Monday, December 29, 2008

Local diet update - December 29, 2008

The theme of our Saturday morning visit to the Aptos Farmers Market was "Dave, are you sure we can't afford to move here?" I was kidding, of course. Ok, maybe I was only halfway kidding. One of the vendors apologized saying that this week's market was a little sparse. Sparse? There must have been more than 40 vendors covering three levels of parking lot. Of course, at 40 vendors, that is sparse as they have 80 vendors that routinely attend. 

To be honest, I'm not really sure where to start. We did a walk through all three levels before we bought anything so that I could scope out our options. It was a little overwhelmed as I stood whimpering - "But, I want one of everything..."

Although I can eat well buying only local foods at home, eating local in this small town of Aptos would be a no-brainer. This list won't do it justice, but I'll try my best. Vendors lined both sides of the three parking lots with: breads, rolls, cakes, pies, cookies, muffins, quiche, homemade pastas, flowers, plants, eggs, mushrooms, a variety of winter squash, broccoli, brussels sprouts, carrots, green onions, corn, garlic, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, kale, cauliflower, wheat grass, white potatoes, celery, artichokes, a variety of leafy greens, avocados, jams and jellies, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, oranges and freshly squeezed orange juice, persimmons, kiwi, grapes (yep, that's right... grapes!), dried apricots, lemons, apples, dates, chicken, beef, sausage, salmon, albacore, shellfish, canned beef broth, lard, nuts, a variety of cheeses, coffee... and I'm going to stop here before we all get jealous and move to California.

The thing to keep in mind here is that IT'S STILL DECEMBER! For the love of all that is good in the world, this was the most amazing market ever! And the best part about it? This is just one of the many markets in Santa Cruz county. To include the others in the area would mean having access to local food 6 days a week - Monday is the only day without a local farmers market somewhere. It was a good thing we ate breakfast before we walked over because I was at risk of passing out from the sheer excitement of such a harvest. 

Also notable was that everyone seemed to bring their own canvas bags (we used my backpack). With a fridge full of food back at Mom's house and the fact that we wouldn't be back home in Texas for another week, we kept our purchases limited to the things I would just literally die without. We picked up a head of broccoli and a tray of raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries to enjoy while we're still here in California; we bought a small bag of dried apricots for me to nibble upon during our 3-day drive home; and we bought 1 large spaghetti squash to take home with us since they store well and don't make a routine appearance at our farmers market back home. 

Of course, farmers markets are only one of the many sources of local foods here. The local natural food store (more on that tomorrow) has a huge display of local and organic produce and just about every grocery store sells a variety of local items. For example, all last week I enjoyed local avocados, clementines, carrots, strawberries, brussels sprouts, and sourdough bread. I mean this is California. It's probably hard NOT to eat local here. 

But back to the market... as I reminisce about the morning, it was truly an amazing display of the variety and beauty of the California harvest, even in the depths of winter. What a wonderful example towards which our little farmers market can strive. My only regret is that I couldn't stock up to take all this good food home. But I'll be back. I will definitely be back...

Have a great week everyone, and as always... Happy (and mindful) eating!

8 comments:

ttammylynn said...

Here in Bryan, we had about five vendors on a miserable, rainy Saturday...well, actually the rain was invigorating and nice. I only saw one or two other customers while I was there around 9. We had plants, salsa, jellies, cornbread, eggs, lemons, tomatoes, lettuce, greens, a few kinds of cabbage, potatoes, sweet potatoes, kohlrabi, onions, carrots, and broccoli. Of this, I had to buy eggs, tomatoes, salsa, onions, potatoes, little carrots, broccoli, and cabbage (I always make black-eyed peas and fried cabbage for the New Year, traditionally I would do a corned beef roast, but I tend to prefer a grassfed meatloaf with tomato sauce...maybe some cornbread this year). We set off fireworks and have a meal with friends and family most years...it may not be a California Farmer's Market, but living in Texas ain't so bad. I'll get my berries in a couple of months...it'll be alright. I have local sources for the majority of the things you listed, more than anything you just have to wait for the season to bring the foods you crave. Granted we don't have avocados or cherimoyas around here, there are worse places to try to eat locally. Can you imagine living solely from preserved items, hard winter squashes, onions and potatoes all winter? We are so blessed. And Californians don't greet you with a friendly, "Howdy," do they?
I am glad you are enjoying your vacation. I think to ramp up our Farmer's Market, we would need to find a way to bring more customers. The vendors can't keep coming if there isn't enough business to justify their time and effort, afterall. College Station could be better than Bryan for this because it hosts the university but the market president won't allow a move so the vendors feel stuck. If people knew what they can get all winter, perhaps they could be compelled to make the drive on Saturday morning. But yes, definitely, more people would come if only they knew...

Jennifer (of Veg*n Cooking) said...

As someone who lives somewhere that doesn't have a year-round farmer's market, I was plenty jealous of your Texas bounty, but this, Heather, this... Oh my local yummy goodness, I could eat like a queen there - especially as a vegetarian, it is a little difficult eating vegetarian and local over winter here in the Midwest.

I would have had to have Brett on me the whole time as well. I'd have spent our savings at that market and had so much food I wouldn't have known what to do with it. Now I am wondering if WE can afford to move to California... ;-)

I'm looking forward to your post about the natural foods store. Glad to hear you are having such a good and yummy trip to CA!

Jenny said...

I live only 2 hrs east of Santa Cruz in the central valley and our farmer's market isn't as good as the ones on the coast. As I read more and more blogs, I have come to appreciate Ca that much more with our temperate climate and mild winters. We can truly grow veggies and fruits all year and not worry about ice and snow- we do get several frosty nights in the winter, though. But even through those, my kale,spinach,lettuce, broccoli and strawberry plants have done great...the only plants that I lost were my snow peas but I know they are very sensitive to the frost. My local farmer's market just closed a few weeks ago for the winter but will open back up in April (I think). I go to it every week until my garden starts producing, then I usually don't go until fall when I can pick up fruits that I don't grow- my favorite is the feijoa (pineapple guava).Anyway, I really enjoy reading your blog!

Heather @ SGF said...

Tammy - I'm not surprise the market was smaller, what with it being in between two big holidays like that.

I'll definitely be working on getting people more interested in our farmers market in the next year. I've volunteered to represent the Brazos Locavores as well as the farmers market at all our fairs and festivals (if they like) and talk about how wonderful it is to eat locally. So many people aren't even aware we have one and since I feel so passionately about it, I'm hoping to pass that along to others as often as I can.

Jennifer - I was thinking of you as I was walking around the market. I just knew you would have loved it! What really got to me was all the fruit that was available. Wowser! If we were any closer to home, I might have left all our luggage and filled Elphie up with food. It looked sooooo good!

Jenny - pineapple guava? That sounds really good! California truly has an amazing harvest year round. I'm completely impressed and awed. I'm sorry to hear that your market is not open year round though. Do you can or do any preserving? Or perhaps a local natural food store might still carry some local foods...

Abbie said...

Oh I'm so jealous! And here I was excited about my carrots yesterday!

Heather @ SGF said...

Abbie - I don't know, those carrots were pretty impressive. For some reason, carrots are the ultimate garden veggie for me. Maybe that's because we only see them at our market in short spurts. Seeing freshly grown carrots just says to me... "success!" (I'll bet they were yummy too!)

Jenny said...

Heather, I can everything that I can get my hands on! I spend hours upon hours every summer harvesting and processing so that I can preserve in the winter. My husband got tired of not having any room in the freezer for meats, so he bought me a commercial freezer to fill up with fruits to my hearts desire.LOL I have almost 3 acres that I am currently working on adding many more edible plants rather than ornamental. My goal is to eventually grow 85% of what we eat (we meaning my hus,myself and our 4 children).

Heather @ SGF said...

Jenny - That's fabulous! We're working on it, but we're probably years away from supplying that much of our own food. I'll use you for inspiration, if that's ok... :)