October brings bountiful harvests to our slice of the West Coast. The warm weather lingers into cool evenings, and organic growers keep bringing us rich flavors, colors and textures—from nuts and peppers to berries and squash.
Right now, our farmers markets are loaded with the best from apple and pear orchards. The variety of pome fruits has never been greater, and I scored some of the mighty Mutsu apple last Wednesday from the legendary Prevedelli Farm orchards. This apple has got to be the greatest on the planet. It has everything: density of flavor, crispness of texture, tartness of finish, but with a sweet complexity that will stop you in your tracks. Let me get specific. The Mutsu was born in Japan in 1948 as a cross between the Golden Delicious and the Newtown Pippin. This is an apple to taste the same way you would a bottle of Le Cigare Volant—with care, focus and a spirit of inquiry. You get my drift.
But meanwhile, back at the Downtown Farmers’ Market, it was pepper central as I checked out the neon orange, red and yellow array of peppers, from cayenne to sweet Italian to arbol to jalapeño. This is their moment. Lots of pole beans, especially my favorite Romano beans from Live Earth Farm. Ditto blackberries, even strawberries, whose incredible aroma perfumed the air at last week’s very hot Wednesday market. Squashes are abundant right now, along with nuts, honey, herbs, and figs. Those incredible dry-farmed tomatoes from Molino Creek and Happy Boy are still working their intense flavor magic. Pumpkins will be coming up soon. I discovered the Inzana Ranch stand loaded with nuts and all kinds of dried fruit from this historic 19th-century property near Modesto. I took home a bag of dried peaches, which turned out to be my new favorite snack—a chewy prelude to the dried persimmons my friend Beverly will be making in a few weeks.
I never leave the market without something from Companion Bakeshop, and last week it was a little sourdough ficelle for dinner and a few GF almond/anise biscotti for dessert. Flowerwise, there are dahlias the size of Archie’s head (you know, Prince Harry’s little boy), snapdragons and gorgeous mixed bouquets. I scored an armload of coral-hued bean flowers from Dirty Girl, unusual and beautiful. There’s so much in the markets now beyond produce: tables of handmade clothing, pottery, honey, essential oils, and herbs, artisanal cheeses from Garden Variety Cheese.
Santa Cruz Downtown Farmers’ Market, Wednesdays 1-6pm through October. Winter hours 1-5pm. santacruzfarmersmarket.org.
For Jack-o’-Lantern enthusiasts, there’s nothing like the Tuesday, Oct. 15, Pumpkin Decorating Bonanza up at the Felton Farmers Market. Sit down with one of those bright orange pumpkins donated by Rodoni Farms and get craftsy with paint, buttons, googly eyes—whatever strikes your fancy.
This free pumpkin decorating event is total and complete fun for kids of any age, and a playful way to welcome the long shadows and burnished light of the fall season.
Felton Farmers Market Pumpkin Bonanza, 2:30-6:30pm on Tuesday, Oct. 15. Downtown Felton, 120 Russell Ave., just off Highway 9.