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Market Watch: Dirty Girls, Della's Best Bread and Mulberries

Come down to the Thursday market, 10 am to 2 pm. On the menu: 4505 does a kimchi dog, Tacolicious does fish tacos and Pizza Politana does a pizza with Redwood Farms tomatoes, County Line basil pesto, sheep's milk feta and red onion. Lunch is served!

Speaking of the Thursday market, the famous Early Girl tomatoes from Dirty Girl Produce have made their triumphant return. Farmer Joe Schirmer attributes the girls’ notorious flavor to a technique he uses called dry farming. Once the plants’ roots are in the ground, they are covered with a protective mulch and Joe simply stops watering them. Cutting off the water supply means the plants’ roots have to work harder to pull moisture from the ground to produce fruit. The result is a heartier, juicier tomato with more concentrated flavor. It’s no wonder the crowds swarm to Joe’s stand, sometimes elbowing each other out of the way, to get bags of perfectly ripe and delicious Early Girls all for themselves. They’re just that good.

The first crops of grapes have just started to appear at the market. This week, farmer Gary Alfieri of G.L. Alfieri farms had a variety called Summer Royal that received rave reviews from both customers and market staff alike. These deep purple seedless grapes are firm in texture and have a pronounced sweet flavor, making them an ideal summer snack. In the next few weeks, Gary will bring even more varieties of his early summer grapes such as the Summer Muscat and the Black Monnuka.

Rancho Gordo is known for their wide selection of beautiful and tasty new world bean varieties. Lately my favorites have been their white tepary beans whose rich, meaty flavor works well in stews, soups and salads. The tepary bean is indigenous to North America, and is one of several Rancho Gordo varieties that are listed as in danger of extinction on the Slow Food USA’s Ark of Taste list. For a full list of Ark of Taste foods available at our market stop by the CUESA information booth on any market day.

Della Fattoria makes some of my favorite breads; their distinctively chewy Semolina bread is my latest obsession. Made from durum wheat—typically used in pasta making—this hearty, traditional Sardinian-style bread has a sweet buttery flavor and a perfectly crisp crust that is brushed with sesame seeds just before baking to impart each slice with a nutty richness. Semolina bread slathered with a good creamy cheese and topped with a slice or two of Early Girl tomato is a wonderfully satisfying treat.

For a very brief time each summer Happy Quail Farms comes to market with juicy baskets of mulberries. These delicate berries are difficult to pick and only harvested when perfectly ripe, meaning they have a very short shelf life and are rarely found outside of farmers’ markets or backyard gardens. Happy Quail’s mulberries are a deep purplish red and their flavor is a perfect balance of sweet and tart. They’re fantastic in muffins and make a great homemade wine.