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North Park Farmers' Market Blog

DIY Sun Dried Fruit

July 29, 2011 - 4:38pm
Author: 
Carolyn K

When we heard the first murmurings of the back to school ads, we were prompted to find a way to preserve the luscious bounty of the summer harvest.   What better way of preserving that summer fruit than putting our famous San Diego sunshine to work and sun-drying them! Follow these easy steps:

 

 

 

  1. Choose which fruits you want to dry.   The obvious choices are apricots and plums from R& L, peaches and nectarines from Hillside.  But, why not get adventuresome!  Be sure to give cherries from Smit farms, strawberries from Valdivia farms and citrus peel from Paradise Valley a try.    Why not preserve the outrageously delicious yellow and red watermelons from JR organics or the meaty Stupice tomatoes from Suzie's farms. 
  2. Wash and thoroughly dry the chosen fruit. Cut large fruits into narrow slices about 1/4-inch to 1/8-inch thick. Small fruits such as grape tomatoes or berries can be left whole.  For watermelon and cantaloupes you'll need to remove the seeds.  
  3. Spread the sliced fruit out on a stainless steel cookie rack atop of a baking sheet and cover with cheesecloth to keep away the insects.  Let sit in full sunlight for approximately two days, taking them inside at night to prevent the fruit from absorbing the moisture from any dew.  Turn them over once each day to promote even drying.
  4. The fruit is done when it is no longer sticky. Store the dried fruit in plastic bags or airtight containers and freeze it. 
  5. Open it on a cold rainy January day, we bet you'll be able to taste the summer sunshine!

 

Okra's here, have no fear!

July 27, 2011 - 1:23pm
Author: 
Carolyn K

NEXT, ON OKRA!

Okra is here at the North Park Farmer’s market. You’ll find it at JR Organics, Suzie's Farm and Rodney Kawano Farms.   And, we hope that it doesn't cause you any fear!   Okra has gotten a bad rap over the years because when cooked certain ways it produces a viscous substance, also known as "slime".  That slime makes an excellent thickener for gumbo but turns some folks off okra for life!


We want to change your minds about the much-maligned vegetable and searched for cooking methods that would eliminate or minimize the slime quotient.  First, try tossing the okra in olive oil, season with salt and pepper and grill them or sauté them in very hot oil.  The extreme heat of the grill/oil kills the slime factor completely!

 
Another way is to add plain white vinegar to the okra when it's cooking. It gets rid of the slime every time and nobody is the wiser.  With that tip in mind, why not try this simple dish of smothered okra and tomatoes.  Heat some Gianni's herb infused olive oil in a Dutch oven; add okra, red or white onions from Valdivia farms, tomatoes and garlic. Stir mixture together and add any salt from Salt Farm and pepper and cook for an hour!  It's time you give okra another try.  You may find the flavor to be truly sublime!

It's the Pits!

July 25, 2011 - 2:23pm
Author: 
Carolyn K

This summer has brought us a superabundance of stone fruit.  Mosey through the R&L farm booth and you'll be treated to at least eight different kinds of stone fruit, including white peaches, black plum, pluots and apricots.  Stop by Smit farm and you'll find Rainier and black cherries.  Savor the flavor of the fruit but don't throw away the pits.   Some of us grew up terrified that if we ate the pits they would sprout in our bellies or that we could die.  There are so many old wives' tales and myths about fruit pits that it is hard to know what to believe.


So, let's separate fact from fiction.  First, most stones, also known as pits, are edible in moderation.  Cherry, peach, apricot and nectarine stones are all edible (within moderation).  They all have a distinct almond flavor and are, in fact, related to almonds. Crack open the pit and you'll find a soft little kernel that looks, smells and tastes a lot like a tiny almond. Europeans have long prized these hidden treasures, which go by the name "noyaux" in France. The French love to leave cherries unpitted in preserves and desserts like clafouti, so the subtle almond flavor can permeate the fruit.   When distilled those kernels produce several famous liqueurs, including kirsch and amaretto.
But the kernels can also have a dark side. They contain a compound that can release cyanide in the body.  Our bodies can detoxify small amounts of that compound without a problem. But when consumed in large amounts they can make you very sick. To be safe, always roast the whole pits at 350 degrees for 10 minutes, which helps destroy the cyanide compound and make the shells brittle, so they're easier to crack. Once the kernels are roasted, you can steep them in cream to make almond-scented ice cream. You can grind them, add a little sugar and sprinkle the mixture on your fruit pies, galettes, crisps and cobblers. 

Sounds like too much work to get almond flavoring?  Stop by the Hopkins AG booth and pick up a variety of flavored, raw and roasted almonds.  No matter which you try, the flavor won't be the pits!

 

Holy Mole Epazote

July 25, 2011 - 7:08am
Author: 
Carolyn K

Holy Mole Epazote!

Bored with the same old summertime gazpacho?  Why not add a new twist to your old favorite by adding Epazote (eh-pah-ZOE-teh) from Suzie's farm?  Despite its noxious gasoline like odor, Epazote's flavor is a cross between cilantro and dandelion greens. Traditionally it was added to black beans in Mexico because it aids in digestion and eliminates flatulence. However, it can be used to add a new and interesting flavor to some familiar dishes. 

When added to the usual gazpacho suspects, including heirloom tomatoes and green peppers from JR Organics, cucumbers from Valdivia Farms, Reed avocados from Ranchito Rainbow and limes from Paradise Valley, a sprig of Epazote will add some macho to your gazpacho (just check out this recipe)!

Mix fresh epazote leaves or the whole stem and leaves into beef stews, in quesadillas before adding the delicious goats Jack cheese from Springhill  or  chopped with fresh corn from Kawano farms.  Add it to your next mole and we think that you'll be shouting Holy Mole! 

Warning:  Use only the fresh leaves and stems in your recipes.  The dried herb is only suitable for medicinal teas.

 

 

Get Juiced!

July 25, 2011 - 6:35am
Author: 
Carolyn K

Enter the North Park Farmers' Market and you can't miss the unmistakable buzz of the blenders at Green Fix Smoothies as they make their delicious fruit and vegetable concoctions.  But we're also hearing the buzz of our shoppers talking about juicing at home.   Whether you use fruit or vegetables, juicing is a great way to use up the prolific summer offerings - especially the blemished ones - and get your daily dose of vitamins and minerals. 

Go green and detox like the stars by blending or juicing a mix of kale and lettuce from JR organics, a cucumber or two from Suzie's Farm and the juice of lemon from Paradise Valley Ranch.   To brighten up the flavor of any vegetable juice try adding an orange or two from Ranchito Rainbow or carrots from Kawano Farms into the mix.  For a fruit forward take try blending in pitted cherries, blueberries or peaches from Smit Orchards to your greens based drink. 

Now that should get you juiced!

 

A Jarring Experience

July 18, 2011 - 8:44am
Author: 
Carolyn K

Did you notice those cucumbers that resembled tiny watermelons at Suzie’s Farm’s booth? Mexican sour gherkin cucumbers, also known as the “mouse melon” is a newly re-discovered heirloom varietal that has a surprisingly sour taste. Their sourness got us thinking about pickling and the North Park Farmer’s Market has a plethora of picks for pickling. According to Chinese medicine, one should consume pickles during the hottest summer months as a tonic for cooling the stomach and strengthening the kidneys. But don’t stop at cucumbers, almost any vegetable or fruit can be pickled. Why not consider pickling chard from JR Organics, green beans or squash from Kawano Farms, and let’s not forget the pickled peppers from Valdivia Farms!

Here is a basic pickling recipe that will get you started: Start with approximately 4 pounds of any vegetables. Combine 3 cup vinegar, preferably apple cider, but rice, white or red wine are fine too with 3 cup water, 1/4 cup non iodized sea salt! Check out Salt Farm or She Sells Sea Salts for more adventurous infused and flavored salts. Cover the vegetables with the vinegar, water and salt mixture, fill sterilized mason jars and refrigerate. Some vegetables, such as chard and leeks will need to be boiled for 5-10 minutes, before jarring.

Not so much into the whole do-it-yourself thing, then stop by the Happy Pantry booth, where they have an amazing selection of pickled veggies and salads. However you choose to get your pickling fix, we think pickling is a great way to save your summer vegetables for consumption when you long for the taste of summer!

 

FOR THE LOVE OF FRANCE

July 12, 2011 - 9:53am
Author: 
Hillary E.

BASTILLE DAY

It was less than 2 weeks ago we celebrated our national holiday; replete with farm fresh produce, grass fed meat, grilling and firework shows. Now, July 14th marks France's national holiday, Bastille Day, which also falls on the same day as the North Park Farmers' Market. What a delicious coincidence! Pay homage to our friends across the Atlantic and prepare a meal in their honor.

Visit Mary at Taste Cheese - because when we think France, cheese is the first thing that we picture - and see what French fromage offerings she has this week. A baguette from Belen Bakery, dried cherries from Smit Orchards and almonds from Hopkins AG and you've got the cheese course covered. Remember Chris' Nicoise salad? You can go traditional with good canned tuna or jump over here to see Chris' version, a San Diego inspired take using the ingredients you will find at our local markets. For dessert there's the beloved french macaroons from Lisko Imports. Crisp, delicate almond pastry shells filled with a creamy center. Enjoy a little French flair for the middle of your week.

A DAY WITHOUT MEAT

July 4, 2011 - 4:17pm
Author: 
Hillary E.

There’s a movement going on, getting people to give up meat one day a week and it’s called Meatless Mondays. The overall goal is to reduce meat consumption by 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of the planet by decreasing some health risks and reducing your carbon footprint. And now that the biggest grilling holiday is over it’s the perfect time to embrace the change and do your body and Earth good.

Luckily shopping at the North Park Farmers' Market hardly limits you and may even inspire new menu ideas. How about fresh corn chowder using corn from Kawano Farms, first of the season Stupice tomatoes from Suzie’s Farm and spring onions from JR Organics? Stir-fry is always a solid way to bring a ton of vegetables into a meal, and our farmers hasve so many gorgeous  vegetables right now it’s hard to choose just which ones to use. Or build your own frittata starting with eggs from Paradise Valley Ranch.

It’s only one day a week – heck it doesn’t have to be Monday, Monday just has a nice ring to it – but oh what a difference it can make!

PADRON ME

July 1, 2011 - 4:18pm
Author: 
Hillary E.

You heard right. Or maybe you even saw, the Padron peppers have made their highly anticipated return at the markets via Suzie’s Farm. These thin-skinned peppers are zippy and bright and fun to eat. Every time you dig into a batch it’s like playing a game of roulette – you never know what you’re going to get. Some are mild and smoky while the occasional one is a fiery surprise.

We like to eat ours the traditional way - blistered in a heavy skillet with a bit of olive oil from Thyme of Essence. It takes just a few minutes and when they’re all done a sprinkling of sea salt from Salt Farms is just the ticket. A nice cold drink, a hunk of cheese from Taste Cheese and a toasted ciabatta from Belen Bakery is the perfect recipe for a fun and casual dinner.

WHERE THE GRILLING IS EASY

June 24, 2011 - 4:04pm
Author: 
Hillary E.

Independence Day. The first real holiday of the summer shine with backyard BBQs, and fireworks all in celebration of the red white and blue. Get a head start on your shopping and stop by the North Park Farmers' Market this Thursday. Here's what's on our menu for the upcoming long weekend:

Shish kabobs with chunks of fresh salmon from Poppa's Fresh Fish, peppers and onions from Suzie's Farm and summer squash from JR Organics. Marinate everything in a little garlic infused olive oil from Bistro Blends, a squeeze of orange juice and a handful of herbs. A few minutes over charcoal and people will be wondering when it's time to eat.

Deviled eggs are always a party favorite. Start with eggs from Paradise Valley Ranch that you've hard boiled and cut in half. Mash the yolks in a bowl with a dollop of mayo, mustard, a splash of sherry vinegar and minced shallots. Pile the mix back into the hollowed egg white and sprinkle with a little smoked paprika sea salt blend from Salt Farm.

For dessert we're thinking a twist on the classic shortcake, but with blueberries. Smit Orchards and Hillside Farms have plump sweet berries, mix them with some sugar, a bit of water and the zest from one of R&L Farms' lemons and cook just until the berries pop and wilt. Spoon over a shortcake or biscuit and top with whipped cream. You'll be fed right this Fourth of July!