Market Watch: Exotic Summer Produce Comes to the Ferry Plaza
We’re at the height of the summer season at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, and each week brings new warm-weather fruits, veggies and legumes to savor and experiment with in the kitchen. This week, as I picked up three of my favorite summer market finds—French prunes, Costata Romanesca squash and Tongue of Fire shelling beans—I checked in with the farmers who grow them about their favorite ways to enjoy them.
My first stop at last Saturday’s market was at the Glashoff’s Farm booth, where farmer Larry Glashoff and his wife, Maria, were unloading their first crop of this year’s French prunes, one of the over 20 varieties of plums you will find at the market each summer. These dusky purple treats have a sweet, dense flesh, which makes them perfect for baking with. They will only be available at market for about four weeks this year. In the first weeks of harvest, the prunes are usually firm and slightly tart, but by the last couple of weeks, the texture of the flesh becomes softer and the flesh sweeter. This year, however, with all the hot weather the Glashoff’s have had on their farm in the Suisun Valley, the prunes have sugared up earlier while retaining a firm texture. “It’s unusual for them to be as sweet as they are now and still be this crunchy,” Larry told me. “Some folks like them even sweeter and prefer a softer texture. The prunes should reach that point in a couple of weeks.”
After stocking up on prunes, I visited farmer Bill Crepps of Everything Under the Sun Farm. Right now, Bill’s booth is filled with tomatoes, basil, peppers, melons and summer squash, including Bill’s favorite, an heirloom variety called Costata Romanesca. The Costata Romanesco has a thick grooved outer skin, which helps it retain its texture when grilled or roasted. “I really like its sweet and nutty flavor,” Bill said. “At home we like to slice it into thin strips and grill those in a panini press. It stays firmer than other varieties do when you cook it, which I like.”
Next door to Everything Under the Sun’s booth, I found farmer Joe Schirmer of Dirty Girl Produce standing amidst piles of fresh shelling beans. One variety Joe currently offers is called Tongue of Fire. This South American variety produces beans that are rounder and slightly juicier than their North American Cranberry bean cousin. “They have a great creamy, potato-like texture,” Joe told me. “I like them cooked simply—boiled until they’re done, tossed with a bit of butter and salt and maybe some herbs. You don’t need to do too much with them. They’re that good.” Joe’s wife, Miranda, has been
updating the farms’ blog, ”Dirty Girl Cookbook,” with her own recipes and a few from some of the chefs who source from Dirty Girl Produce each week. This week on the blog, Miranda (with help from the couple’s son Charlie) features a simple, easy recipe for making the perfect pot of shelling beans.
Find out what’s in season, get recipes from the chefs who shop here, and learn more about the farmers who sell their produce at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market each week by visiting the CUESA website.