Featured Seasonal Produce

Our farmers markets are a veritable showcase of the freshest California grown produce available year round. 

The Central Coast is one of the most productive regions in the U.S. With its mild marine climate and fertile alluvial soil, we enjoy four seasons of vegetables and fruits. Known as the “Salad Bowl of the world,” our area produces numerous varieties of lettuces and greens, along with vegetables, mushrooms, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries as well as orchard fruits like heirloom apples, Blenheim apricots and many other row crops.

April Featured Produce: Radishes

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RECIPES:  Sauté of Fava Beans and Radishes, Roasted Radishes, Scandinavian Radish Salad

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alk into many a taqueria and there they are. Sitting next to the pickled jalapenos and the lime chunks, there is usually a bowl of radishes. I asked a friend of mine, who is of Mexican descent, about why this is, and she did not have a concrete answer. Her surmise is about the same as mine – they are cheerful looking and look nice on a plate, and the cool crunch and hint of heat are welcome foils for the sometimes oily meats and density of refried beans. I asked her if her family used them in any dishes and she replied that they only use them sliced next to tacos for color and on top of posole (hominy and meat stew). I then looked radishes up in all the Mexican and Southwest cookbooks I have (and I do have quite a few) and could find only one recipe for using them raw as crudités.

The French relegate radishes to the same fate as well. Sometimes they put them in salads, but usually a radishes’ destiny on the French table is to be served cold with soft butter, salt, and dark bread as an appetizer. The Italians do much the same, although I did find a couple recipes where radishes are coupled with salty things such as bottarga (dried gray mullet or tuna roe) or cured anchovies. I point all this out to say that for the most part, it seems radishes are ignored, except to be considered essential to any crudités platter.

Alice Waters, in Chez Panisse Vegetables [Harper Collins, New York, 1996, ppg. 253] says, “No meal at Chez Panisse is complete without radishes.” She then goes on to say they put radishes on every table. I say this is a great place to start, but radishes can offer more. I love the colors of radishes and I think good radishes are excellent plain. I like to wash them off, take off the greens and thready root, and them dunk them in ice water for a while. The radishes get really cold and seem to firm up a bit more, and I find that combined with the peppery bite to be quite bracing.

However, radishes have a lot more to offer. They are great in salads, and make nice salads on their own or with things like cucumbers, carrots, or chunks of avocado. I used to make a smashed radish salad with just radishes, and sometimes with additions such as shreds of lettuce and hard-boiled egg or cold shrimp. This salad could be dressed with honey-mustard vinaigrette or in the Japanese style with a rice vinegar dressing.

Besides using radishes raw, I like cooking radishes. Inspired by Asian cuisine, I have experimented cooking radishes with great results. The flavor of radishes, once cooked, tends to mellow out, but they keep enough character to add interest to combinations or to act as a foil to bigger flavors. I also love the colors of cooked radishes. They go from tempera-like bold colors to softer watercolor-like shades, although the colors seem to become more vibrant. One of my favorite dishes for color is the sauté of fava beans and radishes with lovely bright shades of green and deep pink. This dish would also work with asparagus in lieu of favas. Roasted radishes make a nice addition to a platter of roasted roots, and are great served with braised brisket. Halved radishes sauté nicely, and paired with baby Tokyo turnips and glazed, they also look wonderful and taste great with roast chicken.

A relative to table radishes is the watermelon (a.k.a. Beauty Heart) radish. This lovely is often overlooked as a funky looking turnip. While having some turnip-esque qualities in flavor and how it cooks, once past the skin it looks nothing like a turnip – or anything else for that matter. This radish has a green tinged creamy white skin, and then explodes with color inside. There is a pale ring of green just under the skin, and then the center of the radish is magenta and fuchsia shot through with veins of red and white. This radish is fine raw, and is quite striking cut into thin slices or batons and added to salads or eaten straight as a crudités. It can be wilted and dressed as a salad in the style of sunomono or kimchi as well. This radish shines as a cooked vegetable also. Roasted in chunks or sautéed in batons is fine, but this radish, because it is so solid, is a great one to add to dishes such as soups or bowls of ramen. When cooked, like it’s table radish brethren, the colors soften and the flavors mellow, but they are still striking. Use this radish cooked wherever you would use turnips or rutabagas, just remember not to over cook them.

How to Select Radishes
When selecting radishes, there are a few things to look for. Check the greens (these are not found on watermelon radishes), they should be bright and healthy looking. Avoid those where the greens are wilted and browning, or starting to look slimy. Look for radishes that don’t have a lot of cracks, scarring, or holes in them. They should not be showing any yellow tinge to them (I find these to be usually quite harsh tasting), and the colors should be lively. Always check that the radishes are firm and solid feeling-they should feel heavy for their size. Avoid those that feel soft, spongy, or light for their size, as these will likely be spongy, hot, and harsh tasting.

How to Store
When I get my radishes home, I usually trim the leaves and rootlet away, leaving just a little stem to keep the radish from drying out. To use, I make sure to wash with plenty of water after taking off the stems. To serve raw, I like to leave them in ice water for at least 15 minutes prior. Also, if you serve them raw with butter, make sure the butter is soft and radishes are dry or the butter will simply slide off the radish into your lap.

I hope you give these unsung heroes of the table a chance to shine by cooking them up. You can find radishes at T & L Coke Farms, Blue Heron, and Pinnacle at the Aptos Farmers Market. In addition to table radishes, the Cokes and Pinnacle also offer watermelon radishes.

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Featured March Produce: Farm Fresh Eggs

chicken eggs on wooden backgroundEggs have become quite hip in the culinary world. They are showing up in newspapers and magazines articles, and trendy chefs are featuring them on their menus, and not just for breakfast either. This just goes to show that America is realizing what the rest of the world has known for so long – eggs are great anytime. Continue Reading →

February Featured Produce: Dandelion Greens

Dandelion Greens-1Dandelion, or ‘tooth of the lion’ (from the French, dent de lion) is not a glamor item on everyone’s table — it’s good for you, can be bitter, and takes a little work. Although it is said the name derives from its tooth-like shape, I sometimes wonder if it derived from the bite of bitterness these leaves can sometimes pack. Personally, I like that flavor, especially when tempered with the right things. Typically, these things are fats, acid, and sweetness. Continue Reading →

January Featured Produce: Cauliflower

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Like Brussels sprouts, cauliflower is one of those vegetables that many people, especially children, feel antipathy towards. Actually, this aversion is shared by many toward most of the brassicas, and the reason is simple: Too many people have over-cooked these vegetables and then foisted them off on family members as “being good for you” while stinking up the house. Cauliflower seems more prone to this mishap than the rest of the brassicas, but with a little “magic” in the form of close attention to cooking, cauliflower — like Cinderella — becomes the belle of the ball. In other countries, cauliflower is cherished for its dual nature. It can taste delicate and nuanced, or be robust and sweetly nutty flavored. Textures run from silky smooth, to lightly crumbly when raw, to toothsome and even pleasantly leathery roasted. It pairs well with subtler flavors such as wine and herbs, and is great in cheesy gratins or garlicky pastas. It’s wonderful with Indian and Middle-Eastern spices as well. It’s all in how you cook it. Continue Reading →

December Featured Produce: Brussels Sprouts

Organic Green Brussel SproutsA relative newcomer to the vegetable world, Brussels sprouts have only been around for five hundred years, whereas there are records of cabbages that go back three thousand years. Why the name “Brussels” sprouts? It is thought that they have always grown near Brussels and they became associated with the area. Thomas Jefferson was an avid farmer, and his are the first records of Brussels sprouts in North America from 1812. Chances are good he brought them here originally. Continue Reading →

August Featured Produce: Corn

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First domesticated in Mexico around 8,700 years ago, the growing of corn is one of the things that defined the transition from hunter-gatherers to agrarians in Mesoamerica. Corn spread from the Americas in the late 15th to early 16th century to the rest of the world where it promptly became part of the diet for both humans and animals.

The corn plant is actually a grass, and after bamboo, is the second tallest grass. It started as a knee high wild grass, but now gets much taller — witness the corn mazes that pop up in fall with overhead plants. Corn is the “grain” of the grass, but when we eat it fresh we think of it as a vegetable. As grains go, it really is the only one we eat fresh. It is also one that has a lot of baggage strapped to just how fresh it is, and a lot of this is concerned with how fast the sugars in corn will turn to starch after harvesting. Continue Reading →

July Featured Produce: Rhubarb

Saturday Market

It’s a fruit! It’s a vegetable! It’s a fruit! It’s…it’s…rhubarb! Actually, it is a vegetable. However,  in 1947, a New York court classed rhubarb as a fruit for tax purposes since that was how it was used most in the United States. Rhubarb is also known as “Pie Plant” in parts of the US for the obvious reason that it finds its way into pies, along with cobblers and crumbles, probably more than anything else. After that, you see it often in jams and compotes, either to be enjoyed as you would applesauce, or as a topping. Continue Reading →

June Featured Produce: Fresh Herbs

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Do you know the difference between an herb and a spice? Essentially, herbs are the leaves and stems of a plant, while the rest of a plant would be a spice. Also, most spices are dried before use, while almost all herbs can be used fresh as well as dried. Seeds, bark, nuts, buds, stems, roots, stigmas (think saffron), and flowers all constitute spices. The leaves, and the fleshy stems attached, equal herbs. There is a little bit of play with this definition, as most chefs would view lavender (which is a flower) as an herb rather than a spice. Lemongrass fresh? Herb. Dried? Spice. Also, some herbs have different names for different parts. In Europe, cilantro is called coriander — leaf or seed. Here, coriander is the seed, and sometimes the leaf, but cilantro is always the leaf.
Continue Reading →

May Featured Produce: Bok Choy

Fresh Chinese Cabbage on Rustic WoodBok choy means ‘white vegetable’ in Cantonese and is also known as Chinese cabbage. Bok choy has been grown in China for over 6,ooo years and there are over 2o different varieties. A distant relative of cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower, it has crisp white stalks like celery without the strings and deep green leaves like romaine. This vegetable is very versatile. Known for its sweet and tender taste, bok choy is delightful in any dish calling for greens. It has a very mild taste similar to Swiss chard or Romaine lettuce.

You’ll find a wide selection of bok choy and other specialty Asian vegetables at KT Farms.

One pound of bok choy is equivalent to about 3/4 cup cooked. 1 cup of shredded bok choy is about 70 calories and is high in Vitamins A and C, as well as a good source of folic acid and beta-carotene.

How To Select: Look for fresh leaves that are not wilted. Avoid leaves that have brown spots. Stalks should be firm and not limp. Look for white stalks and very green leaves.

How to Store: Place in a damp paper towel in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to a week. Wash well before using.

RECIPES: Bok Choy Slaw, Baby Bok Choy and Oyster Mushrooms, Braised Bok Choy with Shiitake Mushrooms