Fresh Farmers Market Picks for Your Holiday Table | CUESA

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November 22, 2019

Fresh Farmers Market Picks for Your Holiday Table

Who says the winter farmers market is a quiet affair? In California, we are blessed with a bounty of cool-season crops and locally made goodies to make your holiday celebrations fresh and delicious.

You can make your holiday dinner prep easier (and delicious) with seasonal produce and handcrafted products while supporting family farmers and food makers. Here are some seasonal specialties from the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market to help you make the most of the winter market.

Hachiya and Fuyu persimmons

Persimmons are a fall favorite, available in two styles at the farmers market: Hachiya and Fuyu. Acorn-shaped Hachiyas must be enjoyed fully ripe, so select fruits that are delicately soft and mushy (otherwise they’re astringent). They can be dried to make the Japanese treat hoshigaki, or used in preserves and baking (as in this cookie recipe). The squat and sweet Fuyu, on the other hand, can be eaten when it is still hard. Slice it into salads or dry the slices into thick rounds.

Look for persimmons at K&J Orchards, Blossom Bluff Orchards, Twin Girls Farm, and other fruit growers at the farmers market.

Peak‐harvest walnuts

Fall is the time for harvesting walnuts. Excellent chopped, toasted, or glazed, the walnut, with its rich and satisfying flavor, lends itself just as easily into a roasted beet and goat cheese salad as it does into a dark chocolate brownie. Find freshly harvested walnuts at Glashoff Farms and Old Dog Ranch. The latter also offers flavors like Mexican Hot Chocolate, Whiskey Spice, and Rosemary to bring a toasty crunch to your holiday snack plates and salads.

Beyond butternut

Winter squash are harvested during the fall, when their rinds hardens, and can be stored until spring, lasting through the critical cold months. Sweeter and denser than the summer squash, winter varieties make a belly‐filling basis for soups and pies and a hearty vessel for stuffing. As decorative as they are delicious, winter squash can be found in various colors, sizes and flavors. The most well‐known varieties include butternut, spaghetti and acorn, but local farmers are helping us explore lesser‐known members of the winter squash family.

Look for through the farmers market, and check out our winter squash guide for a primer on varieties.

Heirloom apples

Up your apple pie game with heirloom apples from the farmers market. At grocery stores, you might only find a handful of apples such as Red Delicious and Granny Smith, but at the farmers market, you’ll find more than 50 fresh and flavorful varieties with evocative names like Mutsu, Gravenstein, and Black Twig, each available for a brief, delicious window of time.

Use them in apple sauce, pie, salads, stuffings, chutneys, and more. Find them at the farmers market at Devoto Orchards and Apple Farm.

No ordinary cranberry sauce

Ditch the canned cranberry log and try honey fermented cranberry sauce from Wise Goat Organics, a Santa Cruz‐based maker of handcrafted ferments, to add flair to glazes and syrups to accompany your holiday feast. Nutritional therapy practitioner Mary Risavi’s nutrient‐dense version includes organic cranberries, ginger, wildflower honey, orange peel, and cinnamon.

Fruit and herb syrups for distinctive dressings

Bringing a contemporary twist to Christmas food traditions, June Taylor sources from local farmers for her unique herbal, floral, and fruit syrups. With flavors like Douglas Fir & Rosemary, Yuzu & Mint, and Santa Rosa Plum and Rose Geranium, try them in vinaigrettes, glazed over fish or meat, drizzled over ice cream or cake, or mixed into cocktails.

Hidden Star Orchards also offers pure fruit juice extracts in flavors like pomegranate, which provide highly concentrated flavors for sauces and salads dressings.

Alternative nogs

For a vegan alternative to eggnog, check out Beber Almondmilk’s almond and cashew-based version, ideal for holiday entertaining, cookie dipping and warming up by that open fire. For dairy drinkers, Alexandre Family Farm has super‐creamy organic eggnog made from old‐fashioned A2/A2 milk from crossbred grazing cows on their regenerative dairy ranch in Crescent City.

No‐ABV holiday bubbly

Avoid the holiday hangover with a refreshing Eatwell Farm Softer, a lactofermented soda that is made the old‐fashioned way. In flavors like lavender, lemon verbena, rose geranium, and rosemary, Softers are made with botanical hydrosols using fresh herbs from Eatwell and other local farms. The result is an effervescent beverage that is naturally low in sugar, probiotic, and brimming with bubbles for holiday toasting.

Modern mulling spice

Little Apple Treats has made a name for themselves with their award‐winning apple cider caramels, vinegars and shrubs, all made using apples from their Sebastopol farm. Perfect for cozy holiday celebrations, their mulling spice will add holiday cheer to hot mulled wine or nonalcoholic punch, with a special blend of dried roses, dried heirloom apples, hibiscus, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and allspice.

Pasture‐raised meats for your feast

For your holiday roasts, ducks and hams, support sustainably-minded ranchers at the farmers market. Find pasture‐raised meats from local farmers such as Devil’s Gulch Ranch (pork, lamb, rabbit), Farmer Joy (duck, chicken, beef, pork), Massa Organics (pork), Mountain Ranch (guinea hen, chicken), and Root Down Farm (chicken, duck, pork).

Dungeness crab

A Bay Area delicacy around the holidays, Pacific Dungeness crab is cheaper than lobster and has a sweeter taste, but it is just as savory when boiled or steamed and served with butter. Locally caught crab is usually available from H&H Fresh Fish starting in November, but the 2019 commercial season has been delayed this year and is expected to start in mid-December.

Once it becomes available, try this Ginger Chile Dungeness Crab from Preeti Mistry.

Looking for unique gift ideas from our local foodshed? Check out CUESA’s Farmers Market Holiday Guide.

About CUESA

CUESA (Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture) is dedicated to growing thriving communities through the power and joy of local food. Learn More »