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.
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!
While tomatoes seem to be very late this year and our farmers think most of their crops are three to five weeks behind, looking back on Tomato Watch 2009 gives us some perspective. We’ve got Chef Canales reporting from the Farmers’ Market on July 27, 2009 the “official arrival of tomatoes” so perhaps we are seeing the beginning of a pattern in these later harvests over the last few years.
This year, because the rainy season went so long, we’ve pushed the dates for the 2010 Tomato Dinners
Tim Mueller took some time to talk to us on Saturday at the Berkeley Farmers’ Market about what is going on and what is going IN to the ground at Riverdog Farm. The first plantings of summer’s big ticket items including tomatoes, sweet corn, and beans will happen over the next few weeks. While crops planted last fall begin to go to seed, the end of March/beginning of April is the last slow time before the busyness of late April begins picking up speed through May, until we reach the full-blown madness of summer in June. In the meantime, Tim and Trini still have their hands full with loads of favas, asparagus, beets, and carrots, not to mention chickens and hogs.
Tim also gives us a briefing on some of the fall-out from last December’s cold snap, and explains how the effects of those frigid temperatures are still being felt.
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.
Tomato harvest continues, although not at the pace it was just a month ago. We’re still busy harvesting peppers, eggplants, greenbeans, black-eyed peas, and of course, winter squash. We’re also busy seeding and planting many of our winter crops: kale, broccoli, and cabbage. In a couple of the photos in which a crew member (foreground) is picking tomatoes, another one of our crew members is transplanting cabbages in an adjacent field. We cultivate with a tractor and then by hand to weed out unwanted vegetation in our beds. Our fall greens and root veggies are just a few weeks from harvest.
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