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Market Watch: Squash, Kamo Eggplant and Black Arkansas Apples

If anyone has the inside sccop when it comes to the Ferry Plaza Farmers market it's Lulu Meyer, associate director of market operations at CUESA. You'll see her at the market, rain or shine. Every week, she'll be giving us her short list for the market—just in time for Saturday shopping. Go to cuesa.org for more information about farmers, what's in season and market goings-on.

With our Saturday market falling on Halloween this year I imagine we’ll see farmers in costume and a whole lot of last minute pumpkin shopping. In addition to the sugar pumpkins piled high at the Eatwell Farms booth, other farms at the market have begun harvesting more unusual hard squash varieties. Look for Cinderella pumpkins at Allstar Organics’ booth, Sweat Meat squash from Tierra Vegetables and both an orange and green version of Kabocha squash at Balakian Farms.

Arkansas Black apples have returned to market this past week and after sampling some of this year’s harvest, I’m forsaking all other varieties—for now. Arkansas Blacks get their name from their waxy, deep red-almost-black skin. Their pale yellow flesh is crisp, juicy and tart without being bitter and their densely rich apple flavor makes them perfect for pies and crisps. Look for Arkansas Blacks at both Devoto Gardens and The Apple Farm.

A couple of years ago when SPQR first opened I had a fantastic puntarella, tuna and white bean salad there that was absolutely inspiring. The following Saturday I picked some puntarella up from the Marin Roots stand just as Chef Stuart Brioza, formerly of Rubicon, was buying some for himself. With a little advice from Stuart and the memory of the SPQR salad fresh in my mind I took home this Roman chicory variety and quickly fell under its spell. Puntarella, which literally translates as “little pointy thing,” has a mildly bitter flavor. The tops of the stems should be sliced and soaked in cold water for about a half hour before using. This will soften the bitterness and allow the pieces to curl up and become crisp. In Rome, puntarella is most traditionally served with anchovies but it also works well with a nice aged cheese, garlicky dressing and a sprinkling of walnuts.

Farmer Marty Jacobsen of Allstar Organics decided to grow an unusual variety of eggplant this year known as the Kamo eggplant. An heirloom variety native to the Kyoto region of Japan, the Kamo has a mellow earthy flavor and works wells prepared in any number of ways but is commonly served lightly breaded and fried. It’s such an important varietal in Japan that the original Iron Chef series once featured it in a ‘Battle Kamo Eggplant’ episode.

Sunchokes also known as Jerusalem artichokes are a member of the Sunflower family. The light brown tubers resemble ginger root but have a flavor profile closer to water chestnuts. Chef Phil West of Range picked some up last week and to use in a warm hearty pureed soup but they are such a versatile vegetable that they can also be roasted or pickled. Get some to experiment with for yourself at Tierra Vegetables this week.