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Yes. The Frost of ’07. It was a doozy for local agriculture, and despite early reports citing everything from “All is well! Remain calm!” to “OMGWTFFROZEN!!11!”, local farmers in Coachella and San Joaquin are still saying they won’t have a real idea of the damage done until another week goes by. Damaged fruit will begin to brown up by then, giving them a clearer picture of what the rest of their season is going to look like.

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Since most of the farmers have been doing this for a long time, they can make a pretty good guess at what the hard frost will yield. Some are raising prices in anticipation of more bad news. Some are just matching wholesale costs, like Gless Ranch above. Gless Ranch has really great winter citrus (it was their oranges that were featured in the salad in my Alhambra post). My $2 bag of oranges went up to $3.50. I happily ponied up the cash, keeping my mouth shut. I had overheard no less than five customers bemoaning the frost cost. The vendors were all smiles and understanding. But I kept my queries to the vendors who knew me best.

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Decided to pick up some celeriac this week. I did a little more research last week and felt the need to give this beast a shot in my kitchen. No firm plans for it yet, but I’ll probably document prepping it.

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One of my absolute favorite spring crops is the artichoke. They’re beginning to make appearances again, albeit at beginning-of-the-season prices. This is another crop I’ve been concerned about post-frost. Word is that most of them survived ok, but we’ll likely see less attractive looking heads. The hearts will still be good. In fact one vendor said the cold might sweeten them up a bit (will have to look into this). But the leaves will probably look a bit worse for wear.

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Mmm. Strawberries. Vendors still had plenty of flats out, but all were pessimistic about supplies in the coming weeks. If you’ve been toying with the thought of purchasing, toy no more. In the coming weeks the available fruit may not be up to the usual high quality standards.

And lets talk about those standards a bit, shall we? We encounter hard frosts like this on an average of every decade or so (we were actually a bit overdue for this one). We’re just now starting to see what is going to be a much wider ripple effect in southern California agriculture. One of my usual vendors, Joe, said he’s pretty ok with citrus for the next couple of weeks (he had crews out picking crops as fast as possible prior to the frost), but once we hit February, it’s going to be slim pickings. Does that mean the market is going to be unable to provide you with what you need? Of course not.

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We are used to having what we want when we want it. Regular farmers’ market goers tend to be more in sync with seasonal availability just from experience. But even this latest kink in the chain is a bit out of our realm of familiarity. So, some tips if you’re shopping local markets in the coming weeks:

Quality will take a dive, so lower some of your expectations. Everything was kissed by frost. This was good for heartier greens like kale and brussel sprouts, and very bad for citrus, tender greens, strawberries…well pretty much everything.

Learn to try new things. The variety of available produce here continually surprises me. If you see something you want, but it looks in bad shape, try out the produce sitting next to it that looks good. A ton of celery was split today due to frost burst. But the celeriac and turnips looked beautiful. Arugula was semi-wilty. But mustard greens were gorgeous. You get the picture.

Talk to your vendors. They’ll tell you when the clock is up for some produce. Citrus is normally around well into summertime, but conversations I’ve had with my vendors say that the next few months will be spotty at best. They’ll tell you what they have and for how long they’ll have it. Use that knowledge to your advantage and purchase accordingly.

Despite the prices going up, you still want to support your local markets, perhaps now more than ever.
They’ll still strive to bring good local food to your table, despite the fact that they will be hurting well past summer. Did you know the greenhouses protecting this summer’s tomato seedlings couldn’t battle the cold? So now on top of damaged winter crops, this year’s summer crops are in jeopardy before they could even hit the ground. Be patient and follow tip number two. Your vendor will be more than happy to suggest something new for you.

Comments

( 15 tasty muffins — Bake me a tasty muffin )
theotherqpc
Jan. 20th, 2007 07:31 pm (UTC)
see if you can get some spinach - a good frost will make the leaves incredibly sweet - almost candylike!
tableauvivante
Jan. 21st, 2007 03:10 pm (UTC)
Yessir! :)

Candy spinach would make a good salad. With bacon. Maybe some oranges. And chevre. Mm.

(Anonymous)
Jan. 20th, 2007 09:07 pm (UTC)
thanx
thanx for commenting. Let's me know someone is actually reading my imageless stuff and keeps me going.

oh and don't get me wrong about Mr. Gold, Thursday after Thursday i almost run to check out what he finds next.
But where's the adventure in that?

eat on...

-teenage glutster.

(did you ever go to the East L.A Farmers Market?)
tableauvivante
Jan. 21st, 2007 03:08 pm (UTC)
Re: thanx
T.G.-

Oh you're getting read by lots of folks. Everyday. I stop by every few days to see what you're up to ;).

Oh I'm a fan of Mr. Gold's as well. He's got a powerful pen. But you made an excellent point about breaking free and exploring outside of the review system.

Please please please tell me where the market is? I can't find any reference to it in my market searches.
tassie_gal
Jan. 21st, 2007 12:42 am (UTC)
Celeriac is a wonderful thing. I bought mine at my local organic store and the wonderful dutch woman who owns it told me how to prepare it. Unfortunately I didnt write it down - but I can vouch for the fact it makes a wonderful stock. Just cut the root looking bits off, and save them - they freeze really well and then just dig them out next time you are making a stock and dump them in.
If I remember how Mariane told me to prepare the Celeraic (it was a dutch recipe) I'll post here....
tableauvivante
Jan. 21st, 2007 03:01 pm (UTC)
Oh please do! I chopped it up yesterday and have a few recipes in mind for it, but no solid plans yet. Great idea on the stock. I need to reinstitute my freezer's 'stock bucket'.
24to48hours
Jan. 21st, 2007 06:33 am (UTC)
dear writer,

at the moment, i am writing to you from sydney but in paris, every sunday i am at the outdoor markets for hours and would come home ladden with bread, cheese and all manners of good things to eat. seeing your pictures makes me very homesick for my parisian sunday market.

love of love,

ethan
tableauvivante
Jan. 21st, 2007 02:59 pm (UTC)
Ethan,

Call me T:). "Writer" sounds so formal among fellow market lovers.

Even though I know our markets here have nothing on Paris, it makes me giddy to hear someone compare our markets to ones in the gastronomic capital of gourmet. When I go to Paris, whenever that is, you can be sure I'll be making a beeline to their stalls.

Thanks for stopping by!

- T.
essjayeff
Jan. 22nd, 2007 02:04 am (UTC)
Celeriac
Yum! The traditional (in this case French) way of using Celeriac is as a crunchy side to a good steak. Celeriac Remoulade.

Trim, peel and quarter. Pop into acidulated water during this to stop browning.

Cut into fine matchsticks. Prepare a "dijonnaise" style mustard. Good quality or homemade mayo with some grain mustard stirred through.

Add the celeriac and some fine chopped red or sweet onion if desired.

Season with lemon juice and parsley, black pepper and salt.

Serve alongside a steak (or some grilled chicken).

Of course the other tradition is Celeriac Mash - try mixing it 50/50 (or to taste) with potato if you're not sure of the taste.

I'm in Melbourne - and we have a glut of fab farmers markets. I've been a bit slack lately, but your LJ has re-invigorated my plans to shop there at least twice a month. I think our produce is better than the Parisian ones, but they aren't as frequent (only on weekends generally); nor as close. My closest is 3 km away, the furthest I travel to go to one is about 200km (but that's for fun of course!)

Thanks for the inspiration
tableauvivante
Jan. 22nd, 2007 01:28 pm (UTC)
Re: Celeriac
Many thanks for the celeriac suggestions. I figure since it's here, I should see if it fits with my and JJ's palates. I think the dijonaise will go over well.

I'm so glad to hear that you're planning to incorporate the farmers' market into your schedule:). I know I primarily feature the produce here, but a big part of why I love the market is the people. Specifically, the vendors who bring me all this great food. Eventually I want to do a farm tour or two. But for now I'm more than content to wander in and out of the tents.

And gratz on your kittens:).
essjayeff
Jan. 23rd, 2007 05:52 am (UTC)
Re: Celeriac
Our local paper www.theage.com.au had a story in it today about how a farmers market saved a small coutnry town called Talbot (well, revitalised it really). They don't have the story online - but here is an bit of it. I'll do more if anyone is intersted, but it makes you aware of the power of these things.

(Kittens are fab thanks for noticing!)

Watch this place.

An astronomer, merchant banker, and IT engineer are among a band of skilled newcomers who have joined dedicated long-time residents to put Talbot, aka Back Creek, back on the map writes Genevieve Barlow.

Walk down the main street of Talbot any day of the week ad you might not see a soul. Not so log ago a visitor might have thought the heart of this tiny once-upon-a-time mining town in the guts of hard old gold country, 60 kilometres north of Ballarat, had stopped beating.

Few visitors turned off the main toad from Maryborough that bypasses Talbot.

Weekender Daniel McDonald recalls that Talbot was a “pretty horrible place” when he ventured there five years ago. “It was rundown, the pub sold two types of beer, heavy and light, and then it closed down.”

Noe, come farmers’s market day – the third Sunday of the month – vacant parking spots in town are as rare as gold nuggets. The pub has reopened, there’s a café, a restaurant, three bed and breakfasts a bookshop and soon, more shops.

And on Friday nights and Saturday mornings, locals – including a fascinating coterie of business people, artists, tradies, farmers and others – sit under the veranda of the community owned and leased Quince Farm Café making out like the won the lottery.

Talbot has had a heart-starter. Since the monthly farmers market started 3 years ago, annual visitor numbers are up to 40,000 - about 2500 who come to every market.
tableauvivante
Jan. 23rd, 2007 01:04 pm (UTC)
Re: Celeriac
And so often people believe that the markets come *after* a city has rejuvenated (they sometimes do). I want to find more precedence like that.

Thanks for sharing it:)
(Anonymous)
Jan. 24th, 2007 09:27 pm (UTC)
Photo for NYmag
Hello Tableauvivante,
We're very interested in running one of your photographs in a story on New York Magazine's food blog Grub Street. If you could contact me at ebogue@nymag.com, or give me a call at 212-508-0544, that would be great.

Thanks!
(Anonymous)
Jan. 25th, 2007 02:45 am (UTC)
Love the new banner!
It looks great! -Adrienne (Gracious Bowl)
tableauvivante
Jan. 25th, 2007 04:24 pm (UTC)
Re: Love the new banner!
Thanks Adrienne! Gratz on a successful event!
( 15 tasty muffins — Bake me a tasty muffin )

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