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What to Get at the Farmers Market in August

Muskmelons at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. Photo by Lulu Meyer / Courtesy of CUESA.

It’s National Farmers Market Week, and there’s no time like the present to savor the late summer harvest while supporting your favorite farmers market. In August the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market is brimming with heirloom tomatoes, sweet summer corn, juicy summer grape varietals and peppers in a wide range of colors and piquancy. Here’s what not-to-miss this month:

Pickle it

Cucumbers are abundant at the market right now, but there’s also a plethora of other great vegetables to preserve for the months to come. Try your hand at pickled yellow wax beans, sweet cherry peppers, or tender baby carrots and radishes like the ones available at Marin Roots Farm. Adding a tannin-rich grape leaf to your jars will encourage a crisper pickle, and Lagier Ranches will be bringing a limited crop of them to the Saturday market this month for picklers to experiment with.

Muskmelons

Known for their heady aroma and juicy flesh, muskmelons are at their peak in August. The many varieties in season right now include Crenshaw, Sharyln, Casaba, and Ambrosia, which vary in flavor from honey-like and sticky sweet to crisp and earthy. The best indicator of ripeness when choosing a melon is the smell, which should be fragrant and floral. Also don’t be shy about asking for a taste. As Everything Under the Sun farmer Bill Crepps, who grows several varieties of these summer treats, is fond of saying, “Sampling is mandatory.”

New cheeses

This month we are pleased to welcome two new cheese makers to the Saturday market: Nicasio Valley Cheese Company and Tomales Farmstead Creamery. Nicasio Valley Cheese Company is owned by the Lafranchi family, who has been farming in West Marin for four generations and now makes a variety of fresh and aged cheeses with 100% organic cow’s milk. Tomales Farmstead Creamery began making sheep and goat milk cheeses in 2013. Their mixed-milk cheese, Atika, just won a second place prize at the American Cheese Society Conference last week. Nicasio Valley Cheese also took home ribbons for their Foggy Morning, Loma Alta, and Nicasio Square cheeses.

Pink Pearl apples

Apples made their glorious return this week, including the must-anticipated and short-season variety known as Pink Pearl. On account of its tart flavor, farmer Stan Devoto of Devoto Gardens and Orchards says this variety is not for the faint of heart. Pink Pearls have a crisp bite and pink flesh, and their acidity and dramatic color makes them well suited for desserts and applesauce. Stop by Devoto’s stand on Tuesdays and Saturdays in the next couple of weeks to try them for yourself.

Guinea hens

Mountain Ranch Organically Grown has been bringing their pasture-raised poultry to market since 2009. This year they added guinea fowl to their operation. Less gamey than pheasant but richer in flavor than chicken, guinea hens make a lovely roast, while the carcass can be used to make a rich deep-flavored stock. Mountain Ranch will be selling the hens at the Saturday markets over the next couple of months.

For market updates and seasonal tips follow Lulu Meyer @farmersmarketlu or check out @CUESA on Twitter.