What’s In the Box

In a moment, a note from the CSA newsletter about how Alice Waters says we’re awesome. This should help Fresno’s inferiority complex some.

Denesse said in this week’s newsletter that the heat wave we just had did a number on the crops – they lost entire plantings of beets, carrots, beans and chard, she related. It meant they had to bring in some outside crops to help fill the box this week. So we have:

Yukon Gold Potatoes
Vine-Ripe Table Tomatoes
Full Belly Farms’ Hosui Pears (an Asian pear type, from the Capay Valley west of Sacramento)
Soghomonian’s Muscat Italia Grapes (Three Sisters, Fowler)
Red Leaf Lettuce
Roma Tomatoes
Fair Hills’ Gala Apples (Paso Robles)
Mendrin’s Yellow Onions
Easter Egg Radishes

Tom has a wonderful note in the newsletter (PDF file) about his friend Alice Waters’ visit to Fresno on the occasion of the Slow Food meeting and Fig Fest. I’ll excerpt some of it here:

“What most stirred my friend’s emotion on this recent visit was the affecting beauty of Richard Erganian’s arched arbor pavilion, which so elegantly shelters the Vineyard Farmers’ Market. Alice maintains this is the only structure she has witnessed that sufficiently honors the sacrament of fresh food beneath it. Alice is above all else a visionary who conceives of food and fellowship at table as hallowed art and culture. Her recognition and blessing of our efforts to raise this kind of consciousness across the California ‘heartland’ are welcome and appreciated.”

Here here.

And speaking of Alice’s visit to Fig Fest, here is a picture of two people at Fig Fest. One of them is Alice Waters. I am the person in the picture who is not Alice Waters and who is looking absolutely delighted to be standing next to Alice Waters.

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What You Missed at the Market

As I was gathering my cloth bags and my camera out of the car in the parking lot of the farmers’ market this Saturday morning, I heard one half of a cell phone conversation going on in another part of the lot.

“You have to stop by here on your way home. It’s amazing. It’s…um, Blackstone and Shaw. Where all the cars are in the parking lot. They have everything; you wouldn’t believe it. Wonderful vegetables, and there’s this bread, there’s nothing it it, I mean, it just has bread in it, none of that other stuff. And the fruit. You just have to come down here.”

It made me smile as I was walking into the market, which was a good thing, as Kopi Sotiropolous was at Michele’s stand, video camera in hand. “Look at that beautiful smile!” he exclaimed, swinging the camera toward me. Thank goodness I washed my hair…on Thursday, I thought to myself. I had thrown a scarf on over the worst of the mess and gone out, just planning to do the shopping and then come home and clean up. And instead I was potentially making a very brief debut on local television. Oh well. It was nice to run into Kopi anyway; it meant I had an opportunity to thank him personally for giving publicity on Great Day to something we’d done at work.

The tomatoes have been coming and coming, and today, this was the first week that they seemed to be piled everywhere you turned. Michele of K.M.K. had a delicious-looking tomatavalanche at her table:

And Marchini Sisters had these beautiful selections. The one in the foreground might be the Cherokee variety – I didn’t catch a name on the lovely green-yellow one in the back.

Tomato time is the best. But I say that about everything, though, don’t I?

Grapes are just beginning to come on as well. The Soghomonians of Three Sisters were back with the first Red Flame grapes of the season.

Look at the beautiful powdery bloom on these – it’s soft and downy on your lips as you bite into each crisp little fruit. They taste like concentrated sunshine.

K.M.K. Farms Tour Part II

When I left off last time, Kyle was just gathering a group together for a tour.  I walked up as he was describing how they’d started off with just the avocado grove that’s in the background of this shot.  Taking that crop to a farmer’s market was the beginning of what’s turned into a 10-year adventure for Michele and Kyle.  (You can see from the browned leaves that the trees suffered some in last winter’s freeze; Kyle said the waiting after the freeze to see what the damage was had been a tense time, but that despite some damade, the trees seemed to be rallying.)

Their farm, while diverse in terms of crops and managed without synthetic sprays or pesticides, isn’t certified organic.  "We’d rather be certified by you folks," Kyle said at some point during the tour, indicating their openness and willingness to discuss and explain their cultural methods.  They use practices you’d expect on an organic farm – soil-building with organic matter and companion planting being two examples, and in general, Kyle said, continuously explore better ways to farm while getting the best out of their seven acres and reducing the impact of their practices on the land.  Some of those practices will be visible in the images to come.

Continue reading “K.M.K. Farms Tour Part II”

What You Missed at the Market

We’re settling into midsummer here, both in the weather and in market offerings. There is much corn. There are many tomatoes.

We’ve also reached the “How many consecutive days will it top 100?” stage. There seems to be about seven weeks of it each year.

Everyone’s trying to keep cool, which means it’s a perfect time to address cucumbers.

Michele had these Armenian cucumbers on hand. They are a little milder in flavor and a touch more dense than the usual cuke – not quite as watery. They also have a little more tensile strength. Sliced as thick diagonal chips, they make great carriers for light little nibbles – perhaps dollops of hummus or baba ganoush or a bit of blue cheese mashed with a little butter and some chives.

As with members of the melon family in general, they’re pleasantly quenching, and cucumber water is just the thing when the heat of the day makes a fruit-based beverage sound oppressively sticky-sweet.

Offering a “recipe” here would be overkill, but here’s the procedure: Take a few thin slices of cucumber, some fresh mint (or lemon basil, as here), and a little lemon or lime peel, and give it all a bit of a light muddling in the bottom of a glass, then top with still or sparkling water and ice.

Vintage napkin fun – but not necessary.

What You Missed at the Market

I succeeded in moving my market arrival time back this morning to pre-8 a.m. It made a big difference; it was easier to get around and there was more time to chat with folks because there wasn’t as much crowd pressure.

I don’t actually have my own will to thank for my early arrival, though. It was the meowed 5:45 a.m. wake-up call outside my window of the stray cat who arrived earlier in the week and has been hanging around ever since. This seems appropriate, given that this was the week new research on the domestication of cats was released. The NYT titled their article “Study Traces Cat’s Ancestry to Middle East” and noted that the study found that all domestic cats could be traced to five feline matriarchs. While the Washington Post didn’t include that detail, they had the better headline: “Why Do Cats Hang Around Us? (Hint: They Can’t Open Cans).”

So Puss got his 6 a.m. breakfast and I got myself together.

At the market, I got talking with market manager Felix (not a cat) and Bob the Honey Guy. I was telling them about the spare cat who clearly likes to be outside (mine are exclusively inside). Bob used to have three cats but is down to one. I rubbed my hands together.

“So, Bob, would you like a slightly used cat?”

“What does he look like?” Bob asked.

“He’s grey and short-haired; he has green eyes and a little orange nose.”

“A little orange nose?” Bob said. I thought I sensed him softening.

“Yes, the littlest, orangest nose. It’s very charming.”

“Well, I’ll have to talk to my cat about it and see what he says.”

“You let me know.”

Seriously, how could you say no to this face? (He’s wearing a collar we put on him and affixed a note to in order to see if he had a home.) I think the little fluffy guy may have known what he was doing, getting me out of bed at the crack of dawn. “Go find me another sucker like you, er, I mean a nice person with lots of cat food,” he was probably thinking.

At any rate, it wasn’t just Caturday at the market. I hadn’t expected to see Fred of Savage Island Farms back with cherries, but he was, for one last week – and he brought cherry juice besides.

I had some of Fred’s grape juice last summer, so I was prepared for good things when I popped the lid off the jar, and I wasn’t disappointed. This statement I’m about to make somehow simultaneously hits and misses the mark: It’s like the sweetest, freshest, grown-up-est Kool-Aid you can imagine. Hits because it’s intensely cherried-tasting, and misses because it, being from Actual Cherries, has a depth and range that is nothing like Kool-Aid cherry flavoring.

I have been trying to think of Something To Do With It – for some reason this morning the cool bracing nature of cucumbers sounded like it’d figure nicely with the juice – but I doubt I’ll come up with a fully-formed idea and the energy before I drink it all. No matter; it’ll get enjoyed.

Marchini Sisters had figs in…a reminder that we’re coming toward Fig Fest and the Fig Fest Dinner. I wasn’t well enough to enjoy Fig Fest last summer, but I’m hopeful I will be this year.

Finally, Michele at KMK (whose stall always seems to have the most dramatic lighting) had these beautiful melons – French breakfast, maybe? I forgot to ask.

K.M.K. Farms Tour Part I

This is the first of a set of long-overdue posts on our tour of K.M.K Farms back on May 6.

The day was a combination open house and 10th farming anniversary celebration for Michele and Kyle. Michele had long ago invited us to come down and check the place out, and we’d never seemed to find the time, so this was a perfect opportunity to see where so much of our food of the past year was grown.

Michele and Kyle farm about seven acres outside of Kingsburg, CA – the “Swedish City.” They started out just selling avocados and over the years have expanded the number of crops to include additional orchard crops and a variety of row crops as well. Michele is one of the year-round sellers at the Vineyard Farmer’s Market. When Michele heads up to Fresno on Saturday mornings, Kyle heads down to Visalia to run another K.M.K. Farms stall there.

The day was sunny and warm when we headed down to Kingsburg. The farm is just outside of town – not that there’s a whole lot of charming little Kingsburg to be outside of.

We were greeted by cheerful plantings at the farm’s front gate,and their young helper Lauren was kind enough to help me save my strength by giving me a ride in the golf cart down the long drive back to the patio, with the avocado grove on the left and the farmhouse on the right. This shot is looking back down the drive toward the road, so the avocados are on the right and the house (not visible in this shot) is on the left.

Behind the house, the patio, surrounded by plantings and a low fence, was set with tables strewn with cherries and glass containers full of flowers from the farm’s gardens.

We munched a few cherries and sat in the shade for a little while as more visitors arrived. Michele came over to chat for a bit. It turned out that Kyle was down in the fields below the house, giving some earlier arrivers a tour. She welcomed us to walk around while we waited for him to return for another round. And so we did.

First I took a walk by the herb garden. The oregano was trying to eat everything else, as mints usually do. (My little bit of it is in a container for just that reason, as I don’t have the room Michele does to let it run a little wild.)

We visited the chickens, who have a house in a shady spot under the avocado trees – pretty nice digs. At the moment, though, most of them were engaging in a dust bath in the shade beside their house.

I once asked Michele how many chickens she had, and she said, “Just enough to drive me crazy.” I forgot to count how many there were, but I could see their crazy-making potential pretty clearly. One mother chicken was enjoying a shady roost with her brood. I felt bad taking her picture; as I looked through the viewfinder, I could see she was trying to shield the chicks from me. “I don’t eat chickens,” I told her softly, “and I hardly ever even eat anything with eggs in it either.” She shifted against her brood and out of the frame as I tried to get one last shot, and I told her in what I hoped was a soothing voice, “Look, that’s the worst I’m going to do: I accidentally cut off your head in a picture. And I’ll delete it and use a good one.”

Adolescent chickens were hanging out in a fruit bin partially covered by a pallet. This was, apparently, a “keep the growing chickens ahead of the cats” strategy.

Just as I was looking at the teenaged chickens, I looked up and realized Kyle had returned from the first tour and another group was gathering. I walked over to join them.

And that’s all I have the juice for tonight…next time, what Kyle had to say, then we head down the hill into the stone fruit and row crops.

Part II of the tour can be found here.