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Category: Picks of the Week
Posted by: Sam Edelman
Cheddar cheese

Spring Hill Cheese of Petaluma continues to impress me with its selection of cheeses. I typically pick up something from the line of aged (one to three years) cheddars, which include sage, garlic, white and yellow, smoked and spicy firehouse. They're perfect for adding to fondue this time of year, when it tends to be chilly at night. Try a Cheddar, Asparagus, Spinach and Bacon Fondue, the Fix of the Week on page D8. Available at the Tuesday Santa Barbara, Wednesday Solvang, Thursday Goleta, Saturday Santa Barbara and Sunday Camino Real farmers markets. About $10 per pound.

Asparagus

Delicious, fresh asparagus is available at the Tuesday Santa Barbara, Saturday Santa Barbara and Sunday Camino Real markets from Life's A Choke Family Farm in Lompoc. These tight tender bunches are perfect for steaming, grilling or sautčing. Asparagus contains a good supply of folate (folic acid), as well as some vitamin C and beta-carotene. It also contains the phytochemical glutathione, which has antioxidant and anti-carcinogenic properties. About $3 per bunch, with deals available on three bunches.

Baguette

From the wheat field to the mill, then from the oven to the farmers market, this locally produced bread is absolutely delicious. Perfect for sandwiches or serving alongside hot soup or chowder. Or top with thinly sliced prosciutto, sliced tomato, red onion and arugula, then drizzle with balsamic dressing. Baked by Creekside Apple Ranch in Santa Ynez the morning of the market. Available at the Tuesday Santa Barbara, Wednesday Solvang and Saturday Santa Barbara markets. Free of preservatives, the bread is $3 per loaf.

Category: Picks of the Week
Posted by: Sam Edelman
Ground beef

Locally raised meat is perfect for one of my favorite Super Bowl foods: beef sliders, the Fix of the Week on page D8. Full of flavor, it's also great in tacos, Bolognese sauce and meatballs. Free of hormones and antibiotics. Available from Rancho San Julian and Rocky Canyon Ranch at the Tuesday Santa Barbara and Saturday Santa Barbara farmers markets, just in time for the big game on Feb. 1. About $4 to $5 per pound.

Alfalfa and clover sprouts

It's amazing the difference a pinch of sprouts can make when added to your favorite sandwiches, salads, wraps and burgers. This live food from Ojai Valley Sprouts provides crunch and a refreshing flavor to meals. Fresh sprouts are extremely nutritious as they are a good source of vitamins A, B, C, D, E, F, and K and are rich in many minerals as well as enzymes needed for digestion. Available at the Tuesday Santa Barbara, Wednesday Solvang, Thursday Carpinteria, Saturday Santa Barbara and Sunday Camino Real markets. About $3 for 6 ounces.

Leeks

Fresh leeks are popping up all over area farms. With onions starting to phase out, leeks are taking their place. They make a great addition to soups and stir-fry dishes. Leeks are surprisingly nutritious -- actually supplying more vitamins and minerals than an equal serving of onions or scallions. It's a good idea to soak chopped leeks in a bowl of water before use, as the sediments from the field tend to get trapped inside. The water will allow the leek to float to the surface, leaving the sediment behind. Certified organic available at most markets. About $1 to $2 per bunch or pound.
Category: Picks of the Week
Posted by: Sam Edelman
Organic mint

With the sun shining through our Southern California winter, local herbs are thriving in the frost-free zone. Fresh mint is surprisingly still in abundance this time of year, with a refreshing flavor packed into its large green leaves. Perfect for adding to salads, sliced fruits, and grilled meats and veggies. It also combines nicely with fruit juices, garlic and honey to make a delicious marinade for Tropical Mint Chicken, the Fix of the Week on page D8. Spearmint and peppermint varieties are available. Organically grown by Earthtrine Farm of Ojai. Now at the Tuesday Santa Barbara and Saturday Santa Barbara farmers markets. About $1.25 per bunch.

Pecans

You'll really notice a difference in the quality of these nuts this time of year, when they are at their freshest. Pecans are an excellent source of protein and fiber and contain iron, calcium, vitamins A, B and C, and potassium and phosphorous. They are also cholesterol-free, while the fat is mostly polyunsaturated. Grown by Avila and Sons Farm and available at the Tuesday Santa Barbara, Wednesday Solvang, Saturday Santa Barbara and Sunday Camino Real markets. $9 per pound.

Local mushrooms

We have some exceptional mushrooms right now, including shiitake and oyster as well as those highly sought wild chanterelles (Saturday market only). Perfect for sautčing, roasting or grilling, fresh mushrooms add a great texture to dishes. Available at the Tuesday Santa Barbara, Wednesday Solvang, Saturday Santa Barbara and Sunday Camino Real markets. About $6 to $15 per pound, depending on the variety.

Category: Picks of the Week
Posted by: Sam Edelman
Pork

Raised naturally without the use of hormones or antibiotics, this pork is as pure as it gets. Most cuts, from chops and sirloin to tenderloin and stew meat, are regularly available at the market, but if you have a certain cut in mind, make sure to get there early. Whether grilled, fried, or seared and slow-roasted to make a thyme- and lemon-rubbed sirloin, the Fix of the Week on page D6, you can't go wrong with pork this fresh. Available from Jimenez Family Farm at the Tuesday Santa Barbara, Wednesday Solvang, Saturday Santa Barbara and Sunday Camino Real farmers markets, as well as from Rocky Canyon Ranch at the Saturday Santa Barbara market. Prices start at about $5 per pound (ground) to $11.25 (premium cuts).

Organic thyme

With the fresh basil, chives and dill just about wrapped up for the season, there are still a few exceptional local organic herbs available from Earthtrine Farm of Ojai. Fresh thyme is one herb that continues to flourish this time of year in our ideal Southern California climate. Organic thyme is available at the Tuesday Santa Barbara and Saturday Santa Barbara markets. About $1.25 per bunch, depending on the size.

Clementine tangerines

Another local variety of tangerine is in full swing right now thanks to Friends Ranch. This tasty variety is the product of an orange and mandarin cross, resulting in a deliciously sweet seedless fruit with extremely easy-to-peel skin. The deep orange to almost reddish flesh is loaded with vitamins A and C and is a good source of fiber. Available at the Saturday Santa Barbara market. About $2 per pound with deals on 40-pound cases.

Dried Lima Beans

January 01, 2009

Category: Picks of the Week
Posted by: Sam Edelman
These should never be overlooked at farmers markets as they are an exceptional source of complex carbohydrates as well as protein. Dried lima beans, harvested typically around late fall each season, actually contain a higher proportion of protein than any other plant food. Although the protein is incomplete, it can easily be complemented by serving the beans with rice or other grains, nuts, that supply the missing amino acids. They are also the plant kingdom's second-best source of dietary fiber (wheat bran is number one), and half of that is soluble fiber. Hand harvested and sorted by local Carpinteria Farmer Tom Shepherd, these deliciously creamy beans can be found at the Tuesday Santa Barbara, Thursday Goleta and Carpinteria, and Saturday Santa Barbara farmers markets each week. Perfect for making a healthy warm bean salad as seen in this week's Fix. Price is only $2 a pound while supplies last.

Hydroponics Tomatoes

If you're starting to miss those tasty outdoor-grown tomatoes, there is still a great locally grown tomato option available at your local farmers markets. Beylik Family Farms produces some of the best hothouse tomatoes around, sheltered from the rough winter elements. The flavors are impressive to say the least, harvested ripe off the vine. You can find a great array of Big Beef, Cluster, Sungold, Japanese and Premium varieties at most of our weekly farmers markets. Price averages about $3 per pound this time of year, depending on the variety.

Sweet Navel Oranges:

It is that time of year when those exceptional navel oranges start rolling into our local farmers markets. This super-sweet and easy to peel variety is perfect for the kids, and a sure way they get their needed vitamin C. But a small orange (about 5 ounces) also contains generous levels of folate (folic acid), potassium and thiamin, as well as some calcium and magnesium. Oranges have become America's No. 1 source of vitamin C intake, and are great whether sliced, juiced or used as an exceptional marinade or salad dressing. Available at all weekly farmers markets, prices range from 30 cents to $1 per pound depending on the bulk of your purchase.