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Market: Fresh from the source

  • Shopping farmers markets for your ingredients can itself be a pleasurable experience, outdoors, talking directly to the farmer. Here, a salad of artisan greens, a poached farm egg, smoked salmon and tomato vinaigrette prepared by Michele Anna Jordan. (BETH SCHLANKER/The Press Democrat)

''They were picked this morning,” said Renee Kiff, of Ridgeview Farm, of her delicate little lettuces, still damp with dew, and her diminutive French breakfast radishes.

“And the strawberries are really sweet,” she added.

Near Ridgeview Farm's stall was a fisherman, Mike Barats, of Fresh Off The Boat.

“This salmon came out of the water yesterday,” he said, as he lifted the lid of a large cooler to reveal the silvery wild Pacific King salmon he caught out of Bodega Bay to sell both whole and pan-ready.

On a Wednesday morning there was a leisurely feel to the Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market. Midweek markets are great for re-stocking and for discovering treasures like Barats, who attends only the Wednesday market because the Saturday market already had a fish vendor when he applied.

At Beet Generation's booth, farmer Libby Batzel talked with a couple picking up their weekly CSA bag of produce.

“The young kale leaves are so tender,” Batzel said, adding that she makes a salad with them almost every day.

“Add some apples, a little balsamic vinegar and olive oil,” she encouraged as the couple moved along, visibly excited about getting home and cooking.

Batzel's Romanesco zucchini were already mature, their ridges firm. Unlike smooth-skinned zucchini, this variety holds up during cooking, retaining both its flavor and texture without going mushy.

Her face beamed as she talked about the plump squash and nibbled on a crisp cucumber.

Whether cooking is a passion or a chore, shopping at a farmers market makes it both easier and better on every level.

Produce is fresh and local, by definition in season and you can talk with the farmers who tend the crops and raise the hens, chickens, game birds, ducks, rabbits, lambs, goats and steers that make up a locally based diet.

If you want to know, say, how the olive oil you are about to buy was pressed or where exactly that cheese was made, just ask.

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