were taken by Eisaku Tokuyama, a friend of the Toms, and can viewed here.

September 28th, 2009|Brookside Farm, Full Belly Farm, Riverdog Farm|0 Comments